Page 527 - Vernon H. Billings. In preparing a review of the lives of men whose careers have been of signal usefulness and honor to the county, no name is more worthy of mention in the history of Kent county than that of the late Vernon H. Billings, for more than half a century an honored resident of this county. His labors not only constituted a potent factor in the agricultural interests of Kent county, but he also rendered efficient service as a township and county official and although he has passed form the scene of earthly activities, he is remembered as a man of high ideals and his work remains as a force for good in the community. He was born January 25, 1860, on the old family homestead, four and one-half miles north of the village of Sparta, in this county, and was a son of Calvin and Mary (King) Billings, who were pioneers of this county and were numbered among the highly respected citizens of their community. Calvin Billings was a native of Pennsylvania, but went to Ohio in early manhood where he was married and in the early fifties removed with his young bride to Kent county, Michigan. He purchased one hundred and sixty acres of unimproved land which he reclaimed from the forest to a productive farm, and this old homestead was the scene of his activities and the home of himself and his worthy wife for many years. As a youth Vernon H. Billings did his full share in the work of the farm, and in addition to attending the district schools of his community, he profited also by the advantages of what was then termed a high school, in the village of Lisbon. He continued his active association with farm work until he attained the age of twenty-two years. He then engaged in carpenter work for a time, but this employment was not to his liking and he soon returned to the farm. In 1883 he married Cora Jane Johnson, daughter of Minor and Caroline M. (Reynolds) Johnson, of this county, and for the ensuing five years he operated his father’s farm, which he rented "on shares," as was the common expression in those days. He then purchased forty acres and engaged in farming on this tract for two years, when he purchased a fine landed estate near the village of Sparta, where he engaged in farming and stock raising for a number of years. He was also active in community affairs of a local order and in 1900 was treasurer of his township, and from 1910 until 1917 he represented that township as a member of the county board of supervisors. In 1918 he was appointed to the office of county superintendent of the poor and served in that capacity until his death, May 1, 1925. His administration was marked by the efficiency that conserves economy but involves no sacrifice of the interests of the poor of the county, to whom he ever showed unvarying kindness and sympathy, and in his death the institution lost an able and efficient manager and the inmates lost a true and faithful friend. Mr. Billings took great satisfaction in having witnessed the greater part of the development of his native county and its metropolis, the city of Grand Rapids, and he often reverted to the fact that his father, in coming to this country from Ohio, made the overland journey with a wagon and ox team, besides bringing a team of horses. Mr. Billings’ devoted wife and helpmate died in June, 1915, and he afterward made his home with his son and only child, Lloyd C. Billings, who is chief chemist and superintendent of the city filtration plant of Grand Rapids, and who is one of the city’s able and practical young business men and is well upholding the honors of the family name. He married Miss Anna Bertelson, a daughter of Lewis and Mathilda (Hammer) Bertelson, of Grand Rapids, and they have three children: Clayton H., Lois M., and Richard C. Billings.

Transcriber:  Nancy Myers
Created: 13 November 2002