AUGUSTUS "Gus" EVANS
JUNE 15 1910--MAY 23, 1946
Submitted By: Wayne
Gus was the only child of Gaither and Anna Sophia Evans
Billings, he was born at
address on June 15, 1910. Laura Billings Fox recalls Gus as "one of the most
beautiful little children I ever saw, his eyes were the color of Autumn skies and his hair
the color of buttercups."
Maude Blair Bowers recalled, "Pearl and I visited Gaither
Annie around 1909
when Annie was pregnant with Gus. Annie played the organ for us." Pearl Blair
Creasman later described Annie as "a woman of quality." At this time Gaither and
Annie lived in a little house close to the "Green House." Based on the foregoing
this location is probably where Gus was born. Maude says this was a Niota postal address
at the time and Gus TN birth certificate lists his place of birth as Niota, TN.
Gaither Augustus Billings was born June 15, 1886 in his parents
home in Surprise,
Roane Co., TN. He was the fifth of seven children born to Bayless Winslow and Rachel M.
Annie Evans parents were Andrew and Sophia Clutter Evans.
born in Ohio and she
in Austria. When Annie was born Nov. 28, 1888, her parents lived in a log home in the Head
of the Creek community in McMinn Co.,TN., which is near the town of Sweetwater.
Pearl Blair Creasman said, "At the time of Gus' birth,
and Annie were
living somewhere near the " green house. "The green house is so called by
present day relatives because of the color of the house. The house is standing today and
is located in the vicinity of Pisgah Church, in McMinn Co., TN, on the left side of Hwy.
68 at Mile marker three near the intersection of McMinn Co., Rt. 292 with Southbound
Hwy.68. The old gravel road that was once Rt. 68 runs 20-30 yards away from the front of
the house. "A small spring runs about fifteen yards behind the house, further on past
the small spring is a bigger spring and about 120 yards from the back of the house stands
a barn. Pearl Blair Creasman said the area where the house was built was called Bulah's
chapel at the time the house was built.
Gus was four months old when his mother, Annie, died of
fever on Dec. 23, 1910
in McMinn Co., TN., leaving her husband and their four-month-old son, Gus. Annie's
brother, Lafayette had contracted typhoid while moving his family's outdoor toilet and had
been placed in quarantine at his home. Annie visited her brother saying she was going to
see him regardless of the quarantine. Her obituary in the Sweetwater News says she was
"buried near her home in Blue Springs." Several Billings relatives also say
Annie is buried at Blue Springs Cemetery in Roane CO., TN, near the Erie community.
The Baskets, who were Gaither's neighbors, cared for Gus after
Annie's death just long
enough to pay Gaither for Annie's organ which he traded for Gus' care, according to Pearl
After the Baskets, Gaither took Gus to live with his sister,
Billings Blair, in
Surprise, TN about 1910/11. Myrtle's daughter, Maude Blair Bowers, recalls "we began
caring for Gus when he still wore a dress and a diaper. Gaither brought all Gus's clothes
in a woven wooden shopping basket, They consisted of five or six dresses which buttoned up
the back and some diapers. There was a baby bottle full of milk laying on top of the
clothes. My sister, Blanche Blair, assumed Gus's day to day care, while I took care of my
Gwendolyn Gallant Starnes, Blanche's daughter, says, Gaither
presented Blanche with a
large hand blown glass Easter egg bearing a verse and hand painting. The verse on the egg
read, "So will thy heart to quiet and calm, So wilt thou gather the wayside balm. So
will the blessings of Easter Tide deep in thine inner life ever abide." Maude says
they took care of Gus from the time his Mother died until Gaither married Bertha Wallis. A
couple of years ago Gwen was kind enough to give this writer the Easter egg described
Gaither and Miss Bertha Wallis were married 21 Sept. 1913,
was a few days past
her 16th birthday. Bertha was the daughter of Joseph William "Barlow" and Artie
S. Kennedy of the Ten Mile Community in Meigs Co., TN. Gaither took his son, Gus, back
from his sister, Myrtle, who had cared for Gus for three years by this time. On 21 Aug.
1914 Bertha presented Gaither with another son who was named Theodore Douglas Billings.
Pearl Blair Creasman says Gaither lived in a house on Pine St. in Athens around the time
Ted was a baby. The Pine St. house was high in front and had no front porch. To prevent
Ted falling out the open front door, Gaither nailed boards across the door.
In 1914 Gaither moved his family to Niota, TN where they
the farm of Gaither's
2nd cousin Amos Walter Billings, according to Amos Walter's daughter, Laura Bessie
Billings Fox. At this time Gaither and his Father, Bayless, built a house for Laura's
widowed Mother, Mary Alice Nelson Billings.
On Dec. 27, 1916 Gathers 19-year-old bride of just over two
died of typhoid fever
leaving Gaither alone again. Gaither was to care for two sons, two and a half year old Ted
and six year old Gus. Bertha was buried near her parent's relations at the Pond Hill
Cemetery near Athens in McMinn Co., TN.
Bearing the responsibility of earning a Living and having no one
home to care for
his sons Gaither now turned to Tim and Annie Carpenter, who were related to Bertha Wallis,
to care for Ted and Gus, according to Maude Blair Bowers. Zelda Newton Billings says that
after Bertha died, Gaither "lived high and wide" leaving someone else to raise
his two sons. Zelda said, "Gaither loved dances and drank until his later
years." On the other hand, Bernice Wallis Thompson says, "Gaither's drinking
never affected his family life."
Theodore Douglas Billings recalls going to school hungry and
because he says
Gaither "farmed him out" to different families after his Mother, Bertha, died.
He continued, "If Aunt Mert (Myrtle Billings Blair) hadn't taken me in I don't know
what would have happened to me."
Gaither apparently took Gus and Ted back to his sister, Myrtle
Billings Blair after
they had lived with the Carpenters, because Ted Billings said that after Myrtle Billings
Blair's husband, James Hardin, died in 1922 he and Gus were cared for by the Tim Carpenter
family who were related to Gaither's second wife, Bertha Wallis. Later Gus and Ted were
cared for by Bernice Wallis and her sister, Maude Wallis, who lived in Athens, TN in a
house on (Pine St.?) near the Cedar Grove Cemetery according to Pearl Blair Creasman. They
were next cared for by Myrtle Blair who also lived near the Cedar grove cemetery according
to Zelda Billings.
Mrs. Nannie Ford Fitch recalls Gus attending the first Concord
in Ten Mile,
Meigs Co., TN. The school was located between the picnic ground and the cemetery at
present day Concord Church. Mrs. Fitch says the Billings boys lived with their Uncle and
Aunt, James Hardin and Sarah Myrtle Billings Blair on the old Bayless Billings farm about
a mile from Concord Church. Mrs. Fitch continued saying, "J. H. (James Hardin) Blair
taught at Ten Mile School in Meigs Co., TN around 1918 and then at Concord. Gus' brother,
Ted, recalls that he also attended school at Concord.
Maude Blair Bowers says, "Ted attended Concord but
never did because Gaither
took Gus back before he was old enough to go to school." Ted is in a school group
picture made at Concord School ca. 1918 when he was about four years old.
Pearl Blair Creasman says, "one day when he was little,
looking at a
picture of his Aunt Myrtle Billings Blair, Ted said there's a picture of Aunt Mert
(Myrtle) but she ain't got no whicker (hickory switch) in her hand." When Pearl told
her Mother this, Myrtle just laughed and said, "well I kept a whicker most of the
time or those boys would ride rough shod over me."
Gilmer Massey of the Ten Mile Community in Meigs Co., TN
and Gus were returning
to Ten Mile from Athens, via the Clearwater road, one day when Gus pointed out the
location of the place where he had gone to school. This was in the vicinity of where
present day (1989) Clearwater Rd. to Athens, TN (McMinn Co. Rt.305) crosses under
Interstate 75. After going under I-75, continue toward Athens for about one half mile on
Clearwater Rd. The school was located just before reaching the Russell place. A house is
standing on the location of the former school and there is a pretty big church nearby. In
this vicinity, a road forks off Clearwater Rd. and goes to a rock quarry.
Ted Billings says, "one day in school the teacher asked
go to the
blackboard and do a math problem. Either that day or soon after Gus quit
school. In spite of his limited education Gus could saw lumber all day and tell you at the
end of the day exactly how many board feet he had sawed."
Harboring disdain for formal education, Gus was to later tell his
oldest son, Wayne Paul Billings, didn't need to go to school because he could learn all he
needed to know by accompanying him to the sawmill every day.
"Gus' Uncle Bayless Winslow Billings Jr. bailed him out
Loudon Co., TN jail
when Gus was fourteen" says Winslow's daughter, Estella Billings Yates. Ted Billings
says, "Gus drank from the time he was fifteen until he was twenty-five or thirty, but
held his liquor well. The only time I ever saw Gus high was in the 30's, we both got
pretty high that time. We had picked enough blackberries to make ten or twelve gallons of
blackberry wine and drank our fill of it." Billy Thompson confirmed Ted's statement
saying, "both Gus and Ted drank but they never got into any meanness."
Ted Billings recalled that as a young man Gus went to
California for a
while, where he
worked in the nut groves. Gus may have worked in the area where his Uncles Israel and
William Evans lived.
Billy Thompson recalls, "Gus had a nineteen twenty nine
Model Ford with a rumble
seat. One day Gus was going somewhere and wouldn't let Ted go along. Ted sneaked into the
car's rumble seat and eased the lid down to prevent its locking, then waited quietly for
Gus to leave. Later as Gus drove along the bumpy gravel road the trunk lid bounced shut
and locked. Knowing he was trapped, Ted became frantic and began to sing and holler at the
top of his voice. It only took Gus a second to figure out Ted had hidden in the rumble
seat and he just drove on like he didn't hear Ted, letting him sweat it out."
Ted Billings remembered, "Gus and Jake Ward were both
courting Elsie Burtrum. It
all came to a head down at the spring behind Pisgah Church one night. Gus and Jake got
into it, with Gus using brass knuckles and Jake using a knife. Although he only had brass
knuckles, Gus was strong as an ox from years of timber cutting and operating a saw mill.
He was only about five feet eleven inches tall and probably weighed 180 pounds but it was
all muscle. When it was all over, our first cousin, Fred Blair took both of them to the
hospital in Sweetwater where Gus was treated for cuts across the left chest and arm and
Jake for head injuries."
Between 1927/30 Gaither owned an International Harvester
machine according to
Ted Billings. During 1930 Gaither had such a severe intestinal problem that Gus and Ted
had to plant their crops alone. Even in this condition Gaither would make contract with
the local farmers to harvest their wheat.
Since these were depression years and most people couldn't
therefore, Gus and Ted would harvest their crops for one tenth of the harvest. They then
had the wheat converted to flour, paying the miller with a portion of the flour and then
selling or eating the rest.
Ted recalls that Gus had an asthma problem which the dust and
to partially escape the dust problem Gus drove the new John Deer tractor pulling the
thrasher while Ted worked at the rear feeding the wheat into the threshing machine.
Eighty one year old Clyde Simpson of Ten Mile, Meigs Co., TN
he knew Gus since Gus
was a child. Clyde's Uncle Henry Simson married Gus' Aunt Cora Billings. Clyde said,
"Gus once sawmilled between Concord and the Tennessee River. This was before Watt's
Bar dam was built and Gus lived in Hornsby Hollow in the Peakland Crossroad community on
the old Pinhook Ferry Rd. To find the area today, travel west on Hwy. 68 to River Rd.,
turn right and go about one quarter mile to Peakland Crossroads where you turn left. Gus
lived on this road about a mile from the Tennessee River before TVA backed the water up
behind Watt's Bar Dam."
Clyde continued," It was at this time that a man named
"Red" drove a
milk truck for Howard Hornsby hauling milk to Chattanooga. Very early one morning when
there was snow on the ground, Red got stuck in a ditch on River Rd.. near where Gus lived.
At that time Gus had the only tractor in Ten Mile, it was a steel Wheeled two cylinder
John Deere which you started by spinning the flywheel. Red walked to Gus' house and
"hollered" him out of bed saying he was in a ditch and couldn't get out. Gus
replied, well wait till I get me some clothes on and we'll go down and pull it out. Red said, that
was the first tractor I'd ever seen and once Gus cranked it I thought to myself, that thing is
missing, it's only hitting on two cylinders so it will never pull me out and right there we are both
stuck." By this time Gus was ready to go and told Red, get on and let's go!" Red said,
"when we got to the truck, Gus hooked the tractor to it and just pulled it right out and that
tractor never did hit on but two cylinders, and made a splat, splat, splat noise. I come
to find out it just had two cylinders to start with." Billy Thompson doesn't recall
Gus ever living in the Peakland area and thinks Gus probably lived in the house on
Clearwater Rd. at the time of the foregoing "tractor story."
According to Billy Thompson, who married Bertha Wallis'
Bernice, Gaither bought
a large tract of timber on the old Cunningham place in Ten Mile around 1928. Gaither and
his two sons, Gus and Ted, lived on the 600 acre Cunningham farm in a house they rented
from the Cunninghams.
The house they lived in is located on the right side of Hwy. 58,
immediately past the
intersection with Hwy. 68. as you travel South in Meigs Co., TN. The Billings family
remained here four or five years. Bernice Wallis lived with Gaither and his two sons,
keeping house for them, until she married Billy Thompson.
James Marion Keylon, Gus' brother-in-law, thinks it was about
time (1928) that Gus
met Molly Hair who lived with her parents, Ruben and Edna Cunningham Hair, in her
Grandmother Cunningham's home, Molly probably thought Gus intended to marry her since they
had gone together for three or four years and the relationship had became an intimate one.
Ted Billings said that in his and Gus' younger years Gaither
sawmill that he bought from his brother Bayless Winslow (Wins) Billings Jr. A lot of time
was spent providing wood and water for the boiler, therefore, in 1928 Gaither traded it
for a new sawmill and a new John Deer tractor, which had steel wheels. This was used to
power the sawmill, pull the threshing machine and anything else it could be used for.
Ted Billings said, "It was Dad's (Gaither's) habit to
September through June sawing lumber which was stacked to dry as it was sawed. The lumber
was hauled from July through August to a local lumber yard and sold, long oak boards with
very few knots bringing $16.00 per 1,000 board ft.
Ted also recalled, "I worked for Gus at the sawmill in the
nineteen thirties for a twist of tobacco a day. I remember one day in particular when the drive belt
from the tractor to the sawmill broke and commenced slapping the ground with terrifying force on
each revolution. I ran toward the tractor to shut the engine off but was knocked down when
the slapping belt threw a rock which hit me on the leg. I thought my leg was broken but
managed to get back up, stumble to the tractor and shut it off. Gus came running over and
commenced to chew me out for having allowed the belt to come off in the first place. I
never said a word, just turned and limped away. I never spoke to Gus for the next fourteen years,
except when absolutely necessary."
Bernice Wallis Thompson said "I can tell you that
and Ted were good
and honorable men" Bernice knew the men well because she lived with them at the
Cunningham place keeping house for them until she married Billy Thompson. She continued,
Gaither loved his music and was a really good banjo player as was Gus, Ted played the
guitar. Billy added, "they (Gaither, Gus and Ted) loved a good time, so this and
their music led to having dances at their house pretty often. They drank a little, not too
much, just enough to have a good time. Neighbors came from far and near to dance and have
a good time."
Bea Hair Keylon, Molly's sister, said it got pretty loud at the
the parties. Bea was the daughter of Ruben and Edna Cunningham Hair and was living with
her parents at her Grandmother Cunningham's which was only a stones throw from the
Billings home. Bea said her Grandmother Cunningham had a lot of money but her Uncle Lije
Cunningham "ran through it" and Gus was the biggest duck in the puddle with
Lije, meaning that they drank and partied the money away. Lije was a Baptist preacher who
told his congregation, "don't live as I do."
Bea added, "You needn't think we got any rest when
Gus and Ted threw a
party. You could always tell when Gaither was drinking because he was funny, carried on
and told everything he knew."
Bernice Thomson says, "around 1933 Gaither, Gus and
lived in Bayless'
"Green House" on Hwy.68 in McMinn Co., TN, Bayless having died March 29, 1923
and his wife Rachel Oct. 29, 1909.
Bernice relates the following story which occurred at the time
Billings men lived
at the Green House. "I loved to play tricks on anyone, so me and Lavery Henry made a
lifelike dummy of straw which looked almost like a real man. One evening as the Billings
men were eating supper, I crept silently into the bedroom and placed the dummy at the foot
of the bed. By this time it was almost dark and there was very little light in the
bedroom. I hid nearby to watch the events unfold. Gaither came in first and, glimpsing
what he thought was a visitor on the bed, simply said "how do you do." Receiving
no answer, Gaither quickly figured something as going on at which point I came out of hiding and
asked for Gaither's cooperation in my prank. Gus came in next and though I can't recall exactly
what Gus said, he was pretty "stirred up" at having a prank pulled on him. Gus had to
leave to go somewhere in his car."
"Knowing that I already had Gus pretty "stirred
up", I decided the time
was ripe to aggravate him a little more and really "get his Goat." Me and Lavery
positioned the straw man dummy near the Billings' second automobile in such a way that it
appeared to be someone stealing the wheel off the car. Though he never admitted it to
anyone for the rest of his life, Gus flew into a rage when he returned home and saw what
he thought was someone stealing the wheel off his car, right there by the house! In his
rage Gus attacked the straw man, whereupon, he soon realized I had fooled him a second
time in the same day and then he became even madder and tore the straw man to shreds.
After he realized what a good laugh I would have at his expense, he carefully picked up all the
pieces of the straw man and hid them under the porch, hoping to avoid me ribbing him the next
Bernice says "we hunted and hunted for that dummy
finally finding it where
Gus had stuffed it under the porch." Bernice says, "I never did say a thing
about the incident to Gus." Knowing Bernice's love of fun it is safe to say Gus never
heard the last of the Straw Man.
Bill Kyle says, "It was around 1934/35 that Gus and Ted
Billings owned a service
station in Athens. After passing only a few houses as you came into Athens on Hwy. 11, the
station was on the left side of the highway and near a present day hotel, at that time
there was a Dodge automobile dealership across the road from the station. Gus and Ted had
the Mayfield Dairy account and Ted was seeing Zelda Newton. Gus sold me his share of the
station around 1935/36."
Around 1934/35 Gaither and Gus lived on the old Hackler place
the Barnard farm.
The Hackler place was then owned by Bill Kyle's Father, according to Bill Kyle who was
Gaither and Gus' neighbor at the time. The Hackler Farm was reached by turning left off
South bound Hwy. 58 onto Old TN. Mile Rd. in Ten Mile near the Meigs/Roane Co., TN line.
Travel Old Ten Mile Rd. about 400 yds. to the first curve, look to the left and you will
see the overgrown road bed of the old Ten Mile Rd., which continued on to Kingston at one
time. Travel this old road bed about 450 yds. to the North, the Billings home on the
Hackler place was somewhere at this point, according to James Keylon.
Gaither and Gus had bought timber rights and had set up the
on the old Barnard
place nearby. Bill Kyle says his Father loaned Gaither's brother, Bayless Winslow Billings
Jr., money to buy the old Barnard farm that belonged to the parents of Winslow's wife,
Cora Barnard. Bill said, "When Dad loaned the money to Winslow, Dad told Winslow, now
don't get mad, I'll have to ask for this money back one of these days." Gaither may
have made a favorable deal when he bought the timber because either his brother owned the
timber or was married to the woman whose parents owned the timber.
Bill Kyle says, "when Gaither and Gus lived on the Old
place, me, my
little brother and one of our buddies planned to steal a watermelon out of the Billings'
watermelon patch. I let Gus in on the scheme and together we planned to scare the pants
off my brother and the other boy. Having "hatched" the plot with Gus, I
innocently returned home. That evening after it got dark, I led the unsuspecting boys into
the waiting trap. Gus had hidden in the thick woods armed with his double barreled
shotgun. I remained behind as my little brother and the
other boy crossed the fence into the watermelon patch. Just as the last boy entered the
patch Gus screamed out at the top of his lungs and fired both barrels of his shotgun at
the same time. Our buddy made a fast U turn and literally dove through the barbed wire
fence and ran at top speed for the cover of the deep woods. My little brother was scared
completely out of his mind and could only manage to scream, don't shoot, over and over as
he ran in small circles through the watermelon patch, trampling everything in his path.
Estella "Stell" Billings Yates was the daughter of
Winslow Jr. and
Cora Barnard Billings. Stell said, "When Gus had his sawmill on Dad's place, he had
accumulated a very large slab pile which Dad had asked Gus over and over to burn and get
rid of. Gus never got around to it, so one day Dad decided to burn the slab pile. The fire
got out of hand and burned Gus' sawmill to the ground along with the slabs."
It was probably around 1935 when twenty six year old Gus met
from Ten Mile, TN, named Ellen Irene Keylon. Ellen was the daughter of James Loon and
Katherine Melissa Keylon of Ten Mile. Pearl Blair Creasman said, "one day back around
1935 I was in Athens when I ran into Gus on the street, he said he wanted to talk to me,
somewhere in privacy. I suggested stepping into one of the nearby stores since it was
raining. Gus said, I have my car here lets sit in it. The car was red and probably a
convertible because it had side curtains to keep the rain out. Gus started to pour his
heart out about how much he loved Irene and wanted to marry her but was worried about
their eleven-year age difference. I just told him age doesn't matter if you really love
her." Gus and Irene were probably married in 1935/36 because Zelda Newton Billings
recalled, "Gus and Irene had been married for a while when I began working for the phone
company in Jan. 1937 when Ted and I lived in Powell, TN near Knoxville." Irene's
Mother, Katherine Sensaboy Keylon, said of Gus and Irene's age difference, "well I'm
glad at least one of them (Gus) is old enough to have some sense." Bertie Sensaboy
Reed said, "Katherine (Irene's Mother) kept a loaded pistol hanging on her bedroom
wall. Gus later commented after his courtship and marriage to Irene, I always felt uneasy
about that pistol." Bertie said, " I always liked Gus, he was a good man."
"Irene contracted pneumonia and nearly died at the age of three or four," says
Irene's older brother, James Keylon. "Mom nursed Irene back to health without benefit
of a doctor. Our brother, Harold, had died four years earlier."
James continued, "As a young girl, Irene was pretty wild.
she was fourteen
she would hide notes to a young timber cutter. He crossed our property on his way to work
and would look for his notes under a rock." Once when we were walking home, I had to
chase the timber cutter off with a pistol when he stopped to pick Irene up. Another time,
we were at a party and Irene wanted to leave with this guy but I made her get in our car
and took her home."
Bea Hair Keylon recalled, "Irene and my sister, Nell Ruth
used to slip off
down behind Ten Mile elementary school to smoke when they were in the fifth or sixth
grade. Even though they hid behind a big fallen tree, they were easy to spot. Mrs. Emma
Ewing, the principal, could easily see their brightly colored tams (caps). The tams stood
out like beacons in the night."
Bertie Reed says, "Around 1936 Gus and Irene moved
first home, which
was a house on Kate Keylon's farm. The house was located on the left side of Northbound
Hwy. 58 at the Northern boundary of the Keylon farm. The flu in the kitchen was a
hazardous affair and Gus always told Irene that if the house ever caught fire to get out
and not even try to save anything.
One day while Irene was cooking, the house caught fire. Irene
her vehicle and
drove about a mile and a half South on 58 to Huff's store to get help. By the time they
got back to the house, saving anything was hopeless. Even though it was Summer, Gus had to
butcher their hog which was badly burned because the hogpen was so near the house. Gus and
Irene may have lived with Kate for a while after that."
According to Trusty Sherman of Ten Mile, Gus and Irene had a
pig when they lived as
his neighbors somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of Hwy. 58 and Ten Mile Rd..
One day the pig came over to Trusty's home, knocked over his family's bee hive and ate all
Billy Thompson said, "Around 1939 Gus and Irene lived
Clearwater Rd. In Meigs
Co., TN. The house where Gus and Irene lived on Clearwater Rd. has been torn down and
replaced by a white frame house which sits a bit further back off the road than Gus and
Irene's home was. There is an old shade tree in front of the new house and Gus' hose stood
directly behind this tree as you look from the road."
Gus and Irene's next home was on the left of Southbound Hwy.
Ten Mile about one
quarter mile South of the intersection of Ten Mile Rd. with Hwy. 58.They probably began
living here about 1940/41. The only vehicle Gus owned at this time was a flat bed lumber
truck which he often drove home loaded with logs or lumber. This writer's first memories
are of things which occurred while living here as a baby, laying in my baby bed with a
gauze insect screen over it, a toy train, walks with Grandfather Gaither Billings along
the creek in the field behind our house, an entire stalk of bananas that Gus once brought
home, convicts in stripped prison uniforms working on Hwy. 58 in front of our house.
Gus and Irene next moved to the Legg farm in Ten Mile where
lived in half of Mrs.
Legg's home while she occupied the other half. The Legg home was on the left, on Ten mile
Rd., about one half mile toward Watt's Bar lake from Hwy. 58.It was while living here on
June 23, 1943, that Gus barely got Irene to Sweetwater hospital in time for the delivery
of her twins. Douglas Evan and Linda Sharon Billings were born only twenty minutes after
Irene's arrival at the hospital, according to their TN birth certificates. This writer
recalls that Irene and the twins were brought home in an ambulance which must have been
rare in those days, rare to me at least for it was the first ambulance I'd ever seen.
About 1944 Gus moved his family to a house he rented from
Bostic. Earl's farm and
the house was reached by turning right off Northbound Hwy. 58 one mile North of the
intersection of 58 and Ten Mile Rd. After turning right travel straight, crossing Ten Mile
Rd. Then about 200 yds. up a slight hill to a frame house on the right. There was no water
or electricity here, kerosene lamps provided light at night. We carried water from Earl
Bostic's well at his house by Ten Mile Rd., where the road to our house crossed. Gilmer
Massey said the Bostic house is so old, they found arrowheads embedded in the log walls
while doing a remodeling job. Gilmer was Earl's nephew and lived with Earl as a
young man. Conditions at the Bostic place were the same as they had been in all
Gus' previous homes except that it had never been necessary to carry water before. We used
wood burning stoves for cooking and heating and kerosene lamps for light. When one of us
had a bad cold Gus would rub raw onion on the side of the stove saying the smell would
break up the cold. The rank smell of onions permeated the house for days afterward.
Gilmer Massey knew Gus well since Gilmer was living nearby
Uncle Earl Bostic.
Gilmer said, "I really liked Gus, he treated me like a son. Around 1944/45 Gus bought
a new Jeep, he was tickled to with that lil ol Jeep. We were coming back from Kingston
once and there at Kimbal's on Hwy. 58 was a panel delivery truck turned over on its side.
The driver was waiting for a wrecker to get the panel truck off the road. Gus told the
driver, if you want I can move it. The driver didn't think Gus' lil ol Jeep could do the
job, but said go ahead and try. Gus hooked his Jeep to the panel truck and not only moved it but
turned the panel truck back up on its wheels." Gilmer continued, " When Gus had his
jeep he came by one day when I was working a 25-acre piece of ground with horses pulling a
cutting harrow and after that I'd use a drag harrow. Gus drove out to where I was working and
said, let's hook this Jeep to that thing (harrow.) I was
going to ride the harrow so my weight would hold it down. Aw! He got it up to twenty miles
an hour, I couldn't see the Jeep for the dust! It tickled him to death when he got the
dust stirring but I got kindly uneasy! When Gus finally stopped, he was laughing so hard
he could hardly talk, when he regained his breath he finally managed to say, dusted you
out didn't I?
According to Meigs Co. Deed book Q, pgs.467 & 501
purchased forty acres of land
from Fred and Salle Reed. This land adjoined the Katherine Keylon farm in Ten Mile, on the
N. W. Gilmer said Gus had planned to build a house on the "new ground" which was
his 40-acre property. James Keylon said Gus' new ground adjoined Katherine Keylon's farm
at the North West boundary.
This writer can recall, as a six year old, going with Gus to the
ground to set out
fruit trees. He would first locate water then set a tree at each location. The water was
located by means of a "divining rod", which was a Y shaped branch of a certain
type of tree. Gus would hold one prong of the upper end of the Y in each hand at waist
level, with the single lower leg of the Y out in front of him and parallel to the ground.
He would then walk across the property until an unseen force pulled the straight end of
the Y toward the ground indicating he had located water.
It was while living at the Bostic place that Gus and Irene began
quarrel, the end
result being a separation and Irene taking her children, Wayne, Douglas and Linda back to
her Mother's to live. Zelda Newton described Gus' temperament as, "wonderful to live
with one day and then blow up for no reason the next."
My childhood memories are of an exceptionally kind man who
spoiled me with toys and
held me on his lap as I drove his prized Jeep across rough fields. On cold Winter nights
Gus would warm the blanket from my bed by holding it up to the stove, then tuck me in with
it. The only spanking he ever gave me was when we met some of his friends while driving on
a dirt road in the woods one day. Gus stopped his truck and went over to talk to them,
soon he told me to get out of the truck and come over to him so the men could see how much
I'd grown. Being bashful, I refused and got a good "wearing out."
Around 1945, when Gus and Irene separated, Gaither moved
with Gus and the two
men "batched," and continued saw milling as they always had done. I was allowed
to spend some time with Gus and Gaither. The once clean beds were now full of sawdust
since neither man was too concerned with house keeping. This wasn't destined to continue
for Gus died on May 23rd 1946. He was buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Athens, McMinn
Following Gus' death, Irene worked for the Department of
Oak Ridge, TN.
Later while visiting her sister, Jewell Keylon Cappola, in Detriot, MI, Irene met Theodore
Roosevelt Swing. They were married around 1947 or 1948. Irene and Ted had two children,
Juanita May born July 20, 1948 and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. born Jan. 26, 1950 in Rockwood,
Roane County, TN.
May 19, 1955, Meigs Co. TN Deed Book U, Pg. 546 &
Irene Billings Swing sells
Gus Billings' forty acre "New Ground" to J. A. and Charles J. Hagler.
Around 1956 this marriage failed, Irene attempted raising her
alone but became
ill about 1958, and was committed to a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. At this time
Douglas was sent to live with Ted Billings in Charleston, TN. Linda went to live with
Jewell Keylon Cappola in Detroit, MI. Theodore Jr. and Juanita were returned to Theodore
Swing Sr. in Ft. Myers FL. All the children eventually returned to live with Irene in Ft.
Around 1970, Irene was diagnosed as having an acute sinus
problem" was brain cancer which led to her death on Sept. 3, 1971 in Ft. Lauderdale,
FL. Irene was buried beside Gus Billings in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Athens, McMinn County,
Compiled by Wayne Paul Billings, son of Gus Billings Oct.12, 1997
Monroe County Biographies
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