Selah and Mary Ann Smith House, Known locally as the “Slave House”
66 Railroad Ave, Center Moriches, New York 11934
2020 October 23, Mary E. Bell House listed on N.Y. State Register of Historic Places
2020 November 13, Mary E. Bell House listed on National Register of Historic Places
2020 December 30, Bertram E. Seides received New York State Historic Preservation Award for the Mary E. Bell House Restoration
2021 January, William G. Pomeroy Foundation approves national register plaque for Mary E. Bell House
Video is a good introductory overview of the Mary E. Bell House
The Mary E. Bell House is significant in the area of ethnic history for its association with the Smith and Bell families and the African-American community of Center Moriches during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Center Moriches, Abraham and Henry Perdue became prominent leaders and landowners within the small black community. In the decades after they founded the Moriches AME Church, the community and its number of black landowners grew. Selah Smith moved to Center Moriches, purchased land, and built a home for his family on Railroad Avenue in ca. 1872. This home, which would remain in the family for over a century, provided security, stability, and opportunity to his family. The house and land provided a safe space, the ability to supplement their income with a garden and independent work, and was located close to the AME Church that they played an active role in. Mary E. Bell (née Smith) inherited the house after her father’s death.
With her husband, Ernest Bell, she raised a family of four children in the house and worked as a laundress. Mary E. Bell played a central role in her church and community; with Annie Arch, she was critical to the small congregation’s survival. She fostered its transition from the AME to the AMEZ denomination, led its Varick Society of Christian Endeavor, and held prayer meetings at her home. After her death in 1923, the congregation renamed itself the Bell AMEZ Church in her honor.
Alice Bell, Mary’s daughter, (as seen in the above photograph, approx. 3 y.o.) grew up and continued to live in the House until her death in 1996.
A Juneteenth celebration at the Mary E. Bell House, 2020. Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.
Members of the African-American community, along with Diane Schwindt, our tavern cook, assist in preparing a wonderful meal for the annual Juneteenth celebration at the Mary E. Bell House.
2017 – Mary E. Bell House receives a exterior and interior cleanup in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.
Research of the family lineage is ongoing with preliminary results showing the Bell family is descending from the Smith family as all slaves were named after their owners.
Research beyond the office of Ketcham Inn is being done by Patrick Mealey and Joyce Jackson, www.fineartismade.com , with assistance from our Historian, Mary E. Field and references back to Van R. Field’s archives.