The other side of the family

BittersweetBittersweet features another grandfather, my mother’s father. Richard Haley is on the right and Roger Billings is on the left. They were friends growing up. Grandpa Richard was a farmer and stockman northwest of Delphos his entire life. His friend Roger, was part of a family that owned the Bank in Delphos. Roger, served in WWII and then worked in New York in publishing or advertising before returning to Delphos to run the bank in 1950’s or 60″s. When I found this old photo of the two, I had no idea they were close friends when they were young. I wonder if Roger’s adventurous, opportunity-filled life was one of the reasons for some of Grandpa Richard’s issues – he had a few. He seemed very scary when I was little and I never wanted to piss him off. Maybe he was just bitter about life. Anyway, that’s the reason for the title.

But, here’s something interesting, Roger Billings grandmother was Grace Bedell Billings. She was the little girl who wrote to Abraham Lincoln to grow his beard during the 1860 presidential campaign. She later married George Billings, a civil war veteran, and migrated to Kansas to farm and ultimately start a bank – George was college educated. That bank is still in operation today. Somehow on their migration west into Kansas, George befriended Wild Bill Hickok in Abilene. They apparently got along well, for Hickok actually visited their farm outside of Delphos.

Another interesting fact tied to Lincoln. Boston Corbett, the man who shot John Wilkes Booth, migrated to Kansas after the war and lived in a dugout just north of Delphos, outside of Concordia, Kansas. I always thought it was interesting that Grace Bedell and Corbetti lived so close together in north central Kansas after the war.

OK, one more incidental Lincoln connection. My Grandmother Josephine, Richard’s wife, my mom’s mom, has an interesting story. Her grandfather Major Whalen (that’s his name, not his rank) remarried after my great, great, grandmother died. The woman he remarried was directly related to Anne Rutledge (maybe a sister), the girl Lincoln was supposedly engaged to as a young man. If you haven’t heard the story, she died from some plague or some illness before they could marry.

Bittersweet is an oil wash, pick out technique on masonite board.

© 2014 Russell Nelson

Published by rlnelson

Professor of Art: Graphic Design Instructor at Truman State University