Some of My Old Bill Family Photos
The aftermath of a Bill family dinner!
This is one of my favorites of the old pictures from my family album. I laugh every time I see it. An uninformed bystander would never know that this was not a disaster scene. It is just the aftermath of a Bill family dinner. My maternal grandmother was a Bill. They were a ranching family from way back. Their grandfather was a founding member of a very large ranch outside of Stockton, CA. His name was Sedley Bill (1822-1907) and his wife was Miriam Fawcett (1828-?). Burtis Bill (1870-1938), their son and my great-grandfather, and my great-grandmother Odie Williams (1883-1956) moved around CA a bit and finally landed in Susanville, CA. Three of their four sons, Charles, Howard, and Stanley bought a ranch from their sister, my grandmother, a recently abandoned wife, teacher, and mother of two. These were hard-working guys who were up before dawn, taking care of the livestock. They worked hard, ate well, and went to sleep. My great-grandmother, a widow, lived there and helped take care of her sons and the ranch.
Edna Mae Bill Buffham
Edna Mae Bill Buffham (1906-1980), was the eldest child of Burtis and Odie Bill. She was a teacher when teachers were expected to be pure and well-behaved. She loved children and loved to teach. The same lady who told me about my uncle Charlie and the horses, told me that her husband had my grandmother for a teacher. She was the granddaughter of my grandmothers best friend.
She said her husband told her that discipline was strict but fair. The boy(usually) would be told to bend over in his chair with his head under the desk while my grandmother whacked them with the pointer. The misbehaving boy would jerk up and bang his head on the bottom of the desk also. They did not repeat bad behavior. I also went to school with a boy who had her for a first grade teacher. He did not like her because she was mean. The way he behaved, you know he got whacked often.
The best friend married one of my grandmothers brothers, which was not good. My grandmother never forgave him for the mess he made of that. One of the most cherished memories I have is my grandmother inviting her friends over for tea and coffee when I was there. She would allow me to get her good china out and be the hostess. She gave me that set of china when I got my first apartment. I cherish it and we use it on the holidays.
The picture of her with the kids at the school bus has both of her children in it. She would take them with her on the bus so they would not be home alone. Her husband went for a pack of cigarettes when my mom was 3 and showed back up 20 years later, leaving her to raise the children alone. Her mother, brothers and sister helped. Only two brothers had any children so they were all like grandparents.
My mom used to tell about when she was bad and my grandmother was after her. She would run to her oldest uncle, Charlie, and jump in his lap. Charlie would look at my grandmother with a twinkle in his eye and ask her, "You're not going to spank this baby, are you?" It is amazing that she turned out well.
A Good Explanation of Ranching
Charles (Charlie) Bill and his horses!
Charles (Charlie) Bill, 1909-1984, was the oldest of the brothers. He was a gruff man, with a very mischievous sense of humor. His blue eyes would twinkle with mischief. We knew he was always going to be doing something to pick at us. He used to scare me when I was little but as I grew up, I came to cherish him.He was a very accomplished rider and could use a whip with the best of them. This was needed with the stallions and bulls that they had on their ranch. I would watch him use the whip to turn the cows when he was herding them. He would just flick it out there in their direction and never touch them with it.
He also drove teams of horses hooked to the wagons. His picture was on the cover of the California Farmer magazine back in the 1960's driving a hay wagon with 8 horses abreast. A step-cousin emailed me not too long ago, telling me about her memories of them. She lived in the area and I only got to visit. She said when they were working the horses, cars would line up on the side of the road, watching them.
Howard and Stanley Bill
Howard and Stanley Bill
The two babies of the family were George Howard (1921-2005), and Stanley (1925-). You have heard about Howard in my "Honoring Our Veterans" hub. He is pictured in both pictures above. He was quiet and good humored. He never married. The story was that while he was in Germany, his girlfriend married someone else. He always sat there with a smile on his face.
When my grandmother fell down in her later years and could not get up, she drug herself to the phone, knocked the receiver off with her cane and when the operator came on; asked her to dial the ranch. Howard answered and she told him she needed some help getting up. He was there in minutes and picked this 6 foot woman up and put her in her chair. Then he was off to the kitchen to get her a drink and check her over. He was a dear person.
Stanley is the only one still alive of the whole bunch. I don't get to see him as I live on the other side of the country now but I miss them all. Stanley had one daughter, Patty. You can see in this picture of him that he is just a teenager. Something that I have forgotten to mention is that they were all quite tall. The men were 6'5"-6'6". The women were 6'-6'3". Now you all know where I get my height.
Miriam Bill Boese and Odie May Williams
My great-aunt Miriam had a profound effect on our lives. She was a surgical nurse. They called her 'Bill', her family called her 'Sis'. She was a gentle, loving woman and loved children. She had female problems and had a hysterectomy. She could never have children. She adopted her brothers and sisters children. She also adopted their grandchildren. She sent us money for birthdays. At Christmas, she would buy us clothes and something for our beds. Blankets, sheets, bedspreads, and pillows. When I turned 19 and moved into my own apartment, I had enough to make a dozen beds with blizzard temps.
When I was 18, my grandmother had a heart attack. She stayed with my great-aunt when she got out of the hospital. My grandmother really wanted to go home. When I graduated early from high school, I went out to my grandmother's house and stayed for several months to be with her until the Dr. said it was all right for her to be home alone. It was a fun time as I really enjoyed her company. She had macular degeneration and had lost her center vision. I read to her because she was blind by then. My great-aunt would come out every couple of days and check on her, bring any groceries we wanted, and visit. She brought a bottle of wine with her. They hid it in the back of the pan cupboard. They would get it out, tittering like a couple of schoolgirls doing something wrong. They would pour a small glass and drink it. It was so cute and endearing. I will never forget it. These women in their 70's, feeling risque for having a small glass of wine.
She nursed her mother through cancer in the 50's, administering large doses of morphine to help the pain. She took care of my grandmother when she got cancer three different times. She nursed her husband through cancer and came home one day to find he had hemorrhaged all over the bathroom. She was in the hospital for some tests, the thermometer broke while they were taking her temp. They rushed her from little Susanville hospital to big Reno hospital. Tests there showed that she had cancer. She was dead within 24 hours. My whole family truly believe that she heard the word cancer and was so horrified that she willed herself to die.
Orrin Bill and Eugene Bill
Orrin Bill (1911-1991) is the black sheep of the family. I do not have a picture of him. If I find one, I will put it up but I did not want to miss him. He was not as close as the others. He lived further away and he was what they considered a wild one. He loved to dance and he drank. He went to the bars and was at all the dances. He was the head hostler for the Mapes Ranch. He did not buy in with the other brothers. He lived very simply in a shed with an outhouse. Nothing fancy for him. He used a washtub to clean up for the dances.
There was another brother but he died in 1938, a few months before their father. I am still trying to track down the cause of death on him. His name was Eugene and was born in 1919, if anyone knows something that I don't, please tell me.
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