Updated December 2020
The Belles family probably originated in Germany. So far, it has been traced back to Cornelius Belles, who was born near the mid-18th century in New Jersey. A large Belles family in that county is descended from the Bellesfelt family of New Jersey.
See Louis Edward Moyer.
CORNELIUS and MARGARET BELLESFELT
Cornelius Bellesfelt was born March 11, 1764 in New Jersey, possibly the son of William Bellesfelt. (1)
Married Margaret Huffschmidt on Sept. 2, 1788. (2)
Peter, born March 23, 1789.
Johann Adam, born Nov. 12, 1790.
Elisabeth, born Sept. 26, 1793.
Possibly another five sons and two daughters. If this is the case, it seems very likely that some of these sons were: William, Cornelius and John Bellas, who appear in Butler County in western Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s. (4)
When Cornelius was very young, his family moved from New Jersey to Hamilton Township, Northampton County, Pa., which is now part of Monroe County.
Cornelius makes his first appearance in records in the 1788 Federal Tax list for Hamilton Township. William, John and Cornelius Bellos are each listed as a freeman – generally, someone who’s over 21, unmarried and living on someone else’s property. He was taxed 10 shillings. It seems most likely that Bellos boys were living on the farm of William Bellos, who is also listed in Hamilton Township – and almost certainly was their father. (5)
On April 7, 1790, Cornelius Bellesfelt received a warrant for 75 acres in Northampton County. (6) On Aug. 2, 1790, Cornelius Bellisfelt bought 84 acres in Hamilton Township from Samuel Rees, surveyor. (7)
Within a few years, Cornelius moved to Nescopeck Township, Luzerne County. In 1796, the list of taxables for Nescopeck included Cornelius Bellas. (8) On Oct. 11, 1799, Cornelius Bellis of Nescopeck Township sold 100 acres in Newport Township, Lurzerne County. (9)
However, the Belleses appear to have moved to Newport Township soon afterward. In the 1800 Census, Cornelius Bellos appears in Newport. His household contained three males under 10, two males 10-16, one male 25-46, two females under 10, and one female 26-45.
In 1802, Cornelius Belles bought land in Newport. (10) The same year, Cornelius served as a township supervisor. He probably served again in 1822 and 1828, when the name appears again. (11)
During the late 18th century, Connecticut claimed land in what is now Pennsylvania. It allowed settlers to claim land near the present site of Wilkes-Barre. This resulted in some fighting and quite a bit of confusion about who owned certain tracts of land. These disputes were finally settled at the opening of the 19th century and the Belleses received payments from these settlements. Since they appear to have lived in Hamilton Township during the height of the disputes, they appear to have acquired the claims when their bought land in Newport Township. from the original claimants and inherited their claims. Cornelius’ connection with the dispute is first noted in March 1802, when his claim in Newport Township was noted. (12) On March 28, 1805, William Bellesfelt and Cornelius Bellesfelt signed agreement among the Newport Claimants. (13) Finally, Cornelius Belles and William Bellesfelt are listed as claimants when notice of a resolution was published in the Luzerne County Federalist on Nov. 20. (14)
In the 1810 Census, Cornelius appears in Newport Township. His household contained three males under 10, two males age 10-16, two males age 16-26, one male age 45 or older, one female under 10, one female 10-16 and one female age 45 or older.
In the 1820 Census, he again appears in Newport Township. His household contained one male 10-16, six males 16-26, one male 45 or older, two females 16-26 and one female 45 or older.
In 1820, Cornelius Ballis and wife, Margaret “Gutschmidt,” served as sponsors at a Lutheran baptism by the Rev. Henry Kurz on his visit to Wilkes-Barre on Feb. 8. (15)
Margaret died March 15, 1836, at age 68, and was buried at Newport Cemetery, about a mile west of Newport Center. (16)
In the 1850 Census, Cornelius Bellas appears in Newport Township in the household of Elizabeth Stements (sp?), age 56. Also in the house were Mary A., age 13, and Lucy A., age 10, apparently Elizabeth’s children. Cornelius s listed as an 86-year-old carpenter. He owned property valued at $600, and could not read or write.
Cornelius died 21 Nov. 1851, at aged 87 years, 8 months, 10 days, and was buried at Newport Cemetery. (17)
The book “Wyoming & Lackawana Valleys, Pennsylvania, Genealogies & Family Histories,” Vol. 2, mentions Cornelius in a biographical sketch of Andrew J. Belles, who was a farmer in Newport Township when the book was published in 1906. It states that Andrew traced “his ancestry to an old and honored German family, early settlers in Northampton county, where they followed agricultural pursuits. The first to migrate to Luzerne county was Cornelius Belles (great-grandfather), about the year 1750, and he experience all the privations of pioneer settlers. He followed in the footsteps of his forefathers, devoting his attention exclusively to the quiet but useful calling of farming, conducting his operations on a tract of two hundred acres purchased by him. The name of his wife is unknown. Their children were Adam, Peter and Elizabeth.” (18)
This account doesn’t actually shed much light on Cornelius’ life. In fact, it contains at least one major error – Cornelius’ migration date, which is set about 14 years before he was born. One must also ask whether the list of children is correct. While those three are, indeed, the only ones who appear in church records, one has to ask who was the father of all of those children in the census records. Admittedly, they may have been those of relatives or boarders but that seems unlikely.
(1) Cornelius Belles died Nov. 21, 1851, aged 87 years, 8 months, 10 days, which would indicate that he was born March 11, 1764, according to “Newport Cemetery, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania,” USGenWeb Archives. The 1850 Census of Newport Township, Luzerne County, Pa., indicates that Cornelius was 86 years old and was born in New Jersey. Cornelius appears in the 1788 tax list for Hamilton Township, Northampton County, Pa. as a “single freeman,” according to “The Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 3, vol. 19, page 390. The only Bellesfelt in the area in 1788 who was old enough to have a son Cornelius’ age was William. He starts appearing in the records of northeastern Pennsylvania in 1767. (2) “Some of the First Settlers of The Forks of the Delaware and Their Descendants,” by the Rev. Henry M. Kieffer, 1902, at USGenWeb archives. (3) The births of Peter, Johann Adam and Elisabeth are listed in “The Hamilton Township Union Church Records, Hamilton Township, Northampton County, (Now Monroe),” translated by the Rev. A.S. Leiby. (4) Although Peter, Adam and Elisabeth are the only children listed in church records, it appears certain that Cornelius and Margaret had other children. The 1800 Census of Newport Township, Luzerne County, Pa., indicates that their household contained three boys under age 10 and another girl in addition to Adam, Pete and Elisabeth. The 1810 Census of Newport Township indicates the household contained three more boys under age 10 and two boys 10-16 in addition to Peter and Adam and one girl under age 10 in addition to Elizabeth. And the 1820 Census of Newport Township shows that the household contained one boys 10-16, six boys 16-26 and two females 16-26. Some of these children may have belonged to Cornelius or Margaret’s siblings but it seems almost certain that at least some of them were their own children. It seems very likely that three of these sons were William, Cornelius and John Belles, who appear in Butler County in western Pennsylvania in the mid-1800s. William was born in Luzerne County, according to “History of Butler County, Pennsylvania,” Vol. II, 1895, page 1195. And William and Cornelius both appear in the records of St. Paul’s Lutheran and Reformed Church, Zelienople, Butler County, during the 1820s. William’s birth date is uncertain because of conflicting accounts but was probably in the late 1790s. According to the 1850 Census, Cornelius Bellas was born about 1791 and John Bellas was born about 1799. In addition to this evidence, numerous DNA matches have turned up linking descendants of Cornelius’ known children with descendants of William Belles of Butler County. (5) “The Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 3, vol. 19, page 390. (6) “The Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 3, Vol. 26, page 40. (7) Northampton County, Pa., Deed Book H-1, page 353. (8) “History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania,” H.C. Bradsby, Editor, S. B. Nelson & Co., 1893, page 608. (9) Lurzerne County, Pa., Deed Book 6, page 352. (10) Lurzerne County, Pa., Deed Book 8, page 463 and 464 (two separate transactions). (11) “History of Luzerne, Lackawana and Wyoming Counties, Pa,” by W.W. Munsell & Co., 1880, pages 326-327. (12) “The Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 2, Vol. 18, page 521. (13) Lurzerne County, Pa., Deed Book 9, page 228. (14) Luzerne County Federalist, Abstracts at Wyoming County Historical Society Web site. www.rootsweb.com/~pawyomin/ (15) “Pennsylvania German Marriage,” by Dona R. Irish, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, Baltimore, 1982, page 391. (16) “Newport Cemetery, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania,” USGenWeb Archives. This cemetery is in Newport Township about one mile wet of Newport Center, which is north of Wanamie. Inscriptions were transcribed in 1931 by Norman Niccum of Tecumseh, Kansas. (17) “Newport Cemetery, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania,” USGenWeb Archives. (18) “Wyoming & Lackawana Valleys, Pennsylvania, Genealogies & Family Histories,” Vol. 2, page 413, by Alfred Hand and John W. Jordan, Lewis Publishing Co., 1906.rative.
WILLIAM and MAGDALENE BELLES
William Belles was born June 3, 1798, in Luzerne County, Pa. (1)
Married Magdalene Waldron or Walther, who was born Dec. 20, 1796 in Pennsylvania. (2)
Sarah, born Dec. 12, 1821. Married George Shaffer.
Rebecca, born July 21, 1823. Married Jacob Burry.
Isaac, born April 1, 1825.
Mary. Married Philip Blinn.
Magdalene, born about 1827. Married Henry Rice.
Deborah, born about 1829.
Elizabeth, born about 1836. Married Joseph Stauffer.
William, born about 1836 – twin brother of Elizabeth, according to the 1850 Census. Since he is not listed in his father 1860 will, it seems certain that he died before it was written.
The family’s name is recorded with a variety of spellings, including Bellas, Bellis, Bellows. Probably there was no standard spelling because neither William nor his wife learned to write, according to the 1850 Census. It seems possible that they spoke German at home since they attended a German-language church. I prefer the spelling “Belles” because that is what is on William’s tombstone.
Sometime before 1820, William moved to Luzerne County to Butler County, Pa. “The History of Butler County, Pa.” says he moved to Jackson Township “at the age of twenty-two” and moved to Lancaster Township after he was married. “20th Century History of Butler and Butler County, Pa. and Representative Citizens” says he settled in Lancaster Township sometime before 1814. (4) The 1810 Census doesn’t record any Belles families in Butler County, but the 1820 Census shows William in Connoquenessing Township, which was later divided in to several townships including Lancaster. The 1820 Census says his household contained one male age 0-10, one male 16-26 and one female 16-26.
In the 1830 Census, William Bellis appears in Connoquenessing Township and his household contained 1 male under age 5, 1 male 30-39, 2 females under 5, 3 females 10-14, 1 female 20-29. (An entry to a male 20-29 is marked but crossed out.) In 1840, Wm Belles’ household in Connoquenessing Township contained 1 male age 5-9, 1 male 10-14, 1 male 40-49, 1 female 5-10, 2 females 10-14, 2 females 15-19, 1 female 20-29, 1 female 40-49.
The 1850 Census lists William Bellows in West Connoquenessing Township. He is listed as a 50-year-old farmer with property valued at $1,100. His household also contained: Magdalena, age 52; Deborah, age 21, born in Pennsylvania; Isaac, age 26, farmer, property valued at $450, born in Pennsylvania; Elizabeth, age 14, born in Pennsylvania, twin; William, age 14, laborer, born in Pennsylvania, twin.
“The History of Butler County,” printed in 1895, has a brief item on William and his family: “He cleared and improved his farm in Lancaster township, and at his death it became the property of his son Isaac. William and Mary Bellis were the parents of seven children ... The parents were members of the German Reformed church, in which body Mr. Bellis filled the offices of deacon and trustee. He was one of the organizers of the old Economite church, at Harmony. Politically, he was a Democrat, and a stanch adherent to the principles of that party.”
William died April 24, 1860 of consumption. Mary died May 4, 1876. They are buried at the Grace Reformed Cemetery in Jackson Township, Butler County. (5)
(1) Birth date is from “Butler County Cemetery Inventory, Vol. 4,” page 10. The 1850 Census of Butler County, Pa., says he was 50 years old in that year, which corresponds reasonably closely with the cemetery inventory. The 1820 Census of Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pa., says he was between 16 and 26 years old, which indicates a likely birth date later than 1794. However, William’s year of birth is listed as 1790 in “The History of Butler County, Pa. Vol.2,” page 1195. The birth location is mentioned in a short biographical note on William in “The History of Butler County, Pa.” William’s father remains unidentified, but it is possible that he was Cornelius Belles/Bellesfelt, who lived in Luzerne County in the late 1700s. Cornelius is the only Belles who appears in the 1800 Census of Luzerne County, making him the most likely candidate to be the father of several unconnected Belleses from that area at that time. A William appears in the 1810 Census but he is older and has no children. (2) Date is from “Butler County Cemetery Inventory, Vol. 4.” Her parents have not been identified, but there is evidence that her maiden name was either Waldron or Walther. Her maiden name appears as Walther in baptismal records (see below). However, it’s possible this is a misspelling in the original or a mistranscription of the original German script in the church records. No Walters or Walthers appear in census records from immediate in 1800 or 1810. The closest Walter families lived in Irwin Township, Venango County, Peter in 1800 and John in 1810. Irwin Township is roughly 50 miles from the area the Belles family settled, which seems out of the likely range. The name Waldron is mentioned in various family traditions as well as “The History of Butler County” of 1895, which contains a biographical sketch apparently composed by her son, Isaac. Since Magdalene lived until 1876 and spend some of that time living in Isaac’s household, it seems virtually certain that Isaac would have learned his mother’s maiden name. The consensus of many researchers is that Magdalena is the daughter of Samuel V. Waldron, who was a Revolutionary War veteran who lived in Wolf Creek Township, Mercer County. While I tend to lean in this direction, there are still a few problems. I have found no primary or solid secondary sources that make the direct connection between Magdalena and Samuel. Samuel’s family tree is outlined in the 1904 book “Revised History of Harlem (City of New York): Its Origin and Early Annals,” by James Riker. This book doesn’t list a Magdalena among his children. However, Samuel is the only Waldron anywhere close to the Belles family. (3) The names come from Butler County Will Book D, page 55. Exact birth dates come from “St. Paul’s German Lutheran and Reformed Church, Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania,” transcribed by Gertrude Mohlin Ziegler: Sarah and Rebecca, page 22; and Isaac, page 23. Approximated birth dates come from 1850 Census of West Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pa. The daughters’ spouse are mentioned in a biographical sketch of William in “The History of Butler County, Pa. Vol.2,” page 1195. Their last names are confirmed in William’s will. Magdalena was 22 in 1850, according to the 1850 Census of West Connoquenessing Township. An index for the Harmony Mennonite Cemetery at the Zelienople Historical Society stats that Madgalena Belles Rice, wife of Henry S. Rice, was born in 1827 and died in 1911. (4) “20th Century History of Butler and Butler County, Pa. and Representative Citizens,” page 503. (5) “Butler County Cemetery Inventory.” For William, “The History of Butler County” says he died in 1851 but his will was filed May 10, 1860. The U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule for 1860 lists his cause of death.
ISAAC and SARAH BELLES
Isaac Belles was born April 1, 1825 in Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pa., to William and Mary Belles. (1)
Married Sarah Stauffer in May 1854. Sarah was born March 5, 1830 in Pennsylvania to Henry and Susan Stauffer. (2)
William H., born 1855.
John W., born 1857, died 1864.
Joseph Calven, born in 1859.
Mariah, born May 12 1861. Married Louis Edward Moyer.
Isaac, born in 1862.
Samuel Aiden, born in 1864.
Susannah M., born 1867, died 1873.
Cecilia (or Zelie), born in 1868. Married Edward Gerwig.
Eliza, born 1871, died 1872.
Jeanetta, born in 1877. Married Jesse Eppinger.
Isaac spent most of his life as a farmer in Lancaster Township, Butler County.
“The History of Butler County,” printed in 1895, has a brief note on Isaac and his family. Isaac “was born upon the homestead in Jackson Township, Butler County, in 1824, removed with his parents to Lancaster township and lived with them down to his father’s death (in 1850), when the homestead of fifty acres was inherited by him. To this he has added fifty acres, and has resided upon this farm ever since. ... Mr. Bellis and wife are members of the German Reformed church, in which he is a deacon. He is a Democrat, in politics, and has filled the offices of school director, assessor and supervisor in his township.”
The 1860 Census lists Isaac Bellis as a farmer owning real estate valued at $2,500 dollars and personal property valued at $800. His household included his wife Sarah, three sons and his widowed mother, Mary Bellis.
The 1870 Census records that Isaac Belas owned real estate valued at $4,000 and personal property valued at $1,100. His household contained Sarah as well as four sons and three daughters. The census notes that Sarah could read but write.
The 1880 Census lists Isac Bellas as a farmer whose household contains Sarah and three sons and three daughters. Once again, it’s noted that Sarah could not write.
The 1900 Census finds Isaac Belles and his wife Sarah living on Wood Street in Harmony Borough in Butler County. They owned a house that was free of mortgage. No occupation is listed for Isaac. The census mentions that Sarah had given birth to 10 children but only seven survived to 1900. Once again, it says that Sarah cannot write.
The records of Grace Reformed Church in Harmony, Butler County, list a Belles as a deacon from Jan. 1, 1893 to Jan. 1, 1895. Although the first name of the officeholder is obscured by a fold in the page, this would correspond with the date of the publication of the Butler County history. The records also list Isaac as an elder from Jan. 1, 1891, to Jan. 1, 1893. It also notes that he was re-elected “to ’95”. He is listed as taking communion on April 1, 1865, and listed on the “Roll of Regular Communicant Members Oct. 10, 1868.” (4)
In 1894, Isaac and Sarah celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. The local newspaper reported on May 17: “On last Friday the children of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Belles greatly surprised their parents by inviting quite a number of friends and relatives to their home unknown to them. This was done in honor of the fortieth anniversary of their marriage, and was highly enjoyed by all who were present. In the morning Mr. and Mrs. Belles where invited to the home of some friend, and in the meantime the guests were gathering at their residence. After they had all gathered and were comfortably seated in the parlor, the old folks were sent for. When they entered the house they were greatly surprised to see so many friends fathered at their home to spend such an enjoyable day. The dinner prepared for the occasion was immense, and of which all partook freely. The following is a list of all who were there and the presents received; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rice and family, 1 apron, glass dish and walking shoes; Geo. Shaffer; Mr. and Mrs. McCollough, 1 apron; Mrs. A. Moyer, 1 glass dish; Mrs. Sara Wise, 1 cake stand; Mr. and Mrs. John Shaffer and family, 1 apron; Miss D. Belles; Mrs. John Goehring, 1 cake stand; Miss Lizzie Goehring; Miss Snyder, 1 class butter dish; Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Blinn, fruit stand; Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Blinn, 2 fancy cups; Mrs. Frank Blinn; Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Moyer; Mr. and Mrs. S.A. Belles and family; Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Belles, 1 set of silver knives and forks. The family also presented them with two fine rocking chairs. After the day had been spent with much pleasure, they departed for their homes in the evening.” (5)
Isaac died June 28, 1901 of a stroke. (6)
Sarah was killed in a buggy accident April 30, 1905. The account in the Butler Citizen reads: “A frightful accident resulting in the death of Mrs. Isaac Belles, aged 75 years, occurred on Mercer St. Harmony, Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. Mrs. Belles and her nephew, 14 years old, started to drive to her son, Calvin Belles’ farm in Lancaster twp. After the railroad track had been crossed the roan colored family horse had started on a fair trot in a playful manner, and in a few rods was going on a gallop. When Mrs. Belles caught the lines and at the corner of Mercer and Spring Sts. turned west, the buggy struck a hitching post and in the sudden stop pitched Mrs. Belles and the boy headlong upon the brick pavement and against the old Harmony Saving Bank building, the forehead of Mrs. Belles struck the sharp edged east cornerstone of the building. Her brains were dashed out, resulting in instant death. The boy escaped injures.” (7)
Under the headline “A Fatal Runaway: Aged and Well Known Woman Hurled to Instant Death at Harmony, Sunday Afternoon” another newspaper reported: (8)
“Mrs. Sarah Belles, widow of Isaac Belles, was instantly killed in a runaway accident Sunday afternoon on Mercer street, Harmony, while driving with her thirteen your old grandson to her son, Calvin Belles, a farmer, living in Lancaster township.
“At 2 o’clock Mrs. Belles and her grandson left her housein Harmony and after crossing the railroad track on Spring street near the station their horse started in a playful trot, which by those who saw them, was momentarily thought to be controlled by the driver but in another moment the horse was running at full gallop, when several men ran to rescue the frightened lady and boy, but too late to present the buggy from colliding with a stout hitching post. The momentum of the speed hurled the occupants of the rig against the old savings bank building on Mercer street occupied by John Kloffenstein. Mrs. Belles, when thrown, struck the sharp edge of the corner stone, was instantly found in death with a crushed forehead, and her grandson thrown beneath her was dazed yet uninjured. The frightened horse tangled with the broken rig on the post, with difficulty was kept from tramping the prostrate forms of the unfortunate victims on the pavement. In a few minutes a hundred people came to the rescue and witnessed the wreck that cost the life of a loving mother. The lifeless mother a few hours before death partook of the Holy Communion in the Reformed church, and a little over an hour before attended the funeral services of Joseph Rodenbaugh in the M.E. church and was heard sweetly singing ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’
“Mrs. Sarah Belles, nee Stauffer, was born March 5, 1830 and was 75 years, 1 month and 25 days old when she died. In 1854 she was married to Isaac Belles, who died in June 1901 aged 76 years. The union was blessed with ten children, three died. Those living are Mrs. J.E. Gerwig, Mrs. Jesse Eppinger, Mrs. Ed. Moyer Aden and Calvin of this state and Isaac who lives in Kansas, and Henry of Washington state.
“Mrs. Belles was one of the oldest and most active ladies in the Grace Reformed church of which she was a lifelong member.
“… Interment took place in the Mennonite cemetery after the services.”
The Belleses are buried at the Grace Reformed Cemetery in Jackson Township, Butler County.
(1) “St. Paul’s German Lutheran and Reformed Church, Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania,” transcribed by Gertrude Mohlin Ziegler, page 23. Isaac’s parents are also identified in church records supplied by the Zelienople Historical Society and in “Death Records of Butler County, Pennsylvania, 1852-1854, 1893-1955,” transcribed by Cindy Baughman and Pat Collins. (2) The wedding year come from the May 17, 1894 edition of the Connoquenessing Valley News. The birth date for Sarah comes from “Butler County Cemetery Inventory Vol. 4,” page 11. Parents’ names come from “The History of Butler County, Pa. Vol. 2,” page 1195, which was compiled while Sarah was still alive. (3) 1860 and 1870 Censuses of Lancaster Township, Butler County, Pa. Names of children who died young are recorded in “Butler County Cemetery Inventory Vol. 4,” page 10. John’s birth year is listed as 1859 in the cemetery inventory, page 11, but he’s listed as 3 years old in the 1860 Census. The census seems to be more accurate since it also lists Joseph as being a year old. Names of daughters’ spouses come from Butler County Estate File B720 and Will Book D, page 236. (4) The records of Grace Reformed Church are available through Ancestry.com. (5) May 17, 1894 edition of the Connoquenessing Valley News. It is possible that one of the “two fine rocking chairs” was in the possession of Jennifer Bowers in 2008. When her uncle Kenneth Bowers died in 2008, she obtained a rocking chair that had been left behind in Pennsylvania when one of the Belles children moved to Kansas in the early 1900s. The family had planned to take it along but it “would not fit” on the train heading west, according to family tradition. (6) “Butler County Register of Wills Index.” A brief notice also appears in the July 11, 1901, edition of the Butler Citizen, Butler, Pa. (7) The Butler Citizen, May 4, 1905. (8) The unidentified, undated clipping was provided by Bee Johnson of Seattle.