Sunday, August 14, 2011

James A. Billington 1829-1868

      Family records indicate that James A Billington was born January 24, 1829 although research by the Hass family (as mentioned in last blog) place his birth year closer to 1822.  Both say he was born in Bedford County Tennessee to Jared and Tracy.  We are not sure why they moved to McCracken County, Kentucky  around 1832 but Jared was buried there in 1850. Although we have no record (yet)  we believe another sibling, Thomas was born  between 1841-1850. Mother Tracy moved the family to Limestone County, Texas along with other extended Billington families around 1851.  The family tradition says they were following Sam Houston.  James married Florinda on November 7, 1854  in Limestone County and by 1860 as shown on the census record they had 3 children.  When the Civil War broke out and all Texans were enlisted, James was enlisted on June 24, 1862 for a one year time period in the Texas Confederate Calvary.  We have a copy of his enlistment papers that describe him as  6'1'' tall with black hair and black eyes, fair complexion and being 33 years of age. He was enlisted under General McCulloch at Camp McCulloch for one month  then discharged on July 31, 1862. We have a copy of his discharge papers.  Family records tell us that he was then transferred to Tyler, Texas for the rest of his service. Apparently the drafting officer noticed the gun carried by James and asked him who made it.  When James replied that he made it himself  a decision was  made to transfer him to the gun factory.  So we Billingtons should rejoice that instead of being sent to the front, his talent was noticed and he survived the war, returned to his family and continued raising horses and 6 more youngin's.

       We have a letter from his brother Thomas describing their service at the factory as he was also enlisted there at an early age of 16: ""This was a large factory employing several hundred men in the various departments.The principal officers of the institution consisted in part of Col. Hill, in command, and a captain whose name I forgot and several foremen, etc. We made firearms, and utensils of war." Thomas may have  lived with "brother Jim" as he called James A  or lived in the same area, until the close of the war in 1864.

"James raised thoroughbred horses and that's where his son, my dad, got his love for horses and a keen knowledge of them and of riding.   I believe they were comfortably fixed but not rich. They were not plantation owners with lots of slaves but most people except the "poor whites" had them. Dad remembered his father and uncle talking about slavery.   They had a few slaves, tho, and when Dad's father and uncle talked about slavery they concluded that the right of some human beings to own others, was wrong and would have to end. But they felt that they would have to be educated so they could take care of themselves.  Therefore they required the black children to go to school with the others.  It wasn't against the law there (in Texas) to teach black children."  ...from Estelle Fontana.

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