Friday, 08 February 2013 01:04

John and Lucy Billings

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John and Lucy Billings


John Billings, son of John and Thomasin Billings, was born 22 December 1818, at Upwell in Cambridgeshire, in the fens of England. The Principle occupation of this region is farming, and it appears that after receiving some schooling, John also followed this line of work.

 In 1843 he married Lucy York, who was born 25 April 1821, also in Upwell,  daughter of Isaac and  Esther Mary Tork. The banns were published and they were married in the Parish Church at Upwell On the 28th of April 1843. The witnesses were Johns sisters Maria and Susan, his brother in law James Wooll,  Samuel Brakes who was apparently a relative of Lucy, and Edward Inwood Jones. They remained in Upwell for seven years after their marriage and three children were born to them: Mary Ann, Maria, and John Thompson Billings.

In the spring of 1850, Grandfather and Grandmother York,  John Billings and his wife Lucy, and three children, Mary, Maria, and John came to America. They were on the sea for six weeks before landing at the port of Lewiston, Maine in May.

In April 1851 they arrived in Milwaukee. They rode to Waukesha, (then called Prairieville) on the newly completed Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, a distance of 201 miles. The men left the women and children there and walked to Pewaukee (about 10 miles further) where they ate dinner at the home they later purchased in 1867.

They settled on the Richmond farm where John Billings worked.

Grandmother wrote: I've heard Mother Billings say your great grandfather used to work for a man by the name of Richmond. If he didn't get there just so early, he would say, "John, you see that sun? You know you should be here by sunrise." In those days they didn't get any money. They had to take meat and whatever they needed."

Their home was a log house. The log house just had one room. Then they had 'what they called a loft. They had to climb a ladder to get there to sleep." For cooking and heating they had a fireplace. "An iron kettle hung over the flames.,' They had to build their own oven to bake their bread.  I guess they did get homesick.

Six children were born to John and Lucy Billings after coming to America; William, Em. Ike, Eva, Sidorie (died in infancy) and Albert. All born in the log house before moving in 1867."

In the fall of 1854 they were joined by John’s Father and brother James. "I remember Mother Billings telling me about her father in law, living with them.

One morning he said to her., "I don't feel so good., Lucy. If you haven't made the beds, I'll lay down for awhile. When she went up to see how he was, he had passed away. He died in the loft. She said he was a nice old man. He used to help her with the children."

 There were still Indians in that part of the country then. They used to come and lay by the fireplace. "They had to show them the food they had and share with them. No dog would scare them. They used to come on horseback, They always had a little dog with them. If you had a dog, they would make friends and run off together.

 In 1867 they purchased the old farm where Noel Billings lives now. It is located about two miles north of Pewaukee in the town Of Lisbon. It had now been continously in the Billings name for 100 years. My grandparents lived there when they were first married. Grandmother wrote: "When we were first married, we lived with Mother and Father Billings ...... Father Billings decided to retire and rented the farm to Uncle Ike and your grandfather. That made three families in the same house. We lived in the upper, and Ike and Annie downstairs. Mother and Father Billings had their bedroom downstairs. One week they boarded with us, and the next week with Ike and Annie. I will tell you all the rooms we had at that time. Downstairs,  sitting room, bedroom, big kitchen, a big pantry, and a room off the kitchen where we used to cook in the summer. Upstairs from the living room was a stairway bedroom, the low room, the middle bedroom, and a bedroom we used to call Grandmother York's bedroom. 'We had a kitchen, dining room, pantry and a bedroom off the pantry. There were six bedrooms all told."

 In 1889 two babies arrived in this house, just two days apart. "Mother and Father Billings decided to clear out when the babies came, so they went to visit Uncle Jim,  Father Billings' brother whom they had not seen for 17 years. After that they used to visit back and forth. I met Aunt Emily, Uncle Jim, Carolina  ( she called herself Caddy) Taylor.  I met them in 1889, when they visited Mother and Father Billings,  we lived on the farm where Noel lives now.

I have what they used to call Albums‑‑Autographs. This is dated July lst, 1889. A gift from James and Caddie Taylor, to Mother and Father Billings somehow is my treasure chest. Here is the autograph of James and Caddy Taylor: 'The wishes of your nephew and niece. May your bark through this world safely, glide and may you anchor in heaven side by side.'  Just wish you could see and read some of the autographs.

I remember on year we went to the State Fair together, Mother and Father Billings, Aunt Emily, Uncle Jim, and myself.

In England John and Lucy, like most people, belonged to the Church of England. After coming to the United States, they maintained some connection with the Episcopal Church at Sussex. They had a large family Bible, purchased about 1854, in which they carefully recorded the births, marriages, and deaths in the family. In 1887 they joined the Methodist Church at Pewaukee and were faithful members for the rest of their lives.




After retiring from the farm, John and Lucy moved to the village of Pawaukee. Grandmother described John Billings as being quite tall with very, sloping shoulders and she would say fat. Lucy Billings was short, about five feet. John died at Pewaukee in 1894 and Lucy, ten years later.




Written by Floyd Billings in the 1960's


Lucy York born 25 Apr 1821 Upwell, Norfolk England, died 21 Feb 1904 Pewaukee Wisconsin.

John Billings born 22 Dec 1818 Upwell, Norfolk Eng died 20 Apr 1894  Pewaukee Wisconsin. Married 28 Apr 1843 in Upwell, Norfolk England. 


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