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Alvan Billings

Rev. Alvan Billings

The writer of this sketch made the acquaintance of the Rev. Alvan Billings at a camp meeting held at Northville, Mich., during the summer of 1832, which place at that time was on the Ypsilanti circuit, and of which circuit he was at that time preacher in charge. And of him we have learned the following facts: he was born in the township of Conway, county of Franklin and state of Massachusetts, on the 25th day of September, 1802. His parents were Stephen and Mary Billings. Her maiden name was Mary Goddard. His father lived to be 81 years of age, and his mother 76 years of age. His father was a Presbyterian and his mother a Baptist, and they maintained their Christian integrity to the end of their lives.

In his childhood young Alvan had the advantage of the public and select schools of his native town, and for a season he attended the Wilbraham academy under the direction of the Rev. Wilbur Fisk, who afterwards became celebrated as the president of the Wesleyan university at Middletown, Conn. Having such religious instruction, and such religious privileges, he knew that he ought to give his heart to God and become a Christian, and so clear were his convictions that he felt that it was his last call, and he made up his mind that if there was mercy for him, that he would seek it then and there; and on the evening of the 1st day of June, 1826, at a prayer meeting held in a neighbor's house, he rose for the prayers of the church in his behalf, and he himself kneeled down and prayed earnestly the publican's prayer: "God be merciful to me a sinner." The Lord forgave his sins and spake peace to his soul. A few days after that a voice seemed to whisper within him : "Go and preach the gospel," and he having engaged to teach a school the ensuing fall earnestly prayed that if God had called him to the work of the ministry he would convert some of his scholars during the winter. He heard an answer, "I will," and in January the work of revival broke out and 40 or 50 were converted to God. He taught the same school the next winter, at the close of which he left his native state for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to join his father's family who had removed to that state some years before. He was admitted on trial in the Ohio Conference in the fall of 1828. In 1829 he was appointed, with the Rev. H.O. Sheldon, to Mansfield circuit, tbe Rev. Russell Bigelow being Presiding Elder. In 1830 he was appointed to the Detroit station; 1831 and 1832 to Ypsilanti circuit; 1833 and 1834 to Elmira circuit, Ohio; 1835 to 1836 to Mansfield circuit. He was then superannuated for one year. After which he was successively at Marshall station, the Ann Arbor district, and Ypsilanti station.

The ministers with whom he was most intimately acquainted during the first years of his ministry were Russell Bigelow, J.B. Finley, G.R. Jones, James Quinn, W.H. Raper, J.H. Power, Arthur W. Elliott, David and Jacob Young, John F. Wright, Augustus Eddy, R.O. Spencer, James Gilruth and many others of the earlier preachers of the Ohio Conference.

On the 27th day of May, 1833, while on the Ypsilanti circuit, he was united in marriage to Fanny A. Mead, of Farmington, Mich., with whom he continued to live until the 18th day of October, 1880. when she quietly fell asleep, and her spirit peacefully departed to be at rest evermore.

In the latter years of his life he did some work for the American Bible Society, Albion College, and supplied Burlington, Parma and Galesburg circuits. He died on July 6, 1882, at the residence of his only child, Samuel Billings, Esq., at Marquette, Mich. His remains were brought to Albion, where, at the closing hours of the day, we laid him away to rest by the side of his departed wife, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body, and a blissful immortality at the right hand of God in heaven.

Brother Billings' theology was distinctly Arminian — clear cut and incisive. His intellect was natuarally sharp, and his mind distinctly logical. In preaching he was argumentative and clear — a workman who needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God. His heart was tender and sympathetic, and his catholicity of spirit embraced all the followers of Jesus, irrespective of creed or sect. May we who yet remain ever emulate his virtues, cherish his memory, walk in the light as he did, until the Master shall say to us as he did to him: "It is enough, come up higher."


- Michigan Annual Conference minutes of 1882, pp. 49-50