It turns out Gramma Elizabeth (Sand) Hesch was related to Billy thru her mom's sister Mary, who had married Florian Meyer. ◄Here they are in the 1875 Minnesota Census, and there's little son William...who was 2 months old, NOT 24.
(Yes, there was another William Meyer at the same time two farms over. The son of Nic Meyer, that William was 9 in 1875, so he would have been locally known as William or Bill, and the younger cousin would have been Billy).
OK, got all that?
Larry and I searched census records for those years, but this is the only census Florian (b 1833) is mentioned--so, why wasn't he in the 1880 census?
The book I mentioned at the top surprised me with a paragraph about Florian, Billy's dad:
Florian Meyer, a German farmer in the town of Pierz, attended a party in his neighborhood on the evening of February 11th, 1878, at which several of the guests indulged quite freely in drinking beer, which was furnished in abundance. Mr Meyer, as usual for him on such occasions, became boisterous and abusive to those against whom he entertained any hard feelings. There being several such persons present, a general quarrel ensued, and a fight commenced in the house. Those engaged in it were pushed outdoors and during the affray Mr Meyer was stabbed in the left breast, apparently with a small knife. The cut proved fatal, and he died. At the two terms of court that have been held in this county since the affair occurred, strenuous efforts were made to discover the man who committed the crime, which have only resulted in throwing suspicion upon two different parties, whom I do not feel at liberty to name.(A big Hearted Paleface Man, page 311)
I know, I know--it's hard to believe crankiness in one of our ancestors, but there it is. Mary Rausch Meyer was a widow by 1878, when Billy was almost 3. He probably barely remembered his dad.