After 1900

Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church

Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church


In 1915, the church was damaged yet again, first by another hurricane42 and then by a mysterious fire.43 Increasingly, men took on railroad jobs at the newly established port in Texas City, or positions at the oil refineries. Despite the professional shifts, rodeos remained a favorite pastime.44


In 1919, Ollie and Frank Bell, Jr. built a general merchandise store with gas pumps for the increasing automobile traffic moving through the town. By 1929, the store had electricity and Frank Bell, Jr. helped expand electrical service to his neighbors. The 1867 Settlement acquired electricity some ten years earlier than the surrounding area.45


In 1938, the first public school in the 1867 Settlement opened its doors with Pinkney Simpson Simms serving as its principal. It consisted of primary, elementary, junior high, and senior high departments and had thirteen rooms.46 The school eventually expanded to include a gymnasium and an auditorium before it was closed during desegregation in the 1960s.47

Carver Park

As the community continued to grow, Carver Park was established in 1948 in west Texas City48 from land donated by Frank Bell, Jr. Bell sold 20 acres and donated five acres to Galveston County in 1948 so that a park serving African Americans in Galveston County could be built. More than twenty years later, the county gave the land to the City of Texas City and the city completed construction of the Carver Center in 1973, granting access to a pavilion with a swimming pool, two lakes, and other facilities.49 

Expansion of Borders

The expanding congregation of Greater Bell Zion erected a new church building in 1950.50 After World War II, the 1867 Settlement had grown well beyond its original borders and spilled into the neighboring community of La Marque. It now included several general stores, a pharmacy, a photographer's studio, several gas stations, a hotel, a lumber company, restaurants, beauty shops, barbershops, night clubs, and had its own doctors.51

As time passed, the lines between the 1867 Settlement and neighboring communities continued to blur. In the 1950s and 1960s, Texas City annexed areas to its west, and in 1953, the 1867 Settlement and the surrounding area were annexed.52 Following desegregation in the 1960s, the nearby all-black schools closed and children of the 1867 Settlement began attending integrated schools. Despite the changes, members of the community and descendants of the original pioneers have taken steps to document and preserve the 1867 Settlement's history.53

Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church Marker

Greater Bell Zion Missionary Baptist Church Marker