Skip to main content

About this collection

The collection of letters to Grace Cronin Billington (Grace) began in December of 1917 at the time James Carlisle Billington (Lisle) enlisted in the U.S. Army in Salt Lake City, Utah, and shortly before they were married. In some of the early letters, he refers to her as “Kelly,” a pet name because she was Irish and had auburn red hair.

Lisle was reared on a farm near Spring City, Utah and Grace in Eureka, Utah where most of the letters are addressed. Family stories indicate Lisle and Grace eloped when it appeared he would be shipping out for service in World War I. This elopement caused consternation to both families. Lisle was Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and Grace was Catholic. Family stories also reveal that the elopement was assisted by Grace’s two paternal aunts, Kate Cronin and Maggie Cronin Shea, her deceased Father’s sisters. This was done without the knowledge of her Mother, Lillian Taylor Cronin Elbrecht. and Grace’s five younger siblings: Jack, Frank, Louise, George and Dorothy.

Mrs. Elbrecht, a widow since 1911, had only recently married Walter Elbrecht in December 1917. One letter is included from Lisle’s father responding to news of the wedding with good wishes and understanding of the unusual situation and also indicating they could not have attended the event in Salt Lake City, had they been invited, because they were snowed in and also occupied with caring for Lisle’s aged maternal grandmother.

By Jan 26, 1918, Lisle was sent to Waco, Texas for training and was stationed there as part of the 58th Recruit Squadron Aviation Camp. He remained there until March, 1918 when he was moved to the 76th Aero Squadron at Arcadia Florida. This base also is referred to in letters as Dorr Field and his unit also referred to as Squadron A.

The letters end abruptly on Feb 10, 1919, when he writes from Fort Logan, Utah, that he expects to be discharged on Feb 14 and will arrive in Salt Lake City by Feb 15. There are postcards included, incidental letters from 1920, plus other letters which have no dates. Some of those are from other people to Grace Cronin Billington. Notes and comments found on the envelopes are in Grace’s handwriting and seem to be comments she made upon reading them, either noting she had answered a letter or, in some cases, a comment on his status, e.g. “Thank God he’s okay.”

There is no explicit record of their lives from then until after World War II, except that they lived and worked in Salt Lake City. In the late 1940s, they moved to Tooele, Utah (a small town 35 miles from Salt Lake City). Both went to work at the Dugway Proving Ground and Ordnance Depot there. Lisle worked in motor pool and mechanic jobs. Grace ground special lenses for military binoculars and other sighting devices. They never had any children but were a source of support to their siblings and eleven nieces and nephews on the Cronin side and five on the Billington side.

 
Select the collections to add or remove from your search
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z
 
OK