I. W. Bell is not dead. He’s just resting on one of the shelves at the Knox County Historical Society like a literary genie. His body may be long gone, his gas station vacant, but his voice is ready to have a conversation almost a century in the making through his poetry collection “The Old Apple Tree.”
People from Bell’s time have albums of photographs or collections of documents to leave behind as receipts for their existence. I. W. Bell has something quite unique to remember him by: a collection of poems through which one can get to know him as well as if he had written an autobiography about his life a century ago.
When one opens the first pages of the collection, one can see a photo of Bell’s gas station as it was when his own eyes looked upon it and hear his voice as if he were reading to them from under the awning of the station.
“The evidence for Mr. Bell’s existence, in addition to the family records, is a booklet of poetry that has been located. ‘The Old Apple Tree’ gives as its author I. W. Bell, Newark Road, Mount Vernon, Ohio. There is no date, but a photo illustration with an automobile in front of a gasoline filling station places the date in the early 1920’s,” according to the late Dr. Keith Clinker, distinguished MVNU scholar and local author enthusiast/bookseller in his biography of I. W. Bell on the Historical Society website.
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