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Bells, Texas is at the Crossroads of Friendliness

November 17, 2023 Texas, Member Spotlight

Bells is a small Texas town where folks say it’s a great place to raise a family and the city proudly proclaims that it's situated at the “Crossroads of Friendliness” on the city hall and police station sign.

The town of fewer than 2,000 people (there were just over 1,500 in 2020 and estimates today range up to 1,850) is indeed situated at the crossroads of U.S. Route 69 and Texas State Highway 56 – less than 90 minutes north of Dallas and less than 30 minutes south of the Red River and the Oklahoma-Texas border.

Bells is in Grayson County and not only enjoys the charms of a small town, but residents are just 12 miles west of Sherman (population just under 50,000) on State Highway 56 and 13 miles southeast of Denison (population just under 25,000) on Route 69. For those in a hurry, U.S. Route 82, a four-lane freeway, runs through the northern part of Bells, linking Sherman and Bonham (population around 10,000).

The Ringing History of Bells, Texas

The 2.2. square mile town of Bells got its start like a lot of Texas cities – when the railroad was extended into the area. For Bells, this was the early 1870s and town legend is that when the railroad did arrive, the local church bells were ringing to greet the progress, and the town name was born.

The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) Handbook says that the area was originally settled in 1835 by Daniel Dugan.

“Community development, however, did not occur until the early 1870s with the arrival of the Texas and Pacific and Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railways,” continues the handbook. “The community was called Dugansville, for the local pioneer family, from 1871 to 1878, and was renamed Bells (or Bell's), perhaps in reference to the area churches, in 1879.”

By the 1870s Bell was bustling with nine stores, a post office, a school, and a cotton gin. The City of Bells was incorporated in 1881.

The TSHA handbook says: “By 1900 the community had 400 residents, twenty businesses, two schools, several churches, and a weekly newspaper, the North Texas Courant. By the mid-1920s the number of residents had grown to just over 600; businesses numbered thirty, including a bank. The community supported a high school and a grade school.”

It’s not surprising that the Great Depression and then World War II slowed down growth in the area. Post World War II, Bells began a slow but steady growth that has continued today, with the population tripling since the 1950s.

Bells: Small Town with Larger Cities, Lakes, and Things to Do Nearby

Bells has the best of both worlds with an involved small-town community where children can play freely and enjoy great schools and area sports but close enough to larger towns and cities to enjoy their amenities and nightlife plus all the recreational opportunities situated between the DFW Metroplex and the Oklahoma border.

Bells itself offers a beautiful park with plenty of trees to enjoy on fine days, and a pavilion available for reservation, but just minutes beyond the city limits abound a lot of opportunities such as:

  • Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge: Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1946 to provide habitat for migratory birds, wildlife, and plants native to the area. Take a relaxing cruise along Wildlife Drive on the shores of Lake Texoma to watch wading birds stalk their prey or a northern harrier glide over marshes in search of small mammals. Listen to the sounds of songbirds and insects while you stroll along one of five hiking trails.
  • Sherman Jazz Museum: Founded by Bill Collins III in 2010 and is dedicated to the education, preservation, and enjoyment of Jazz. The museum is home to artifacts and collections from many of the past’s famous jazz musicians, bringing to life their lives and music. Collections include those from Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, assorted big bands, and more.
  • Harber Wildlife Museum: This museum may be one of the most complete collections of big game animals anywhere in the world. Along with many animal species, there is also an extensive collection of African artifacts on display.
  • Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Park: Located in the heart of Denison, Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site showcases the home where the 34th U.S. President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was born in 1890. Antique furnishings fill the modest frame house, illustrating the working-class life of the Eisenhower’s. The visitors center celebrates Ike with memorabilia and exhibits featuring his many accomplishments as president and war hero.
  • Red River Railroad Museum: The Red River Railroad Museum illuminates the role of railroads in Denison and North Texas, past and present by collecting, preserving, studying, and interpreting objects, documents, and visual materials. The Museum disseminates the history of the Missouri Kansas Texas (Katy) Railroad and the importance it played in the creation and growth of Denison.
  • Perrin Air Force Base Historical Museum: The Perrin Field Historical Society was chartered as a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the history of Perrin Army Airfield and Perrin Air Force Base located in Grayson County Texas.  The base was in operation from 1941 to 1971 and trained tens of thousands of US and Allies pilots and crews. The museum collects, displays, preserves, publicizes and educates with artifacts of the former Perrin Field/Perrin Air Force Base and key artifacts from historical American military events.
  • Waterloo Lake Regional Park: Waterloo Lake is a 52 surface acre lake located Denison boasts a popular 7-mile hike and bike trail circling the scenic lake! Other amenities include:

o   Culpepper Softball Complex

o   Kayak/Paddle Board Rental Station

o   Horseshoe pits

o   Large pavilion with tables

o   Multiple playground units

o   Newly developed fishing pond

o   Waterloo Baseball Park

o   Waterloo Pool

o   Waterloo Dog Park


  • Eisenhower State Park: Located on the shores of Lake Texoma! Explore trails along high bluffs, splash in a sandy swimming cove, or fish for striped bass, crappie and catfish.
  • Bonham State Park: 65-acre lake with hilly trails for hiking and biking. Camping, fishing, and swimming are also available.
  • Sam Rayburn House State Historic Site: One of the most powerful and influential politicians in the 20th century, Rayburn served in the U.S. Congress for 48 years, holding the position of speaker for 17 years. His 1916 home, now the Sam Rayburn House State Historic Site, preserves his real stories with original furnishings, candid photographs, and personal belongings, remaining as they were when he lived here.
  • Sam Rayburn Library and Museum: The Sam Rayburn Museum, located in Bonham, Texas, was established by Speaker Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn himself. It is a division of the Briscoe Center for American History, which is among the leading research agencies in the nation for the study of historical topics that relate to the life and career of Speaker Rayburn.

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