Nevada’s Accidental Governor

Governor Frank Bell was the sixth governor of Nevada and a distant cousin of Alexander Graham Bell. He was born in Toronto, Canada on January 28, 1840.

Bell came to the U.S. as a construction supervisor for a telegraph company that ran lines from Utah to California. He claimed to have helped telegraphed the Nevada constitution to President Lincoln in 1864 and was the first person to demonstrate the telephone in Nevada.

Bell did however, installed some of the first telephone lines in the state at the Virginia City mines and in the city itself.

Bell first entered public service as warden of the Nevada prison, a position he held from 1883 to 1887. He also served as lieutenant governor of Nevada from 1889 to 1890.

On September 21, 1890 Governor Charles Stevenson died in office, and Bell, who was the lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. During his short tenure, he continued to carry out the programs and policies of the Stevenson administration.

He served only four months in office. However when the Republicans held their convention in Virginia City on September 4, 1890, he received neither the nomination for lieutenant governor nor governor.

Some believed Bell did not seek the governor’s position because his brother-in-law, C.C. Powning, aspired to be governor.

After leaving office in January 1891, Bell continued to stay politically active. From 1893 to 1895 he served again as warden of the state prison, and from 1905 to 1909 he served as Reno justice of the peace.

Governor Frank J. Bell passed away at the age of 87 in California on February 13, 1927, and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Reno, Nevada. The city of Reno honored him by naming Bell Street after him.

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