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Bell, James Mackintosh, 1877-1934
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Born in St. Andrew’s East, Quebec, he was the son of Andrew Bell, a well-known mining engineer and Marianne Rosamond, a member of the Rosamond woollen mill family in Almonte, Ontario. He was also the nephew of Sir Robert Bell, Director of the Canadian Geological Survey. In 1886 his family moved to Almonte where he attended Almonte and District High School before venturing on to focus on geology and mining at Queens University in Kingston. James Bell received his PhD from Harvard University in 1904. His field work included exploration in Arctic Canada for the Geological Survey of Canada with his uncle. In 1905, at the age of 27, Bell became the youngest director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand. Four years later, he married Vera Beauchamp, the daughter of one of New Zealand’s most influential businessmen and the sister of writer Katherine Mansfield. They had two sons, Andrew and John. After leaving the Geological Survey in 1911, James again worked as a mining geologist in London with his colleague Colin Fraser.
During World War One he served as a captain with the 73rd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, based in Montreal and put together a platoon from the Almonte area, which set sail in 1916, when he was promoted to major. The platoon was disbanded after losses in March and April of 1917 at Vimy Ridge, but Bell continued his duties, being seconded to the war office. Due to his knowledge of the Russian language and previous visits to Siberia he was attached to the Siberian expedition in 1918 to 1919, doing secret work for the war office in order to undermine the Russian Revolution. His outstanding record with the Canadian forces in France and the British military mission in Russia led to his appointment as an OBE.
After the war, James had a successful career as a mining consultant, was the author of many articles and books and the director of several Canadian mining companies. He received an honorary L.L.D. from Queen’s University in 1924 and died in Almonte ten years later.