John James Abell (6 Mar. 1817-1893?)

John James Abell was born in Jefferson County, VA (now WV), the son of John Abell, Sr. (d. 1827) from Ireland and his wife, Sarah Forrest from Maryland. John James attended the University of Virginia in session 10 (1833-1834).

From about 1847 to 1849, Abell was the manager of the Shannondale House, a hotel in Jefferson County, VA. He married Juliet Elizabeth Kitty ”Betty” Thompson (1821-1890) on 25 May 1851 in Baltimore, MD. The couple had no biological children, but adopted a daughter, named Martha Abell.

Abell arrived in Missouri in 1854, and was the proprietor of and/or an investor in several hotels in St. Joseph, MO, including the Planters’ House and the Pacific House. Abell was active in politics and supported the public and cultural life of the new city, being elected to the first St. Joseph Board of Public Schools in 1860 (though the minutes indicate that he never attended the meetings). In 1880, he joined with a number of other businessmen to form the Saint Joseph Exposition Association, to sponsor and provide a location for an annual county fair.

We do not know when or where John James Abell died, or where he is buried, but the secondary sources imply that he outlived his wife. We can find no official death record for Abell, but the last St. Joseph city directory in which he was listed is the 1893 directory. There is a brief biography of Abell in Portrait and biographical record of Buchanan and Clinton Counties, Missouri (1893) in which Abell is written about  as alive, which leads us to belive that he either left the city or died in 1893 or 1894.

My thanks to Connie McCoy, the Librarian of the Northwest Missouri Genealogical Society for her research on John James Abell in Buchanan and Clinton Counties’ records.


  • 1850-1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc.
  • Green, Raleigh Travers. Genealogical and historical notes on Culpeper County, Virginia. Culpeper, VA, 1900. Accessed via Internet Archive at
  • Portrait and biographical record of Buchanan and Clinton Counties, Missouri. Chicago, IL, 1893. Accessed via
  • “Report of the commissioners appointed to divide the slaves of John Abell, dec’d.” Jefferson County, WV Clerk’s Office. 22 Dec. 1827. (Accessed 6/17/2011)
  • Tombstone of Bettie Abell, Mount Mora Cemetery, St. Joseph, MO. (Accessed 6/17/2011).
  • Union Historical Company. The history of Buchanan County, Missouri. St. Joseph, MO, 1881. (Accessed via Internet Archive at
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