Horace Billings came to Beardstown from the state of Vermont in 1842.
Billings, a business man and inventor, was responsible for construction of the old Park Hotel and many other buildings in the city. His patented method for covering and curing hams made them a popular item as far away as California during the 1850’s. He was a charter member of Beardstown’s Congregational Church.
Modern merchants do not know all about advertising. Some notable advertisers were in business forty years ago, and Horace Billings was one of them. Billings’ almanac flooded the country, and posters notified everybody of the marvelous bargains to be obtained at “Billings’ Long Bow.” The store had a river front, and extended through to the first parallel street. It was not over sixteen feet wide, but it contained a vast amount of miscellaneous merchandise. Both the Leonards were employed in this establishment, and a host of other well-known business men graduated from this store. McGee & Warner, eastern men, became members of the firm, possibly in 1849. One of the principal industries inaugurated by Billings was the curing of ham, and “Billings’ Sugar Cured Hams’ were all the rage. The hams were nicely trimmed, smoked, sewed up in canvas bags, and then dipped into a liquid solution mostly shellac, very elastic and handsome in color. “Billings’ Kiln Dried Corn Meal” was another enterprise of his, and it is probable the first preparation of this kind ever shipped to Europe went from Billings’ mill.
The Semi-Weekly Illinoian – Tuesday, December 27, 1887
Though he moved to Jacksonville in 1867, Mr. Billings was still deeply interested in the advancement of Beardstown. Having been one of the men who worked tirelessly to obtain railroad service for the city, he returned in July of 1869 to take part in ceremonies celebrating the laying of track and the arrival of the first locomotive.
He passed away in Jacksonville and was buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery.
Died – Horace Billings, who was a resident and business man of this city for twenty-five years of his life, died at his residence in Jacksonville, on Saturday, February 22d. The funeral services took place on Monday, the 24, several of our citizens going over to attend the deceased to his final resting place. It is not in our possession to give the character of his disease. Perhaps no part particular one was prominent or perceptible, as he has been failing rapidly during the past year.
He had arrived at the age of sixty-nine years. He came here in 1842, and removed to Jacksonville in 1867. His former wife and two children are buried here. He was always foremost in the enterprise of this place, while a resident here, and even after his removal aided in everything that time, strength and ability would admit of. His attachment to this people seemed never to abate by absence, and he leaves some monuments of his efforts in the shape of staunch, brick business houses that never would have given credit to the place but for his perseverance and energy.
Central Illinoian – Feb. 27, 1873 p. 3, col. 1
Billings’s residence was located at 3rd and Lafayette Streets. This photo was taken for the Historic American Building Survey, in 1934.