Phebe Jane (Billings) Williamson
1845 – 1931
Mother was born Sept. 6, 1845 in Franklin Co. Ind. She and Jimmie, Dr. J.M. Billings were a lively pair getting into more mischief than the average children. Their pranks were often related at the family parties when the tribe of Billings held their happy reunions in Lebanon, Mo.
Her earliest recollection is of the sickness and death of her baby brother Wilson (Simon Wilson). The records show was very young indeed. She was an extremely active child and able to outrun Jimmie who was clumsy and likely to stump his toe and fall. She remembers the little log school house – which they reached at the end of the blazed trail – with its benches of split logs and its shelf along the wall on which they wrote and above which a log was removed for a window.
The cracks were filled with mud to keep out the cold. An immense fire place was in one end of the room where the boys placed hugh logs which they brought from the surrounding woods.
She started to school when she was three years old because Jimmie started. They studied Webster’s old blue backed speller. She learned to spell every word in it and when eleven years old, she twice "spelled down" the whole community in the "spellin skule".
They had great fun when she was twelve and they moved to Clay Co. Illinois in covered wagons.
Soon they built the little red brick school house on the corner of Grandpa’s farm and he Uncle Will Bowler taught the school. He says:- "We had twenty four pupils in the little brick when I was teaching the first school in it. Was there ever a more care free, happier jollier set than we were. Twelve of them I know are gone to the Spirit Land, John Snyder, Theresa Dye (she later became his wife) Cal Snyder, Kate Rosenberger – (Peaker) Lizzie Rosenberger (Green) Jimmie, Janie, Bert and Ollie (who was the youngest in the bunch).
When Mother was about seventeen and Jimmie united with the church in Flora (Ill) and were immersed by Elder John A. Williams of Salem, Ill in Snyders pond. Afterward she failed to say Brother Williams and he ask her – "Sister, didn’t I get your lips under the water".
When eighteen, she taught a country school near Louisville at Georgetown. She rode horseback to her school. On Friday nights, Alex Holt often escorted her home.
Father visited her school also once, and rode home with her.
He came out from Ohio to Illinois to visit his sister Tena who lived near Grandpa Billings. Father was such a silent man that the relatives – especially Aunt Amanda wondered how they ever came to an understanding. On her nineteenth birthday, Sept. 6, 1864 they were married by a Methodist minister at Grandfather’s home near Flora.
Her bridal dress was sheer white cotton with many ruffles and much lace, made entirely by her own hands with the help of her chum Theresa Dye (not the Theresa Dye who married Uncle Will).
This white dress was worn over a large hoop skirt. Her head dress was of white lace with white flowers and ribbon ties. Her hair was done in "a water fall".
Her going away dress was black silk with a silk wrap called a dohlman with large flowing sleeves. Two other dresses she calls "worsteds" completed her bridal outfit of new things all made by herself.
I insert here an account of her wedding written fifty years later by a nephew (then unborn) to be read at her Golden Wedding in Lebanon Mo. 1914 Sept. 6.
Written by Robert L. Bowler of Escondido, Cal.
Fifty Years Ago
Take me back oh mystic muses;
Let once more my fancies roam.
O’r the broad and level prairies
Where was once my childhood home.
Where the kink and friendly neighbors
Lived their lives of patient toil,
Coaxing forth the scanty harvests
From a thin and grudging soil.
Where my kindred from their homesteads
Sent their sons and daughters forth
Citizens worthy to be counted
Among the nobles of the earth.
There beside a rail fenced highway,
On a modest little mound,
Was the neat and cozy farm house
Which was known for miles around-
As the home of Jerry Billings
And his very clever wife.
Who maintained a place of honor
In the country’s social life.
Who lived each day with perfect trust
In Gods great heart of love
And saw thru smiles and tears of earth
A better home above.
Children come to such a household,
Welcome as the flowers of spring
And like nestlings fledged and lusty,
To their own dear nests take wing.
So one bright September morning
Half a hundred years ago,
When the fairy autumn wild flowers,
Lit the fields with golden glow.
Came a lover, young and ardent,
To receive his lovely bride;
To pluck the fairest blossom
In all the country side.
The marriage feast is ready
In the worthy Elders home;
The guests have been invited
And we will watch them come.
From the eastward come the Bowlers
Driving slowly thru the lane;
By their equipage we judge that they
Are neither proud nor vain.
There is Uncle Will and Grandma
Aunt Theresa and The Boy
Who bears the name of Bowler
In the State of Illinois.
(His honor was but transient,
For in just a half a year
The voice of "Yours with Pleasure"
Was ringing loud and clear.)
From the west arrive the Andersons
In their famous old barouch –
(I bet they’ve brought a turkey
Or else a roasted goose.)
For all the Bowler women
Know how to bake and stew
And make preserves and pickles
And cook sweet potatoes too –
We’ll never find such sweet potatoes
Any where on earth,
As Aunt Jane used to bake for us
On her old kitchen hearth.
But there, the old baronch awaits
Beneath the locust tree,
While Joe and Will and George and John
Have joined the company.
Young Phebe and her mother
Slip ‘round the kitchen way,
While Uncle Thomas argues
On the issues of the day.
Of course Aunt Sis and Ollie
Are early on the scene,
To bring some extra table ware
And linen white and clean.
And Abbie too is coming
While he gets his chores all done,
For life e’cn now is strenuous
For a widows only son.
Aunt Mandy is arriving!
I hear her little smile-
I see her face a beaming
A fraction of a mile.
She has her night of sorrow
She sheds a widow’s tear;
But like the glorious sun each day
She scatters light and cheer.
And here is cousin Ella
With her pretty dancing curls-
A sweet bud in our garden
Of happy country girls.
There’s the groom’s good sister Tena-
That’s her man she’s riding with;
I a crowd of folks like this one,
There’s most sure to be a Smith.
There’s Uncle William Billings folks
From Larkinsburg come down
And also some near neighbors
And friends from out of town.
And thus across the prairies
They journey many a mile,
They honor Janie’s wedding
In happy country style.
For it is a great occasion!-
Think of all this band of cousins,
Waiting for their Beaux and sweethearts
Count them by the tens and dozens.
Janie is the first among them
Knocking at the "Old, old door"
Where a host of worthy ancestors-
Have knocked in days of yore.
"May it be a happy entrance
To a home by Heaven blest,"
Is the prayer of every kinsman,
The wish of every guest.
Her bride’s cake was decorated by her great grandmother Bowler.
Uncle Doc accompanied them on their wedding tour as he was going to Indianapolis to enter Medical College.
She was the dearest most faithful of mothers throughout all the moves and ups and downs of life and was well loved by everybody who made contact with her life.
She and father counted on the several years spent in The Christian Orphan’s Home in St. Louis under the National Benevolent Association of the church as among the most fruitful years of service in their lives. "Papa Williamson" mended the shoes kept the house warm and fathered the whole family. "Mamma Williamson" was mistress of the sewing room and cared for the wardrobes of the big family. It was a blessed work that we all enjoyed. Here their son Benton died from the effects of an injection of anti-tocsin. Here their son Guy brought his bride Beatrice on their wedding trip. Here you dear sister Mattie were married with the most touching pretty wedding program that was ever planned.
When the separation of Father and Mother came at his death, it was pitiful that she could not go with him. It was the greatest grief to her thru the long wedded life of 58 years.
She failed slowly but surely over a period of ten years being bedfast for almost three years.
She was always good and patient always sweet and easily cared for. She loved to have her children and grand children ring around the bedside where we spent her last days in Jacksonville, Ill.
No children ever had a dearer Mother than ours. No Grandchildren ever had a sweeter Grandmother than yours.
She died Jan 1, 1931 and was buried beside father in cemetery at Lebanon, Mo.
Her children were-
- Eva b. Aug 24, 1865 on Hoosier Prairie near Flora, Ill. d. inf.
- Tena b. Feb 2, 1867 on H.P. m. Frank Wisdom Allen July 31, 1906.
- Martha Catherine b. Oct. 20, 1869 on H.P. m. Edward B. Redd on Sept. 6, 1901
- Guy Billings b. June 27, 1872 in Flora, Ill. m. Beatrice Harney May 15, 1901
- James Benton b. July 25, 1881 in Flora, Ill. d. April 6, 1897 in St. Louis, Mo.
Part of this last sketch was written before mother’s death and part of it after her death. (Tena)
Strangely enough it is death which constantly reinforces our faith in immortality. When we look upon the strangely quiet and often marvelously peaceful faces of our friends we have known and loved to whom death has come, we have a feeling that tho the body is still there – something has taken wings and flown away. One second as you watch by the bedside that something is there. The next second it is gone and only that which is to decay in the grave is present.
That something is personality, the most wonderful and beautiful thing which the universe has produced. Where did it go? I can not believe that the universe is careless of its finest product.
This personality, the spirit, the soul must live on.
This indestructible part of Mother and Father is awaiting us in their home "not made with hands". E’re long we will go to join them. --- Tena