BELLS CHAPEL RESTORATION PROJECT, August 2007
In 2002, a few years after Bells Chapel had closed around 1995, Ken Bell, a Marion County native now living in Washington D.C., purchased the one room building from the A.M.E. Zion church for $1, with the agreement to move it from its location in Poplar Corner, KY. Originally, the Marion Co. Bd. of Education built the structure in 1894 to serve as a colored school and called it Poplar Corner after its location which is about 18 miles NE of Belltown in Marion County [Lebanon], KY. Bell’s aunt, Cleo Bell Spalding was a teacher in the colored schoolhouse before it closed and was later sold to the A.M.E. Zion church in 1949.
Bell’s uncle, the Reverend George W. Bell, was the prominent minister after whom the church was named. Other former pastors were: Reverend Kathryn Joyner, Reverend Effie Burns, and Reverends Goodman, Green and Dulan. Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett, Jr. and Presiding Elder O. Lacy Evans represented the A.M.E. Zion church when the building was sold to Bell in 2002.
The next year, the rickety old building was taken apart and the re-usable building materials were moved to Bell’s property in Belltown, on land once owned by his great-uncle and aunt. Over the next three years, with help from family and supporters, the schoolhouse was rebuilt to its original 18 x 30 dimensions, using the original poplar wood siding, some salvaged and new wood to replicate the exterior and interior of the church.
By February 2007, the pews, pot-bellied coal stove, piano, podium and other original furnishings were put back into the restored building. With the renewal of this school-
house and house of worship, the Poplar Corner School and Bells Chapel Church building will be used primarily to host family and community gatherings while also preserving [Belltown,KY] history, a community founded by former slaves, c. 1866.