Martha (Bowler) Billings

1821 - 1891

She was the third daughter of James Harvey Bowler and Phebe (Henderson) Bowler and born Dec. 29, 1821 in Brown Co. Ohio. When she was a little girl her parents moved to Decatur Co. Ind. "Her home here was what they called a "double cabin" – two cabins standing end to end with a space between all under one cover, roof. The east cabin was built of round logs in the usual way, having notched ends which fitted into each other, and the cracks were filled in with mud chinking. It was covered with clapboards laid on poles and other poles laid on them to hold them down. The floor was made of split puncheons leveled down to a somewhat even thickness and the edges straightened to make them lay fairly close together.

Sometimes a knife or spoon fell thru a crack but all that was necessary to recover it was to raise a puncheon and fish it out. This room had a window in the north without glass. A shutter closed it in stormy weather.

There was a door in the south. It had wooden hinges and a wooden latch of the kind of which it used to be said, "The latch string is always out".

The west cabin was built of hewed logs and had a plank floor, a window of glass and the door opened into the entry way which was closed on the north.. As the door of the east cabin was in the south, it was necessary in passing from one to the other, to go out of doors. This was not very pleasant in stormy weather. Both cabins had fire places built of stone with stone chimneys.

The east cabin being the older and the meaner of the two was used for cooking and eating. There was a loom in one end on which all the cloth for the clothes of the family were woven.

There was also two spinning wheels, a large one for spinning wool and a small one for flax. A bed or two and the tools and materials for making primitive head gear completed the furnishings of this room. Her sister Jane and her father’s step sister carried on the hat making industry and made bonnets "for themselves and neighbors.

The entry was well filled with the accumulations of a large family and included saddles bridles, harness and bulky household stores which had to be kept under cover.

The west cabin contained two or three beds, chests for bedding and clothes, a shelf of books, chairs tables and furniture for a family of eight.

They moved out of this house into the new house when the one describing it (W.W. Bowler) was five years old in 1841. This old house in the northeast part of the Co. The east part of her father’s farm was the Franklin Co. line and the north line was three miles west and Andersonville was five miles northeast.

One day when Martha rode to the Christian Church with her mother riding behind on "Old Kit" a tall young man walked beside them as they came home. His name was Jerry Billings the eldest son of Elder Simon Billings who lived about a half a mile from the Christian Church. This young man became a frequent visitor at her home and after a while he did some needed carpenter work for her father, running a partition across their one big room and ceiling both rooms over head.

Her father had studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelations and liked nothing better that an argument. On one occasion he got Jerry in a tight place and Jerry said "I am not going to pin my religious faith either to yours or my father’s sleeve."

Martha helped her father considerably in the fields. It was said that she resented being under the dominance of her older sister Jane who was the house keeper. Martha loved the freedom of the fields and to ride horse back,

They, Grandfather Jeremiah Billings and Martha Bowler were married from the new home in 1843 – March 8.

Four children were born to them – James Milton, Mch. 2, 1844, Phebe Jane (our mother) Sept. 6, 1845 (1 ˝ years apart), Simon Wilson Jan. 22, 1847 (lived about 3 mo.) (died when mother was about 1 yr. 8 mo. old but she insists that she remembers it distinctly), Pamela Catherine March 18, 1852.

Mother remembers well the first cook stove. All cooking had been done by open fire. The candles were molded. (Janey molded candles, their best light, and before her death her grand daughter Dorothy did not know how to light a lamp. Had seen only electric lights). The wool all spun at home for the clothing. Carpets hand woven.

As I knew Grandmother Martha, she was always genteel. Her friends were the nicest people. She was careful in dress and appearance. Always wore black lace caps. She was a great reader. She told me that she read "Scottish Chiefs" by the open fire and read all night. She early joined the white ribbon movement and was a faithful C.W.B.M. woman. I remember she took "The Christian". Her home was headquarters for visiting preachers. She said one day that she was sorry for the younger women in the church who did not like to entertain the preachers. "They are depriving their homes and families of a great blessing" she insisted.

When we were children it was a great treat to walk out to Grandma’s (Flora, Ill) and have a picnic. It broke her heart when we made the Kansas move, but she grew reconciled and came to visit us at Mead Center, Kan. She did not live long after they moved to Lebanon Mo. Died Aug 26, 1891 at the home of her daughter Mela Burley. Funeral conducted by E.B. Redd of Horten Kan. A visiting preacher later "called" by the Lebanon Church and still later the husband of you (dear sister Mattie). Grandma was buried in Lebanon Cemetery on Uncle Doc’s lot.

Her children

(Simon Wilson died in infancy)

1. James Milton m. Juliet Bowman Oct. 20, 1867.
2. Phebe Jane m. Jacob F. Williamson Sept. 6, 1864
3. Pamela Catherine m. Thomas B. Burley Nov 30, 1876.

1a. Arthur Frank m. Emma Grace Moss
1b. Roy Fay m. Mamie Kirk.
1c. Carl died in infancy

2a. Eva died in infancy
2b. Tena m. Frank W. Allen July 31, 1906.
2c. Martha Catherine m. E.B. Redd.
2d. Guy Billings m. Beatrice Harney
2e. James Benton died in St. Louis.

3a. Jessie Moss
3b. Ralph Evans m. Flotic McKnight
3c. Claude Billings m. Ivey Vernon


Next we will take up Grandma’s Colonial Ancestors on her fathers side.