Frederick Billings’ Son Didn’t Say Very Nice Things About Billings
Billings is named after a man who never actually lived in our fair city. He was an East Coaster who spent considerable time earning substantial wealth in - gasp - California, where he was a prominent attorney for the mining industry and other businesses. You probably know his name was Frederick Billings.
Mr. Billings became California's first Attorney General and was active in political issues, according to HMdb.com, the historical marker database website. Billings continued to grow his fortune from lucrative legal fees and real estate dealings the in San Francisco area, before he eventually returned to his family abode in Woodstock, Vermont.
Frederick Billings then got into the railroad business.
The American West was ripe for expansion (some may say exploitation) with the ever-advancing railroads and this is where Frederick Billings ended up lending his surname to the Magic City. According to the National Park Service, Billings bought a 1/12 interest in the Northern Pacific Railroad. He became the president of the company, spearheading its successful transcontinental completion. While Frederick Billings never lived here, his son did. And he apparently wasn't much of a fan.
Meet Parmley Billings.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because our library shares the same name. I had forgotten why, until writing this article. Parmley was Frederick's son, and he did live in Billings for a period of time. Parmley grew up on the luxurious family estate in Vermont, but according to history, his father sent him to the new town of Billings, MT in 1884. Young Parmley apparently was none too fond of our emerging frontier town. He reportedly wrote his father,
Prospects in Billings look as bright as the bottom of a camp fry pan.
His sour attitude didn't stop him from becoming a successful businessman in Billings. With banking, retail, and real estate deals under his belt, he made a lot of money in our town and was partially responsible for the construction of The Big Ditch, bringing irrigation to much of the Billings area.