Henry “Harry” Billups

Birth Name Henry “Harry” Billups
Nick Name Harry
Gender male
Age at Death between 46 years and 47 years



Henry and Agnes wrote a series of letters back to her sister, Emily Gratton Hall. They are collected as:
Agnes and Harry Billups, Letters from America to Emily and William Hall, at the Derbyshire [England] Record Office,
Reference Number D2941/2/1/1-35.H

Henry's father John died when Henry was about 4 years of age and his mother Jane Davison Billups worked to support the family. In 1851 she was working as a live-in servant for a family in March, Cambridgeshire. Her children, including Henry, were with their oldest sister Susanna, living next to Jane's sister in Wimblington. (See Henry's mother's file for censuses.)

Henry and Agnes were married in England in 1869. His occupation at the time was "furnace man."
I have not found Henry on the 1871 census.

Henry left Liverpool on March 7, 1873, (Wednesday March 5, according to his first letter back to his relatives.) and arrived at New York on March 19, 1873. He came to Pennsylvania at once. On June 8, 1873, he sent the first letter back to England from Freedom Forge, PA. He applied for naturalization on April 13, 1876. (Sources include: Dan McClenahen, Naturalization Papers of Mifflin 1803 - 1906.)

So far there is no evidence that Henry was ever naturalized.

The early letters from Agnes and Henry back to the Halls in Derbyshire reflect the Billups' enchantment with their new country, "all hills and holes where we are." They stayed with Henry's brother Thomas upon arrival, "for the houses are all wood here and they're carried here." (Letter 6, Oct 20th, 1873).

Henry sent back a lightning bug to England saying "this little fly is A curiosity for it lights Every time it Draws its breath. the Natives Call them littiningbugs And thay Sleep All Day And fly About All Nite time many A hundred of them" Letter 3, Aug 4 1873, some spelling corrected.)

Henry never identifies his actual place of employment, but it is some kind of factory, possibly the Wm Mann Manufacturing Co. in Yeagertown. Work seems always to have been scarce, with much talk of half-shifts, weeks laid off and so forth. They had a garden and Henry hunted to supplement their income. (The 1870's were difficult times everywhere.)

There was a lot of discussion about returning to England, either for a visit or temporarily, but they never actually had the money to make the journey. They evidently decided to stick it out in a country where [if Henry went to Indiana with his brother] "i have been [in] this Country long Enuf So that i cood Get 1060 [or 10-60?] Aikers of land free. All it wood cost me is forteen Dollers for the rittens but i have not Got Enuff to Just Give Me A start. And that is More then England wood Do for A pore man."

All talk of returning, moving to Indiana, or improving their situation ended when Agnes was found to have breast cancer. In Letter 19, dated Jan 26, 1878, Henry says "[all is well here] At present Ondly for My Maggys brest And it is very bad And keep Gettin Wors, but i hope it will be better After a wile, for thire is A Old Docter 12 Miles from us that has Cured lotts of boath Men And Wimen of Cancers And i hop And trust in the man Above that he will Cure My Wife of hers for God Above knows best wot i Should Do withOut her for i Do not" (some spelling corrected.)

In Letter 24, Yeagertown August 17 1878, Agnes writes: "[we had] the Docter to see it and he sad that cud not be cut out for it is lo on the Brast but he thinks the stuf I ham usen will Cure it." Despite everything they tried, Agnes' condition worsened. They soon needed assistance to care for her and the children. She died in March 1880, a year and a half after her last child's birth.

In Letter 33, edged in black, dated Mar 29 1880, Henry says "now i Sit Down to right to you All with A hard foal of Sorrow And Grief" to inform them of his wife's death. In Letters 33 and 34 he tells them of the arrangements for the funeral and burial '[not] in Yeager but in Lewistown it was the Episcople Church Or the Church Of England Cemitery the best Around heair." And in Letter 35 he proposes the following inscription for her headstone:

Weep not Deair Husban And friends but be content
for i to you Was Ondley lent
The lord had Ondly had His Due
And very Soon May Call for you

And you Deair Deair Children
that is left be Hind
trust in the lord
And Me you wile find.

There are no more letters.

By census time in 1880, Henry had only his three oldest children with him. The youngest, Thomas was living with Henry's sister Naomi Billups Jackson and her husband in Pittsburgh. (1880 Census: Derry, Mifflin, Pennsylvania Series T9, Roll 1156, Page 102 and 1880 Census, Pittsburgh, NA Film Number T9-1093, Page Number 311D at familysearch.org) The other three children were with Henry.

(The Billups home in Yeagertown in 1880 seems to be company owned housing. There is a map showing a line of homes labeled "Wm Mann Mfg. & Co." where Henry's name falls on the census list. He was working as an axe grinder, presumably for the Mann iron works.)

Sometime after the 1880 Census, Henry left Yeagertown. His second son, James W., died of laryngitis in Philadelphia in 1882 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Knights of Pythias Cemetery, Philadelphia. (Henry's sister, Naomi Jackson, was a member of the Daughters of Pythias. Is there a connection here?) Henry was not found in the Philadelphia City Directories for 1881, 1887, 1889 or 1891.

There is a Harry Billups, melter, living at 10 Otter St., Philadelphia, in the 1884 directory. Henry was not found in the Philadelphia City Directories for 1881, 1887, 1889 or 1891.

His oldest son John Henry seems to have remained in eastern Pennsylvania. He appears on the 1910 Census of the 36th ward of Philadelphia with a wife and child. (Series T624 Roll 1407 Page 7. Enum Dist 1, sheet 7A, line 47ff). See his notes.

While in Philadelphia, Henry "Harry" Billups was involved in an incident with the police in which his nose was broken, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Dispatch, January 8, 1890, page 5, column 2.

By 1887 or 1888 Harry moved to Pittsburgh to be with his brother Thomas, his sister Naomi, and their families. The 1888 Pittsburgh City Directory has a listing for: "Billups, Harry, painter, Forty-eighth and Harrison." Naomi's husband managed a restaurant and hotel at that same address. Harry was not found in any earlier or later Pittsburgh city directories.

On January 8 1890, the Pittsburgh Dispatch carried an article on page 5 about a dispute between Mr. James Acor, a painter, and Harry Billups. Mr. Acor went to the police station and accused Harry of alienating the affection of Mrs. Acor. They all lived on Railroad Street between 48th and 49th. According to Mr. Acor, Mrs. Acor had left for Jeannette and Harry was packed and ready to leave for an unknown destination.

On February 1, 1890, the Pittsburgh Dispatch published a brief article sent to it from Youngstown, Ohio. In it, Mr. Acor states that his wife and Harry had eloped the previous Monday (which would be January 27.) Harry Billups was found and denied being with Mrs. Acor and asserted that he did not know her whereabouts. Mr. Acor believed that his wife was still in Youngstown.

Harry was not found in the 1891-92 Youngstown City Directory at ancestry.com, in June 2011. Other issues of this directory seem to be a work in progress at ancestry. Check them later.

I believe Henry "Harry" Billups died sometime between Sep 29, 1891 and Sep 29, 1892. The basis for this date of death is a note in his son-in-law James Morris Hamilton's handwriting, written in 1922, which says, in effect, that his wife's father died at age 46 and her mother died at age 34. All the other ages mentioned in this note are correct.

Despite extensive research, Henry's place of death and burial are not known. He was not found in the records of Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, or the extant death records of Allegheny County.

Henry "Harry" Billups has also NOT been found in:

1) the Philadelphia City Directories for 1881, 1887, 1889, 1891.

2) Death records for Mifflin county, which begin too late to include

3) Death records for Montgomery County, including Norristown, which begin
in 1893, are only on microfilm, and won't be searched by the county
record office.

4) The City Directories of Norristown for 1888, 1890, or 1892 (at

5) Allegheny County Deaths. A letter dated July 18, 2005 from the Office of
the Register of Wills, said they were unable to find any records of
Henry Billups. Prior to 1905 immediate registration of deaths was not
required, so many pre-1905 deaths are not officially recorded.

6) The records of the Knights of Pythias (Greenwood) Cemetery in
Philadelphia. In an email of Feb 21, 2009, the Friends of Greenwood
Director said that Henry was not found. His son James was.

7) Deaths in Salem, New Jersey from Jul 1891 to Jun 1893. A letter from the
State of New Jersey received by a relative in 2010 said Henry's death
was not on the records of Salem City/County for that time period.

8) New Jersey Deaths online, through 1885, searched in December 2009. They
are currently adding records. The entire collection will eventually
include records through December 31, 1900 They are at:

9) An online search of cemeteries in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery
counties, searched in February 2009. They are at

10) in the records of Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh,

11) the extant death records of Allegheny County.

12) Westmoreland County Death Records begin in 1893. I did not request a search.

13 ) "The St. John’s [Episcopal Church] record does not include an mention of a Henry or Harry Billups, or any other Billups for that matter. I am sorry I could not be of more help."
Joan R. Gundersen, Ph.D.
Administrator for Property and Archivist
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

14) Please note that I could not find any information regarding deaths from 1892 in the following church records deposited in our holdings:
(Call Number: VAULT BX 9211 .P45215 E42)
Eleventh United Presbyterian Church (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Register, 1847-1925 (2 vols.)
Including: v.1, Membership, 1847-1905, Baptisms, 1864-1905.

David Koch
Reference Archivist
Presbyterian Historical Society
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516
t 215.238.3970 f 215.627.0115
e dkoch@history.pcusa.org


Event Date Place Description Sources
Birth September 29, 1845 Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, England   1 2a
Event Note

Henry's date of birth is a composite of two sources: his naturalization record which said Sept 29, 1842 in Sheffield, and this listing at the GRO:

mother's maiden name: DAVISON
GRO Reference: 1845 December Quarter in NORTH WITCHFORD UNION Volume 14 Page 122

He was the third son in this family named Henry.

Census (Brother) March 30, 1851 Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, England   3a
Event Note

1851 Census of England
30 March 1851
Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, England
page 554, family 10, line 8
(1851 Census of Wimblington.
Dist/Subdist: No. Witchford/Chatteris. E.D. 1A. HO107/1765. Folio 554, page 3, household 10.

Sarah Bullups, head, 18, laborer
Jane Bullups, sister, 16, laborer
Mary Bullups, 12, sister
Neomi Bullups, 10, sister
Henry Bullups, 5, brother
Susanna Southwell, 21, lodger
Joseph Southwell, 5
John Southwell, 8 months

all born in Isle of Ely, Wimblington

[next door to the children's maternal aunt, Mary Golding]

Census (step son) April 7, 1861 Newchurch, Lancashire, England   4a
Event Note

1861 Census of England, Newchurch, Lancashire
Class: RG 9; Piece: 3053; Folio: 101; Page: 9
on Higher Broadclough

William Goulding, 70, head, cotton mill hand, born Doddington, Cambridgeshire
Jane Goulding, 51, wife,
Naomi Goulding, 19, daughter, cotton mill hand, born Doddington, Cambridgeshire
Henry Goulding, 15, son, cotton mill hand, born Doddington, Cambridgeshire
2 lodgers

Emigration March 7, 1873 Liverpool, Lancashire, England   1
Immigration March 19, 1873 New York, New York County, New York, United States   1
Census (Head) June 25, 1880 Yeagertown, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, United States   5a
Event Note

1880 Census, Derry Township, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania
Village of Yeagertown
June 25, 1880

Henry Billups, 35, widowed, axe grinder, born in England, parents also, was out of work 1 month this year
Mary E Meredith, 19, single, domestic, housekeeper, born in Pennsylvania, parents also
John H Billups, 8, son, born in Pennsylvania, parents in England
Jane A Billups 5, daughter, born in Pennsylvania, parents in England
James W Billups, 3, son, born in Pennsylvania, parents in England

Death between September 29, 1891 and September 29, 1892     6


Relation to main person Name Birth date Death date Relation within this family (if not by birth)
Father John Billups1804March 1, 1847
Mother Jane DavisonJuly 25, 1809November 8, 1868
    Brother     Thomas Billups November 13, 1829 1901
    Sister     Susanna Davison Billups October 22, 1832 September 7, 1900
    Sister     Jane Billups about 1835 March 11, 1906
    Brother     Henry Davison Billups about March 1837 January 12, 1838
    Sister     Mary Ann Billups about 1838 May 25, 1884
    Sister     Naomi Billups February 24, 1842 October 11, 1907
    Brother     Henry Billups November 3, 1843 November 10, 1843
         Henry “Harry” Billups September 29, 1845 between September 29, 1891 and September 29, 1892
    Brother     John Billups about July 1, 1847 November 17, 1847


Family of Henry “Harry” Billups and Agnes Gratton

Married Wife Agnes Gratton ( b. April 4, 1845 d. March 13, 1880 )
Event Date Place Description Sources
Marriage October 31, 1869 Sheffield, Yorkshire, England   7
Name Birth Date Death Date
John Henry Billupsbetween October 1, 1871 and December 31, 1871December 3, 1916
Jane Anne BillupsJune 15, 1874October 4, 1953
James William BillupsAugust 11, 1876April 27, 1882
Thomas Franklin BillupsSeptember 9, 1879July 18, 1945

Family of Henry “Harry” Billups and Martha M Price

Married Wife Martha M Price ( b. January 16, 1850 d. March 28, 1892 )
Event Date Place Description Sources
Marriage December 5, 1886 Freedom Forge, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, United States   8a
Event Note

United Methodist Records, Burnham Charge, Burnham (Freedom Forge), Pennsylvania
December 5, 1886
Henry Billups of Logan
Martha Thompson of Mifflin County



Source References

  1. Dan McClenahen: Naturalization Papers of Mifflin 1803 - 1906.
  2. General Record Office (GRO), United Kingdom
      • Page: births, 4th qtr 1845, North Witchford Union, Vol 14 Page 122
  3. 1851 Census of England
      • Page: Wimblington, Cambridgeshire, England, page 554, family 10, line 8
  4. 1861 Census of England
      • Page: Newchurch, Lancashire, Class: RG 9; Piece: 3053; Folio: 101; Page: 9
  5. 1880 United States Census
      • Page: Derry Township, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, Village of Yeagertown, ED 173, sheet 102B
      • Citation:

        "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWNV-FJT : 16 July 2017), Harry Billups, Derry, Mifflin, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district ED 173, sheet 102B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,156.

  6. Family note that gives his age at death as 46. Note in possession of descendant.
  7. Photocopy of certified copy of an entry of marriage solemnized in 1869 at the parish Church in the parish of Sheffield in the county of York.
  8. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records
      • Page: United Methodist Records, Burnham Charge, Burnham (Freedom Forge), Pennsylvania, page 106