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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Five Copper Cents- The True Account of Jacob and Amanda Billheimer- Reuchlin Wright's In-Laws

(Revised 5/10/19) Rev. Milton Wright was elected editor for a four-year term of the United Brethren's weekly newspaper "The Religious Telescope" at the General Conference of 1869. He moved his wife and young sons, Reuchlin, Lorin, and Wilbur to Dayton, Ohio in June of 1869 to rental property initially, and then eventually to settle at 7 Hawthorn Street in 1871. His wife Susan gave birth to another son in August of that year, and they named him Orville. Milton was again elected editor for an additional four year term in 1873. Katharine was born in August of 1874, sharing Orville's birth-date of the 19th. By 1877, the family of Jacob and Amanda Billheimer would be living at 21 Hawthorn Street (8), neighbors of the Wrights. (Milton Wright was elected Bishop in 1877, and would relocate his family to Cedar Rapids, Iowa June of 1878 for three years, and then to Richmond, Indiana. The Wrights would return to Dayton in June of 1884). From the 1880 Census, the Billheimer children were listed as Cyrus ( age 16), Lulu ( age 15), Ellwyn Winnie (age 13), Fred (age 9), and Disy (Daisy) (age 5). Rev. Jacob Kemp Billheimer served as Treasurer of the UB Board of Missions, and the Board of Church Erection. Amanda Billheimer served as one of three vice presidents of the UB Women's Missionary Association. Milton most likely owed his present employment at the Telescope to the efforts of Amanda's father, Bishop William Hanby. If not for William Hanby's efforts, the Telescope may not have survived into 1869, and Milton Wright may not have had the call to move to Dayton.

"What is it for?" he asked........

During the 1836 UB Conference, William Hanby was appointed general agent and treasurer of the Religious Telescope office which was located in Circleville, Ohio at that time. By 1839, he had replaced the editor William Rhinehart who had resigned. In 1841, he was elected for a four year term as agent, publisher, and editor. The paper was heavily in debt when Rhinehart resigned, and Hanby would later write "No department of the work of the church of my choice has drawn so heavily upon my best energies as the Telescope. The toil and anguish endured to save a sinking vessel is more than I can describe." In April of 1843, William attended the Annual Conference and provided a discouraging report about the future of the Religious Telescope.

Amanda Billheimer's father, William Hanby, photo from "Our Bishops", 1889 publication.

From "Our Bishops", published in 1889, the following account is recorded in the life of William Hanby-
These days were so dark, and the struggle so bitter that it overshadowed the home like a personal calamity, so that those who remain of that family circle look back to that time of trial with a shudder. "The debt, the debt" was the ever-present menacing, impending calamity, only to be turned aside by an overruling Providence, whose helping hand was constantly besought by day and night. 
His little five-year-old daughter (Amanda) had accumulated, by much self-denial, the wonderful sum of five old-fashioned big copper cents. The anxiety for the payment of the debt pressed so heavily on her little heart, that she felt her treasure must not be hoarded in a time of such peril. It was a hard struggle that went on in her heart, a foretaste of the day when other precious treasures must be laid on the alter, but it aided in victory on the right side. One day, when her father was sitting with knitted brows, evidently in more than usual danger from that great evil, the debt, she slipped softly to his side, and laid all her treasures on the table before him, never doubting but it would prove ample for the liquidation of the debt, and with the faint hope that maybe one precious penny might be left.
"What is it for?" he asked, and the keen black eyes were misty with tears when she whispered, "to pay the debt."  
Would God he could have looked forward in those days of darkness and have seen, as doubtless he now sees, the Telescope going all over the church, the book concern occupying a stately building, all its own, not only free from debt, but making money for the church, and spreading light and truth throughout all her borders. No doubt he would even more earnestly have counted it "all joy" to spend and be spent in such a service.........

In May of 1845, at the General Conference held in Circleville, a special committee reported..."We find the affairs of the Religious Telescope in prosperous condition, there being at this time in the treasury a balance of $3,000 in favor of the office." The "debt" was paid at last.

November 6th, 1844 document signed by William Hanby and other Trustees of the United Brethren Church of Circleville, from author's collection.

His anti-slavery position was not one of words and convictions alone, but of deeds daring and effective. While on paper he was brave to speak for liberty and to declare, fearlessly, the universal brotherhood of man. He did not shrink from danger when called upon to prove his sympathy in deeds as well as in words. At this time the laws of the State of Ohio imposed a heavy fine and imprisonment for the crime of assisting a poor panting fugitive to escape from the clutches of the slave driver. But, with a knowledge of all its consequences, he chose to obey the voice of God rather than the laws of man. There were, at that time, but few in Circleville whose sympathies were actively enlisted in behalf of the slave....Indeed, there seems to have been but one who could be trusted to assist in caring for the fugitive slave. This was Mr. Doddridge, a merchant of the town. Mr. Hanby and Mr. Doddridge, with perhaps a few others, established a station on the underground railroad, and manned it themselves. One of the memories of the old Circleville home is of mysterious, quiet knockings in the night, of hurried whispered consultations in the darkness, and of the quiet disappearance of the father, and the wonder of the children quickly hushed at finding him at home in the morning. Once, at midnight, the signal was given and the door opened to admit Mr. Doddridge, who brought word that he had five slaves hidden away, and that the pursuers were on the track.....So Mr. Hanby went out in the night, procured conveyances, and quietly stole away with his trembling charge to the home of Jonathan Dresbach, whose house formed another station on the railroad....Here they were hid away. 

And so, this was the environment of Amanda's childhood. Her five cents obviously didn't cover the full debt of the paper, but it certainly encouraged her father during a difficult time, reminding him that this was in his Father's hands, and one day the Telescope would "be going all over the church...occupying a stately building.." The stately building from which the paper would be published would be known as the United Brethren Publishing House, located in Dayton, Ohio. At the General Conference of 1853, the decision was made to move the Publishing House from Circleville to Dayton, and in 1854, a four-story building was constructed at Fourth and Main Streets.(9)

UB Publishing House as it appeared in 1897, located at the NE corner of First and Fourth Streets, Dayton, Ohio. Louis Chmiel writes in "Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers"- "Jacob Billheimer as the Treasurer of the United Brethren Missonary Society maintained an office on the second floor of the United Brethren Building at 4th and Main Streets downtown"

Amanda, at the age of 26 (June 11, 1862), married Rev. Jacob Kemp Billheimer at Westerville, Ohio.(1) Jacob was described as "a man of fervent spirit, who gave himself without reserve to the work".(5) Jacob, who went by the name Kemp, took his young bride to Sierra Leone, Africa, as missionaries for the UB Church in October of that year. Kemp had previously served in Africa, his first mission from Dec 1856 through June of 1859, and his second mission Jan of 1860 through July of 1861.
From "History of the Church of the The United Brethren In Christ", 1897, UB publishing house-
"In 1860 the Board of Missions sought again to strengthen the hands of Mr. Billheimer by sending out the Rev. C. O. Wilson. He arrived at Freetown in November. He remained only a few months, when he was striken down with the fever while on a business trip to Freetown. On his partial recovery his physician insisted upon his immediate return to America as the only hope of preserving his life. He obeyed the order, and reluctantly returned. Then, lest complaint be made of the useless expenditure of money by the board, he paid out of his own purse all the expenses incurred.
Mr. Billheimer's third visit to Africa was not to continue for more than about a year and a half. After toiling hopefully for a while both he and his wife were disabled by the fever, which has destroyed the lives of so many missionaries....." 
During their stay, money was in short supply, as was food, through 1863. The next year brought fever with the rainy season. Kemp and Amanda's stay was ended by poor health, and they left for America in March of 1864, bringing home their son Cyrus Markwood who had been born in August of 1863. For the last several weeks of the journey crossing the ocean on their return home, their diet consisted of "wormy ship bread...rice with bugs in it, beans, and dirty Orleans molasses." Over the next several years, their health eventually improved, and their family grew.

Reuchlin Wright's In-laws
Jacob and Amanda Billheimer, Courtesy of Ohio History Connection.

From "Sketch of the Life of The Reverend Jacob Kemp Billheimer", Westerville Historical Society, Amanda had written "No sooner did their health return, however, than the old struggle (about going back to Africa) returned, too. Two more little ones came, making still stronger the argument in behalf of the children. Surely a mother was never called of God to give her little children to other's care, and go so far away to care for other children....Only a loving parent's heart can comprehend the depth of the agony this call involved. They knew how Abraham felt when he offered up "his son, his only son Isaac" in sacrifice to God....Good homes were secured for the children in Groveport, Ohio. Markwood (9) the oldest son, went to the home of Judge Long, and Lulu and Winnie to the farm home of Mr. Daniel Leigh two miles from town. With no suitable home for 18-month old Freddie, he went with his parents to Africa. It took almost as much courage to take him as to leave the others, knowing how fatal the climate is to little children....
February 1873, they sailed from Boston on the Rescue, Captain Cushing commanding, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Calflin, who had left two children, one a babe, behind. The day they sailed down Boston Bay it was 29 degrees below zero...."

The Billheimers would endure war and sickness during this mission, with Amanda and Freddie eventually returning to America to regain their health, leaving Kemp behind in Africa to continue the work. Kemp would later return to America for nine months, then to return to Africa yet again, leaving October 20th, 1875,(2) with the anticipation that Amanda would soon follow once her health returned. There were now five children, their baby daughter Daisy born earlier that year. Five year old Amanda had turned over five copper cents to her father to help save the church paper, and now at age forty she was choosing to turn over five precious children to others in order to save the children of Africa, for "the day when other precious treasures must be laid on the alter" had again arrived. Amanda, ready to return once again to Africa without her children, was instructed to first have her family doctor examine her. From the doctor's report it was thought that Amanda might not live to reach Africa, "and if she did, most likely would be unable to do any work...she must not go at risk of her life." (4) Kemp left Africa in early 1877, and the chapter of their presence on that continent came to an end. They had accomplished much, having helped build the mission house and chapel, the first United Brethren in Christ church in Africa. 

Amanda's mother Ann, and younger brother William passed away in 1879. She had lost her brothers Benjamin and Cyrus in 1867 and 1868. Two sisters had died as infants. Three sisters and a brother remain; she would outlive them all, except for her sister Ruth. From "Our Bishops", an account is provided concerning Amanda's father, "A short time before coming down with his last illness one of his daughters sitting near his couch, upon which, weak and suffering, he was reclining, observed him quietly weeping. She said to him tenderly, 'What is it, father?' He answered 'Oh, I am so happy; my long toilsome journey is nearly ended; my life work is joyfully over; half of my children are already safe in heaven, and I am just as sure the rest will be; half are safe at home, and all the rest are on the way. Mother is there (meaning his wife) and in a little while I shall be there, too."
Amanda's father William Hanby passed away May 17th, 1880 at his home in Westerville. His last words were "I am in the midst of glory".
Amanda was now serving on the UB Women's Missionary Association, involved with establishing missionary societies at each church. In the January 12, 1881 issue of the Telescope, under the title "Woman's Missionary Work- What a Woman can do", Amanda wrote- "All of these (missionary) societies began their work with the first Thursday of the new year. We do expect these societies to live and grow; to live as long as the churches live- and those churches are of the kind that do live- having lived already, two of them at least, for fifty years. How strange, it seems to be organizing these societies in the very churches where my sainted father had preached more than forty years ago. Did I not feel his presence? I know he would look down with joy on such a scene."

Milton Wright and family returned to Dayton June of 1884. Reuchlin was employed as a clerk at  Miami City Lumber yard on West Third Street, and he shared residence with the family at 114 North Summit, as the Wright's home at 7 Hawthorn was presently occupied by the Marquis family who had been renting for the past several years. The Billheimer's had since moved from Hawthorn street to 37 South Williams, one street west of Hawthorn.(6) The Billheimer's and the Wright's would become more than friends, they would become family. Twenty-five year old Reuchlin Wright  and twenty-one year old Lulu Billheimer were in love.

Wright Brothers family history
From the May 5, 1886 issue of The Religious Telescope, Marriage announcement of Reuchlin and Lulu. From author's personal collection.

Reuchlin Wright and Lulu Billheimer Wright, Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University and Library of Congress.

Reuchlin and Lulu were married April 27, 1886 at the home of the Billheimer's.  Kemp and Amanda were experiencing the blessing of their daughter Lulu's marriage, but unfortunately at the same time, they were dealing with the illness of their other daughter Winnie.

The Billheimer's 19 year old daughter Winnie's health issues, Religious Telescope, July 21, 1886 issue.From author's personal collection.

From "Sketch of the Life of The Reverend Jacob Kemp Billheimer", Westerville Historical Society, "The health of both Mr. and Mrs. Billheimer was restored, with only a weakness remaining, which reminded them of the years of toil, privation and mental agony spent in Africa. Those memories will carry to the end....The autumn of 1886 they moved south because of the failing health of their daughter Winnie. Since then they spent four years working inside the church of Tennessee, the rest of the time outside....Mr. Billheimer still suffers greatly from disease contracted in Africa. Much of the time he has not been able to preach. At the present time (of writing, 1890 or later) they have charge of the convict schools.....(in Alabama, text not readable)...teaching in both the hospital and the night schools...."

November 3, 1886 Religious Telescope
The Billheimer family moved to Birmingham Alabama as announced in the November 3rd, 1886 Religious Telescope. From author's personal collection.

Milton Wright recorded in his diary March 23, 1887, that Reuchlin finished packing his goods and started for Birmingham, Alabama. Milton left Dayton on church business May 23rd, and was away nearly 6 months. He records in his diary that he called on Birmingham November 19th, and that Reuchlin, Lulu, and their daughter Catherine Louise (born June 23rd in Birmingham) visited when  Milton returned to Dayton on the 20th. Reuchlin's stay in Birmingham had been less than eight months. Milton's diary entries contain many visits with the Reuchlin's over the following months as he and Susan enjoyed the company of their first grandchild. Milton wrote in his diary January 23, 1888, "Bought a crib for Catherine L. Wright as a present from her grandmother."

Catherine Louise Wright, Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University.

Eventually, Lulu's younger sister Winnie returned to Dayton and came to stay with Reuchlin and Lulu on May 3rd, 1888 (3). The 1888/89 Dayton Directory indicates Winnie's home address as 1422 West Fourth Street, Dayton, the same address as her brother-in-law Reuchlin, and her sister Lulu.

Reuchlin's mother Susan was suffering from Tuberculosis, and was also dealing with a bad cold when she wrote a letter to Milton on September 20th, 1888. Milton had been away to the west coast since June 18th. She wrote "Dear Milton, I received your letter of Sept 14th this morning. I felt a good deal disappointed for I thought may be you come home this week. I have been a good deal under the weather for a couple of weeks. When I wrote you before I was taking a cold but as it had been coming on for several days and still was not bad I thought it would not amount to much but it kept getting worse.......Reuchlin has no work and no prospect of any.....He is clean out of money. He had three Billheimers living off of him till they eat the last cent he had then I told him he could come to our house but not a cent of my money should go to feed the Billheimers......I will have to let Reuchlin have money till he finds work but I am sorry you told him you would give him the money back that he paid us. It is not worth while to try to help him till he shakes the Billheimers off. They are into him now for $29.00 besides Winnies board for all summer...."

Milton returned home October 6th. He wrote in his diary "This is the close of four year's labor on the Pacific Coast. Providence has very greatly favored me those years. Praise His name. Reuchlin's called in the forenoon." Three days later, Amanda and Lulu visited. There is no mention of Kemp Billhiemer, and no more mention of Amanda after this visit from Milton's diary entries for the next number of months. Perhaps Kemp and Amanda had come to town to visit and see their granddaughter Catherine, but the timing of the visit was difficult due to Reuchlin's lack of employment. Susan was frustrated, not feeling well, and blew off some steam in a private letter to her husband. Unfortunately, this private letter has become quite public, due to the accomplishments of Susan's sons Wilbur and Orville, and is now part of the Wright Brother archives. This letter has been quoted by a number of authors of Wright Brother books to summarize the personality and relationship of Jacob and Amanda Billheimer with the Reuchlin Wright family, and this interpretation is quite unfortunate. The contents of this letter should not be used to define the character of Jacob Kemp and Amanda Billheimer, and neither should it be used to define the personality of Susan Wright. Susan, in her condition of poor health, temporarily, perhaps just for a moment, lost sight of her faith's teaching from 1 Timothy Ch 5 verse 8- "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The next year of 1889, Milton would lend Reuchlin $130, as noted in his diary.

Jacob likely never made more than $400 annually as a pastor. A Religious Telescope article July 28, 1886 stated " The remuneration of a pastor's services is rather a disparaging comment and expression of his worth to society.....People have an idea that somehow it was ordained that ministers should be poor, and that poverty is a necessary means of grace."  The Billheimer's time as missionaries in Africa most likely left nothing extra financially for a nest egg. Jacob's poor health due to the effects of his African stay would also likely work against his ability to save much for retirement.

Susan Wright passed away July 4, 1889, and Milton recorded in his diary "and thus went out the light of my home". In the July 3, 1889 issue of West Side News, the issue of the paper delayed by their Mother's death, Wilbur and Orville composed a full page obituary, and wrote " We children learned to look upon Mother as almost perfection itself. No kinder mother ever lived than ours; none who loved her children more; none who more unselfishly sacrificed her own comforts and joys to give pleasure and happiness to those she loved.... Mother will ever live as the truest Christian, the noblest woman and the dearest mother, this world has ever produced."
Milton would remember his wife as "the sweetest spirit earth ever knew".(7) 

Partial letter from Milton Wright to friend, 1909. From author's personal collection.

Reuchlin had left for Kansas City February 6, 1889 in search for employment, and was successful in obtaining work as a bookkeeper for the South Missouri Lumber Company, and later would work for the Railroad. When he received word that his mother had passed away, he returned to Dayton in time to attend the afternoon funeral, Saturday July 6th. Susan was buried at Woodland Cemetery. Two months after losing his mother, Reuchlin was comforted with the arrival of his daughter Helen Margaret, born September 14 of that year.

In the December 28th, 1889 issue of West Side News, Orville Wright and Edwin Sines reported that Fred and Winnie Billheimer left for White Pine, Tennessee, "where they will spend the holidays with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Billheimer." Winnie was living in Xenia at this time, and Fred in Dayton. In the May 29, 1890 issue of The Evening Item, published by Wilbur and Orville, they reported that "Mrs. Billheimer, of White Pine, Tenn., will deliver an address in the First U. B. Church, Fifth street this city, this evening, on Temperance. Mrs. Billheimer is well known as a Temperance lecturer."

Sadly, Reuchlin and Lulu's first born daughter Catherine Louise, Milton's first grandchild,  would only live to 4 years of age, passing away from diphtheria January 10, 1892 in Kansas City. Reuchlin had sent a telegram asking for his father to "come immediately." Milton traveled to Kansas City to grieve with his son and daughter-in-law and offer help and comfort. Milton's diary entry of January 15th, "We go to the cemetery in the afternoon, to see Cath. L's grave."

Herbert and Helen Margaret
Bertha Ellwyn

 Photos, Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University.

Reuchlin and Lulu's son Herbert was born February 7, 1893. Their daughter Bertha Ellwyn was born Christmas Day, 1896, her middle name in remembrance of Lulu's sister......
Ellwyn Winnie Billheimer married Rev. Henry F. Shupe on November 20th, 1895 in Birmingham, Alabama. Rev. Shupe was editor of the Watchword, a United Brethren publication. She passed away October 11th, 1896, at the age of 30 in Dayton. "Her happy married life of less than a year was cut short by the dread disease, quick consumption, after an illness of but a few weeks. Her life was a beautiful one.." (16) The funeral was held at the Shupe's home at 814 Linden Street, and she was buried at Westerville, Ohio. Milton Wright wrote in his diary October 14th, 1896, "Went with Lorin & Netta to Winnie (Billheimer) Shupe's funeral in Riverdale (suburb) at 7:00." Orville Wright was on the road to recovery as of this date, after six weeks of fighting Typhoid fever.

Jacob Kemp Billheimer passed away June 29th, 1900 at the age of 69. Milton's diary entry of June 29th reads, "Got word, by Mr. Rodgers, of the death of Rev. J. K. Billheimer, who died this morning." July 1st, Milton wrote "Went on 9:53 A.M. train to Westerville. Mrs. Billheimer and Mark (Cyrus Markwood, her son) on the train..."  The burial was at Westerville, and Bishop Milton Wright spoke at the funeral. His actual words were not preserved for history, but likely he spoke of Kemp's obedience to his Lord's calling to take the gospel to Africa, of his years of service in Dayton with the UB Missionary Society, of his work with the Convict school in Birmingham, and perhaps reminding the gathering of friends and family that Jacob Kemp most assuredly was received with these words, "Well done thy good and faithful servant".

Through the early 1900's, the letters would pass both ways from Dayton to Kansas. December 23, 1900, Milton wrote in his diary "My son Reuchlin and family, from Kansas City, arrived on 5:50 (6:10) train; wife Lulu; children: Helen Margaret, 11; Herbert, n.8; Bertha, 4." Christmas and Bertha's birthday were celebrated with the full extended family- Wilbur, Orville, Katharine, and Lorin's family- wife Nettie, and their children present. While in town, Reuchlin, on the evening of the 28th, went to visit with Rev. Henry Shupe, Winnie's widower.  Reuchlin's family would stay through January 4th, attending church, visiting Woodland Cemetery, and sharing meals and memories. Milton would later visit his oldest son's homestead on his trip to the UB Kansas Conference September 22, 1903,  and would write "I looked at the farm, crops, cattle, hogs, etc ". Meanwhile, the next morning in Dayton, his younger sons Wilbur and Orville would leave for Kitty Hawk where "the poor cows have such a hard time scraping up a living that they don't have any time for making milk".(10) Fortunately for Reuchlin's farm animals, he chose Kansas in lieu of Kitty Hawk.

In 1906, Amanda's nephew Brainerd Oaks Hanby and his mother visited Dayton. Brainerd was Amanda's brother Benjamin's son. Orville gave Brainerd a lug from the #2 motor used in the 1904 and 1905 flights at Simms (Huffman Prairie). This lug is on display today at the Hanby House.(13)

Reuchlin came to Dayton June 15th of 1909 to attend the Home Celebration for his famous brothers. The recognition by the City of Dayton for the accomplishments of the Brothers was a two day event, held on June 17th and 18th.
From left to right, Reuchlin, Lorin, Orville, and Wilbur, June 17/18, 1909 Dayton Home Celebration. Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University.

Sunday, June 27th, Milton and Reuchlin attended the service at Summit Street United Brethren Church that morning, then started for Washington DC that evening to watch Orville's flights at Ft Meyer. July 1st, they witnessed several flights of five to nine minutes in length. Milton and Reuchlin returned to Dayton that same day. Reuchlin then headed for Kansas July 3rd. Milton would write in his diary "Reuchlin left at 9:55...He went away much improved in health and looks." Later that month, Milton attended First UB Sabbath School, and listened to Rev. Henry Shupe preach on John 12:21 "We would see Jesus." For Milton, twenty years had passed since his wife Susan Koerner had died, and for Henry, 13 years since he lost his bride Winnie Billheimer.

Friday, August 18th, 1911, Milton wrote in his diary, "Reuchlin and Bertha came from Kansas." August 27th, Milton wrote, "Reuchlin and I attended Grace Lutheran Church.....The granddaughters, Ivonette, Leontine and Bertha dine with us..." August 29th entry, "Lorin's and Reuchlin and Bertha and Orville and Katharine go out to Simms and the three girls fly with Orville. They all sup with us..." August 30th entry, "Reuchlin flew some ten minutes and about 400 feet high, with Orville, at Simms." September 1st entry, "Reuchlin went to Simms and flew with Orville some half an hour. They rose about 1600 or 1800 feet high. They shut off the motor and sank some hundreds of feet." Lorin Wright's daughter Ivonette, wrote the following in Wright Reminiscences, "I remember Leontine wrote while Uncle Orv and Will were in Europe and asked to be the first girl to fly in America. In August of 1911, when Uncle Reuch and his daughter (Bertha) Ellwyn were visiting us, Uncle Orv took us up, all three of us. Leontine was first, Ellwyn being our guest was second. Then it was my turn."

Milton records in his May 2nd, 1912 diary entry that Wilbur was diagnosed with Typhoid fever. His condition varied day to day, and after two weeks, Katharine sent a letter to Reuchlin informing him of Wilbur's sickness. Reuchlin would return to Dayton on May 24th, 1912 to find his brother's symptoms apparently improving, but by the 27th Wilbur's condition had worsened. Reuchlin saw his brother Wilbur that afternoon. At 3:15 in the morning of May 30th, Wilbur passed away.  Many letters and telegrams were received, "of sympathy from all people of every sort, and from all societies, and from dignities. Flowers come from individuals and societies, most beautiful."(14) His father wrote in a letter to a relative, "Your letter of sympathy was received, and duly appreciated. Wilbur lived twice forty-five years, in life's brief space. He has gone to his everlasting reward. I am following him in my old age..." June 5th, Milton writes "Reuchlin started home at 8:50 forenoon. Perhaps it is our last meeting on earth."

Father and son would see each other again. Reuchlin and Lulu came to visit October 19th, 1916. Milton wrote numerous diary entries through the next number of weeks, "Reuchlin and Lulu appeared to be in good health." "Lorin's family, including Ivonette, dined with us. Reuchlin's also. They staid through the afternoon. John Wright came. Ivonette sung and Lulu played for her." "Reuchlin went out to Orville's flying grounds." Reuchlin returned home October 31st, but Lulu remained behind to continue to visit through November. November 22nd, Milton wrote "I learn from Lulu, that her brother Frederick had a little boy who died at a week old. Mark Wood's widow is married again to a nice man. She has a little Billheimer girl about 9 years old."  

Cyrus Markwood Billheimer, African born son of Jacob and Amanda, had died May 1st, 1912. His "little Billheimer girl" Frednanie was born August 4th of 1907. She was 4 1/2 years old when her father died.
Amanda Louise Billheimer outlived Milton Wright who died in 1917, and Reuchlin Wright, who died in 1920. Amanda lived with her daughter Daisy's family as recorded in the 1910 and 1920 Census. Amanda passed away October 24th, 1926 in Birmingham Alabama at the age of 91.(1) She is buried at Otterbein Cemetery, Westerville, Ohio.

Reuchlin and Lulu's daughter Bertha Ellwyn  introduced her fiance` Harold Steeper to Orville when he passed through Kansas City in 1919. Orville returned in October with Katharine to attend Bertha and Harold's wedding. Bertha wrote that "Mother, Papa, Uncle Orv and Aunt Katharine drove out from Kansas City for the wedding....We little guessed that seven years later, in 1926, Aunt Katharine would be coming to Kansas City, Missouri, as the bride of Harry J. Haskell, Editor of the Kansas City Star and Times. The Haskells came to McLouth for visits and we went to see them in Kansas City." Bertha also wrote of a visit to Orville's vacation property at Lambert Island in Georgian Bay, Canada, "We had two children, Margaret, age six, and Charles, two years of age. On this trip, in May 1934, we took Mother (Lulu) with us, thus providing Uncle Orv with a sparing partner. They had many heated but friendly arguments which Uncle Orv dearly loved." Bertha's daughter Margaret married June 23, 1946, and Orville was invited to the wedding. Bertha wrote "Uncle Orv and Mother (Lulu) drove to the church together and had a little trouble finding the church, so they were almost late. As Uncle Orv was the last of the Bishop Wright's children and Lulu Billheimer Wright was the last of the in-laws, they seemed to especially enjoy this opportunity to talk about the old and familiar things in regard to the family....."(15)

On June 9th of 1947, Orville Wright at the age of 75, was awarded a Doctor of Science honorary degree from Otterbein University. That same day, Orville and his grandnephew Wilbur Herbert Wright visited the Hanby House in Westerville. Wilbur was Reuchlin and Lulu's grandson, born to Herbert and Irene Wright February 28th, 1920 in Kansas City. A century prior, in 1847, Amanda's father William Hanby, had been one of three appointed trustees to establish the new Institution. William had "labored faithfully to secure the founding of Otterbein University....He spent many obtaining its charter from the Ohio State Legislature...In 1853 he retired......Afterward he was elected financial agent of Otterbein....During the remainder of his life the success of Otterbein University was the uppermost wish of his heart, and he was for a long time a resident trustee, and generally a member of the prudential committee. At one time all his property was liable for its debts, and when remonstrated with concerning it he said, 'Some one must stand for it; why not I?'"(11) As Orville stood at the Hanby House entry and looked about, his thoughts possibly took him back to the earlier days of family life on Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio, back when the Billheimers lived nearby, and his brother Reuchlin and Lulu began a life together. Perhaps with a quiet sigh, Orville  reached for the pen, signed the guest book, and then passed the pen to William Handby's Great Great Grandson Wilbur.(12) 

Copy of Guest Book, June 9, 1947.

From "Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers- Birthplace of Aviation", 2013, Louis Chmiel wrote concerning the Billheimers,
"By 1877, after their overseas missions, the Billheimer family was living a couple doors down the street from the Wrights in Dayton, at 21 Hawthorn Street." 
Louis has long suspected that the Billheimer residence of 1877-1881 may still be standing. One of the difficulties in the mystery,  is that there is no current address of 21 Hawthorn Street. The homes along the west side of Hawthorn between Fourth and Fifth streets in the 1870's were numbered differently. Through collaboration with Louis, the mystery has been solved, and will be the subject of my next post-

Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio- Neighborhood of the Wright Brothers

Index of Topics

Recommended Links for Additional Sources:
The Hanby House 

"Sketch of the Life of Reverend Jacob Kemp Billheimer", available at  Westerville Historical Society Hanby House Gift Shop

Westerville Historical Society

Ohio Home of the Wright Brothers- Birthplace of Aviation " by Louis Chmiel

Revision 1/22/17- Jacob's age at death corrected (69)
Revision 4/21/17- Date of June 17/18 date corrected for Homecoming (typo of July in one location).
Revision 6/1/17- 1844 William Hanby document added, Trustees of UBCC.
Photo of Hanby House guest book page added 5/28/18.
Revision 5/10/19- Winnie's obituary reference (16).
  1. Amanda's birth date is often given as September 4, 1834. Her tombstone indicates birth year of 1836. Census data for 1860, 70, 80, and 1910 provide an age compatible with 1835. Birth date of September 4, 1835 could be rounded up to read 1836 on the tombstone. For this reasoning, I think 1835 is more likely. Based on this, the timing of her as a five year old donating five copper cents would be somewhere between September 4th of 1840 and September 3rd of 1841. 
  2. October 20th, 1875 date from Religious Telescope January 5, 1876 article "On the Way to Africa". Rev. Joseph Wolf in letter written on his way to Africa writes "We left the port yesterday October 20th about 11 A.M......This morning we found our vessel bouncing along over waves at the rate of about ten knots an hour.... Bro. Billheimer thought he was not feeling very well, and all were anxiously looking for me to begin to complain, but all in vain. My appetite is good, and I have no symptoms of sickness yet..."
  3. Milton Wright Diary entry May 4, 1888 "Called at Reuchlin's in the evening. Winnie Billheimer there- had come the evening before.
  4. From Sketch of the Life of The Reverend Jacob Kemp Billheimer by Amanda Louise Hanby Billheimer. Available through Westerville Historical Society. For a more complete understanding of the good work performed, and the hardships endured by Kemp and Amanda, this source is recommended reading.
  5. From The United Brethren in Christ- The Mission in Africa, 1897, UB publishing house, Rev. Daniel Berger, D.D. 
  6. The Billheimers had moved from the Hawthorn Street residence to 10 South Williams as recorded in the Dayton Directory of 1882-83, and then to 37 South Williams per the 1883-84 Directory.
  7. From letter written by Milton Wright June 22, 1909, to L.N. Countryman. 
  8. See Epilogue.
  9. From History of the Church of the The United Brethren In Christ, by Rev. Daniel Berger, D.D., 1897 "A lot on the northeast corner of Main and Fourth streets, fronting fifty-nine and on-half feet on Main and one hundred and fifty-two feet on Fourth, was purchased for eleven thousand dollars. On this ground was situated a two-story brick residence, and within a few months after the adjournment of the General Conference the establishment was located in this house as its temporary home. The removal was accomplished under the direction of Rev. Solomon Vonnieda, who had just been elected as publishing agent. In 1854 a substantial four-story brick building, forty by ninety feet in extent, was erected upon this lot, with ample equipment of machinery for the requirements of that time. The cost of the building with its machinery was fifteen thousand dollars......John Lawrence, who had been assistant editor of the Religious Telescope, was now its editor.
  10. Quote from letter written by Orville to sister Katharine, Kitty Hawk, October 14, 1900, "You never saw such poor pitiful-looking creatures as the horses, hogs and cows are down here. The only things that thrive and grow fat are the bedbugs, mosquitoes, and wood ticks."
  11. From "Our Bishops- A sketch of the origin and growth of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ" by H. A. Thompson, D.D., LL.D., 1889
  12. Signatures of Orville Wright and Wilbur H Wright appear in the Hanby House 1947 guest book.
  13. June 6, 1945 letter from Orville Wright to Charles Funkhouser (attorney) in Dayton verify this account of #2 motor lug of 04/05 flights. 
  14. Milton Wright diary entry May 31st, 1912. 
  15. Wright Reminiscences, compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, 1978.
  16. The Dayton Herald, October 13,1886- Obituary for Winnie B. Shupe.

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