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The Billings

John W. Billings came from New York where he had been apprentice to an architect. He came to Illinois via the lakes and then walked from Chicago to reach Bloomington. When he left New York, many of his friends tried to persuade him to stay but “I took counsel only of myself; my faith was fixed; my face was set and my loins were girded for a race toward sundown.” He eloquently described Bloomington as he found it in 1837: “I picture in my mind the Bloomington of 1837, with its muddy streets, and I see the lone pedestrian, with pants in boots, wending his way to the post office, kept in a sixteen by twenty feet room; or I see the lady with skirts slightly raised, displaying a shining black bootee, daintily picking her steps along single planks, over ship piles and around mud puddles, to some store, where could be found many things between the needle and the anchor, a spool of thread, a bolt of muslin, a pound of tea, and tobacco, coffee, salertus, currycombs, molasses, etc., in promiscuous plenty.” 


While a bachelor, Billings was nursed through a dangerous illness by William and Elizabeth (Adolph) Wallace. In 1840, he married Rebecca Hatfield, a Kentuckian. In the 1850 census he was designated a house carpenter. In the 1855 city directory both he and his wife were listed; she as a tailoress. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Lucretia. Elizabeth married and moved to Idaho with her husband, Amos Stackhouse Lower. Lucretia remained unmarried and was still living when her name appeared in the Aegis 1915 alumni reports as living at 205 E. Empire in Bloomington.  

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