MARCH 7, 1851 - MARCH 29, 1923

Submitted By: Wayne Billings


Bayless Winslow Billings was born in the Murphy area of Cherokee Co., NC along with his twin brother, Edney Devereux Billings. According to Edney's death certificate, their father's name was Allen Billings . Bales's death certificate lists his mother's name as Barbara Billings with Billings given as her maiden name so Allen Billings is probably a fictitious name used to avoid embarrassment over the lack of a real father. Barbara's birthplace is given as SC.

One line of family tradition maintains that Barbara Billings married the son of a Colonel Nelson Howell in SC. There is little more to substantiate this than there is to believe Barbara married an Allen Billings.

The 1850 Cherokee Co., NC census of the Murphy area shows Barbara, her mother and Barbara's brothers and sisters living near a Nelson G. Howell and an William M. Howell. William is the correct age to have been the father of Barbara's children. William M. Howell was born in NC according to the 1850 NC census. Edward D. (Edney Devereux) Billings's D.C. lists his father's birthplace as NC. Bales's D.C. lists Barbara's birthplace as SC. The 1850 NC census lists Barbara's B.P. as SC as does her obituary in the 1850, 1860 and 1880 TN Mortality Schedule.

Based on the information presently available it seems that Wm. M. Howell or another of Col. Nelson Howell's sons was the father of Bales and Edney Billings. No official record of Barbara's marriage to anyone has been located to date. Myrtle Billings Blair, Bales's daughter, told her daughter, Maude Blair Bowers, that Bales and his twin brother Edney were "illegitimate children." Bales was born in NC according to the 1850 NC census and the 1870, 1880 and 1890 TN. censuses. His death certificate and his tombstone at Blue Springs Cemetery near Erie, TN. give his birth date as March 7, 1851.

Sometime between 1851 and 1860 Bales moved with his family from Murphy, NC to Monroe Co., TN. , where Bales 9, Edney 9, Dell (3?) and Mother Barbara 30, are shown along with Bettie Billingsly 50, Jasper Billingsly 23, Rebecca Raper 13 and Margaret Johnson 1 on pg. 102-240 in the 1860 census of the 8Th dist., enumeration # 754 & 755, dwelling # 740 Sweetwater, Monroe Co., TN. " Bettie" may be what the census taker understood when Barbara's mother, Rebecca Billings gave her name as "Becky."

Barbara's father is thought to have been Jasper Billings of the Spartanburg area of Spartanburg Co., SC. This is assumed since Rebecca, according to the spartanburg birthplace given for her children, had moved from Spartanburg when she relocated her family in Cherokee Co., NC. There was a Jasper Billings in the 1830 & 1840 census of the Spartanburg dist. of Spartanburg Co., S.C.

Although the Spartanburg censuses only list the name of heads of household, the ages of the family members of Jasper Billings' Spartanburg, SC household and the ages of the family members of Rebecca Billings' in Cherokee Co. , NC closely match. Other compelling factors are; 1.The death certificate of Barbara's brother, John Billings, lists Jasper Billings as his Father.2. Barbara had a brother named Jasper and it was common practice at that time to name sons after Fathers. 3. The 1850 Spartanburg Co., S.C. censuses no longer list the Jasper Billings family.

The long trip from Murphy, NC to the Sweetwater area of Monroe Co., TN. must have been difficult for the Billings family in the mid 1850s. The Cherokee Indians had been removed to the West from TN and NC about fifteen years earlier in 1838. It would seem that Monroe Co., TN. was pretty rough country in those days. The Billings family may have made the trip using routes closely paralleling today's NC rt. 294 and TN rt. 68 passing through such places as Coker Creek, Tellico Plains, Mount Vernon and Madisonville, TN.

Between 1860 and 1870 Barbara Billings relocated Bales, Edney and Dell to Roane County, TN. where the 1870 TN census list them near Erie.

When Bales was 22, he married Rachel M. Cooley on August 31. 1873 in London Co., TN. they were married by Justice of the Peace, T.A. Clark. At the time Bales worked as a carpenter. Rachel's parents were Benjamin F. and Malinda J. Miller Cooley of Roane Co. TN. Shortly after Bales married and left home his sister Malinda Dell followed suit marrying Samuel Roach in Roane County, TN. 1874.

Bill Kyle told this story about his Grandfather Benjamin F. Cooley. "The old man was nailing wooden shingles on his roof one day. The roof was very steep and he was working near the peak when he began to slide toward the edge, as he began to slide Ben said, Oh Lord! I'm a goner!! Just before he went over the edge of the roof his overalls snagged on a nail which stopped his fall and Ben said, no by God, I'm not!!" Bill thought perhaps his Grandfather might be religious only when he needed it most.

The 1875 Roane Co. , TN tax duplicate indicates B. W. Billings paid total taxes of 150. (It isn't clear if this is $1.50 or $150.00. The 1878 Roane Co. Tax duplicate indicates B. W. Billings paid the exact same amount as in 1875.

The Aug. 21, 1878 financial account ledger of Dr. John Shipley of the Erie, TN community shows the following, Bales Billings--received payment in full--$37.00.

The 1880 TN Census finds Bales, age, 29, in Roane Co. with his wife Rachel 29, son Montgomery Devereux 4 and daughter Sarah Myrtle. Bales's father is listed as born NC, mother born SC.

Maude Blair Bowers says that her Mother, Myrtle Billings Blair, lived in the vicinity of the Shilo and Laurel Bloomery Churches when Myrtle married in 1896. Maude says her Mother, Myrtle, was married up in Roane Co. Assuming Myrtle was living at home before she married, this would then be the area in which Bayless lived in 1896 . . . Shilo and Laurel Bloomery were almost certainly in Roane Co. , TN since Ted Billings said Bales once lived in Wecker, Ro. Co. , TN, on rt. 72 between Shilo and Ponders Church and about 15 miles from Loudon.

By 1900 Bales has moved to McMinn County, TN. For that year's TN census places him in the 2nd Civil District, he is now 50 as is wife Rachel, their children are Bayless Winslow, Jr., 19, Agnes Gertrude 15, Gaither Augustus 13, Lora M. 11 and Cora M. 8. Maude Blair Bowers said, "Grandpa (Bales) must have ruled his family with an iron fist. I've heard mama (Bale's daughter, Myrtle Billings Blair)tell about how the kids would all be having a good time and Grandma (Rachel Cooley Billings) would say, yonder comes Pa and they would settle down like mice."

At a presently unknown date Bales bought a 78-acre farm from a Mr. Foster. The farm was located where Blue Springs converges with Sewee Creek off TN Rt. 68 near Pisgah Church in McMinn Co., TN. This area was once named Surprise and is located near the Erie community. Maude Blair Bowers said, "while living here our address was Erie once then Niota and finally Sweetwater." (Maude is referring to the farm in Surprise which her parents bought from Bales.)

The farm is reached by traveling TN. RT 68 from Sweetwater to Pisgah church, turn R and travel this road a short distance looking on the right side for a dirt road blocked by a gate made of pipe. Cross the gate and travel the dirt road across a wooden bridge over Sewee Creek to a clapboard-covered log home with a chimney made of cut stone.

The house faces downstream to a spot where Blue Springs and Sewee Creek converge roughly 200 yds. from the front of the house. The progression of ownership of Bales' farm is as follows: Foster, Billings, Blair and Tilly who bought the farm around 1929 from Bales' heirs, Border and Sumacher.

On February 13, 1989, this writer visited the Bayless Billings home in Surprise. The home was originally a one room log house with a chimney made of cut limestone rock. Viewing the house from the front, the original log home forms the front left portion of the present day home. The chimney is at the left end of this portion of the house. The original log part of the house is entered from the front porch. Entering the house through the left door on the front porch, the room thus entered measures approximately nine steps long and seven steps across. This section was probably later used as a bedroom. This room appears to have had only one window which was located in the chimney wall, between the chimney and the front of the house.

Later additions to the house were made of rough cut lumber and this same lumber had later been use to cover the exterior of the original log section of the home. At the right front of the house there was another bedroom about the same size as the one just described. There was a fireplace on the back wall of this room, with a closet to the right of the fireplace. In the front wall of this room, there is a door which exits to the front porch.

Passing through a door in the back left corner of the above bedroom you enter a small hall with a pantry on the right and in the corner. Exiting this small hall, you turn right to pass through a door to a third bedroom. This bedroom also has a fire place which shares the chimney with the bedroom you have just left. A door exiting to the outside is located on the right wall of the house and toward the back of this bedroom. There are no closets in this room.

Exiting the above room, via the door through which you entered, you pass into an L shaped kitchen ( imagine the L lying flat on its long leg with the short leg in the air) which has one door out the back of the house and one back into the original log section of the house.

The ceilings in this home were probably eight feet high, there was a porch across the entire front of the home. There is a tin roof on the house now.

Maude Blair Bowers (age 83 in 1991) recalls, "there was a garden on the chimney side of the Billings/Blair home at Surprise and a picket fence ran all around the house which had wooden shingles on it Maude says, " I was only one year old when papa ( James Hardin Blair) bought the farm in 1906. When I was a girl, the log house only had two rooms with two fireplaces.

Bayless Billings moved his family around 1906, having sold the farm on Sewee Creek to Bayless' daughter Sarah Myrtle and her husband James Hardin Blair for the sum of $500.00, according to Maude Blair Bowers who was the daughter of James and Mrytle Blair.

Maude said Bayless would kid her sister Pearl, saying pearl was older than he was because she had grey hair and he didn't even though he was Pearl's Grandfather. Maude continued, "the Farrell sisters were old maids who lived across the hill from Bayless in Surprise. They once asked him what he attributed his long life to and he replied, a full stomach and a clear conscience.

Probably between 1906 and 1908 Bales built a green frame house on TN rt. 68, traveling North. The "Green House" was located on the right side of present day TN. Hy. 68 near the three-mile marker which is near the Pisgah Church. Present day relatives refer to the old house that Bayless built as the "green house" because that was the color of the exterior. Pearl Blair Creasman said the area where the green house was built was called Bulah's Chapel at the time the house was built.

An article in the Aug. 29th, 1908 edition of the Sweetwater TN Telephone (a newspaper) announces, "B. W. Billings has contracted to build a small house for Mrs. Gibbon."

The green house is where Rachel Cooley Billings died in 1908. Gwen Gallant Starnes , a Billings relative, related how Rachel died of heart attack while sitting in a room next to the kitchen. Rachel died quickly and quietly for no one heard her make a sound, although there were large cracks in the wall that separated the room she was in from the kitchen where her family sat eating dinner.

Maude Blair Bowers says she was only at the green house twice, "once when Grandma (Rachel Cooley Billings) died, and again the year Gus Billings was born(1910). I went to Grandpa's (Bayless) funeral at Blue Springs Cemetery (died March 29, 1923)."

Maude Blair Bowers said, "when I was younger (ca. 1913?) Bob Kiker (Kyker?) had a store at Surprise which was in the area where the old Ten Mile Road bridge crossed Sewee Creek about a mile from our house (Billings/Blair home). There were also a few houses and a water powered grist mill there in the vicinity of the store."

Bales and his son Gaither Augustus built a house in Niota, TN., for Martha Alice Nelson Billings and her daughters Laura Bessie and Dora Louella Billings. Martha was the widow of Amos Walter Billings who was the son of Bales' Uncle John Mannon Billings of Niota.

In 1987 Laura Bessie Billings Fox, then 90, related the following stories, "When Bales and Gaither (Bales's son) were building our house around 1913, Mother usually provided meals for them and usually had cabbage, which Bales loved dearly. One day she forgot to serve the cabbage and when Bales sat down at the dinner table he looked around for his cabbage and seeing none, said in his long drawn out manner, Well by golly-----, Martha,---- where is my cabbage?"

During construction of Martha's house, Bales and Gaither, lived in a log hut they had thrown up on the construction site in order to live near the work. Laura related that snakes and spiders were common visitors to the hut. During this time, Bales' Uncle John M. Billings would visit Bales and his son Gaither as they worked on the house, Laura said Bales stood about 5 ft. 9 in. tall and was a nice person.

Clyde Simpson, who was 81 when interviewed in February 1989, told the following story about Bayless. "Bales and someone else owned an old red thresh box (threshing machine). They would go around and thresh wheat for people. One day Bales pulled up at Willis Gallant's place near Pisgah to thrash some wheat for him. Someway or another Willis and Mr. Billings got into a fight, Old man Willis grabbed a club and took after Bales with it calling him a big name or two! Willis said, just cause you own a Lil ol red thresh box, you ain't gonna talk to me like that!! Clyde continued, I've heard Bales was kinda cocky but never did know the old man."

Bales' granddaughter, Pearl Blair Creasman of Athens, TN. says, Bales lived with her parents James Hardin and Sarah Myrtle Blair in Erie, TN on the farm he had sold them. Even then Bales had high blood pressure, didn't feel well, didn't get around very much and rested a lot.

Maude Blair Bowers said, "Grandpa (Bales) didn't come to live with Papa and Mama until after I left home in 1920. Papa (James Hardin Blair) built Grandpa (Bales) a little one room house up close to the cedar thicket and he was living there when Papa died in 1922.

When Bales Son-in Law, James Hardin Blair, died in 1922, Bales moved in with his daughter, Lora Billings Murray at her home located at Chattanooga, TN. Maude Blair Bowers recalls, "He (Bales) worked as a night watchman in Chattanooga at the Thatcher Medicine Co. where they made Black Draught and Wine of Carduri medicine. Maude Blair Bowers says, " it seems like Grandpa left Mama when she needed him most."

Maude continued, "Grandpa would come up to Sweetwater on the train from Rossville, Ga. and come to the country (Blair home) on a wagon with Sam Murray (This is around 1923). Sam had a store in the opposite direction, from our house, of Kiker's store at Surprise and had gone to Sweetwater for supplies. Grandpa would then walk the last mile from Sam's store to our house, arriving about supper time. I can still smell the coffee and the ham frying for supper and he (Bales) always had to have his biscuits."

Pearl remembers Bales as loving newspapers, current events and politics. She says Bales was outgoing, talkative and cocky. Laughingly, she said "he reminded me of a Bantie (Bantam) Rooster."

Ted Billings, Bales' grandson of Charleston, TN., referred to his Grandfather as Bails or Bales. Ted says that Bales taught school at one time even though he only completed 2nd grade himself.

A few of the places where Bales lived were Murphy NC, Sweetwater, Erie, Blue Springs or Surprise, Paint Rock and Wecker, TN.

When Bales died his daughter, Myrtle Billings Blair inherited his family Bible. Myrtle left the Bible to her daughter Maude Blair Bowers of Elizabethton, TN. Maude in turn gave the Bible to her son first then, when he died at an early age, to her niece, Gwendolyn Gallant Starnes at 3405 college St. in Madisonville, TN. Gwen gave the Bible to her daughter.

Around 1922 after the death of his son -in-law, James Hardin Blair, Bales moved to the Chattanooga, TN home of his daughter, Lora Billings Murray located at 5001 East Lake. Lora was the wife of William F. Murray. While living here, Bales worked as a night watchman for the Thatcher Medicine co. of Chattanooga. Thatcher was the manufacturers of Black Drought laxative. Gwen Starnes says someone told her that Bayless may have sold medicine when he got old, which was probably around this time of his life.

Ruth Simpson (Cora Billings Simpson's daughter-in-law) says that according to Bayless' sisters, Lora and Cora, Bayless died of apoplexy (stroke) the morning of March 29, 1923, while standing at Lora's kitchen window drinking coffee. An owl had been hooting nearby for the three previous nights before Bayless' death. After Bayless died the owl was never heard again.

Pearl Blair Creasman says, Bayless had only been at the Murray home six months when he died and that he never felt well or get about much and required a lot of rest. Pearl continued, Bales had an interest in current events, politics and loved reading the newspaper.

Bayless Winslow and Rachel M. Cooley Billings are buried in Blue Springs Cemetery in Roane Co., TN. The cemetery is reached by traveling West from I-75 on TN rt. 68 turn R on McMinn Co. Rt. 298 near a white concrete block store, travel this road 2 miles to an Exxon gas station at this point bear to the right onto Johnson Rd. and travel one mile, soon passing Blue Springs Church on the right. Turn L off Johnson Rd. onto a gravel road which ends at Blue Springs Cemetery after 2/10 mile. Standing at the cemetery gate with the road to your back, the graves of Bales and Rachel are toward the back right side of the cemetery.

Oct. 20, 1997 Wayne Paul Billings, Great Grandson to Bales Billings.

BLUE SPRINGS CEMETEY Roane Co., TN. From the junction of Highway 58 and Highway 72, travel East on Highway72 for about 5.5 miles and turn right onto Highway 322. Travel on Highway 322 for about 3.7 miles and turn right onto Johnson Road. Travelon Johnson road for about 4.0 miles and turn right onto a gravel road.This gravel road is not marked. Travel on this gravel road for about 0.2miles to the cemetery. There are several unmarked graves and stones.Listed by Paul W. Lemasters & Robert Bailey, 25 April, 1987. abt 100 stonesTranscribed by Sandy Eskew

Blair Howard s/o J.H. & Myrtle 6 May 1918 30 May, 1918 Blair James H. SS: Myrtle Billings 3 Dec 1872 1 May 1922 Blair Myrtle Billings w/o James H: SS: James H. 22 Aug. 1878 ? Billings James carved on fieldstone ? ? Billings Bayless W. 7 Mar. 1851 29 Mar. 1923 Billings Rachel M. w/o B.W. 19 Sept. 1849 20 Oct. 1908

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