Sent to: Sandy, Tonya, Jane, Nelson
Gus was the only child of Gaither and Anna Sophia Evans Billings, he was born at a Niota, TN 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 and 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' log home in Surprise, Roane Co., TN. He was the fifth of seven children born to Bayless Winslow and Rachel M. Cooley Billings.
Annie Evans' Parents were Andrew and Sophia Clutter Evans. He was 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, Gaither 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 Hy. 68 at Mile marker three near the intersection of McMinn Co. rt.. 292 with Southbound Hy. 68.The old gravel road that was once rt.. 68 runs 20-30 yds. away from the front of the house. `A small spring runs about fifteen yds. behind the house, further on past the small spring is a bigger spring and about 120 yds. 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 typhoid 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 Blair Creasman.
After the Baskets, Gaither took Gus to live with his sister, Myrtle 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' 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' day to day care, while I took care of my brother, Fred."
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 above.
Gaither and Miss Bertha Wallis were married 21 Sept. 1913, Bertha 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 lived on 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 years 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 at 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 in rags 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 school 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 Gus 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, Ted was 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 whiker most of the time or those boys would ride rough shod over me."
Gilmer Massey of the Ten Mile Community in Meigs Co. , TN says he 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 Gus to 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
wife that their 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.
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.
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 threshing 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 afford to pay cash, 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 wheat chafe aggravated, 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 says 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 Hy. 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' sister 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 Hy. 58 immediately past the intersection with Hy. 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 this 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 owned a steam powered 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 operate the sawmill 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 Gaither, Gus 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 Billings' home during 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 Gaither, 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 Ted lived in Bayless' "Green House" on Hy. 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 the 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 day."
Bernice says "we hunted and hunted for that dummy before 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 Hy. 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 near 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 Hy. 58 onto Old TN. Mile Rd.. in Ten Mile near the Migs/ 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 sawmill 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 Hackler 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 Bayless 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 a fifteen-year-old beauty 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."
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. When 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 Hair, 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
One day while Irene was cooking, the house caught fire. Irene ran to 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 pet pig when they lived as his neighbors somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of Hy. 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 the honey.
Billy Thompson said, "Around 1939 Gus and Irene lived on 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 Hy. 58 in Ten Mile about one quarter mile South of the intersection of Ten Mile Rd.. With Hy. 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 Hy. 58 in front of our house.
Gus and Irene next moved to the Legg farm in Ten Mile where they 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 Hy. 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 Earl Bostic. Earl's farm and the house was reached by turning right off Northbound Hy. 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 with his 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 Hy. 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 Gus 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
new 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.
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 back in 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 Co. , TN.
Following Gus' death, Irene worked for the Department of Defense in 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 & 554. 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 children alone but became ill about 1958. She 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. Lauderdale.
Around 1970, Irene was diagnosed as having an acute sinus problem.
The "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, TN.
Compiled by Wayne Paul Billings, son of Gus Billings