|Frederick H. Billings|
Frederick Billings c. 1876
September 27, 1823|
|Died||September 30, 1890
|Occupation||Lawyer and financier|
|Known for||President of the Northern Pacific Railway|
|Children||7, including Mary Billings French|
|Relatives||Franklin S. Billings (nephew)|
Originally a Whig and later a Republican, from 1846 to 1848 he served as Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs (chief assistant) to Governor Horace Eaton. He studied law with Oliver P. Chandler and attained admission to the bar in 1848.
In 1848, during the California Gold Rush, he moved to San Francisco, becoming the city's first land claims lawyer. He later partnered with Henry Halleck, Trenor W. Park and others in the law firm of Halleck, Peachy & Billings, which became a leading law firm in San Francisco. While in California, he was a trustee of the College of California (later, the University of California at Berkeley) and suggested that the college be named for George Berkeley.
In 1864, he returned to Woodstock, Vermont, and in 1869 purchased George Perkins Marsh's former estate. Billings had read Marsh's pioneering volume on ecology called Man and Nature, and set about to put into practice his theories on conservation. Billings and his heirs set about purchasing many failing farms and reforesting much of the surrounding hillsides with Norway Spruce, Scots Pine, European Larch, and many native species. Today, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock manages and interprets what is probably the oldest managed forest in the United States. The Billings Farm & Museum is a working dairy farm and museum, located just across the street. It is the gateway to learning about Vermont's agricultural history.
In 1872 Billings was a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Vermont. The Republican nomination was then tantamount to election, and Billings, who was Chairman of the convention, had a large group of delegates pledged to him. However, a large number opposed Billings on the grounds that he had been away from Vermont for so long. In addition, delegates opposed the renomination of Governor John W. Stewart, arguing that it would violate the party's "Mountain Rule." The nomination went to Julius Converse even though he was not an active candidate.
Billings later purchased one of the original twelfth interests in the Northern Pacific Railway and, from 1879 to 1881, served as its president. In 1880 he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and made the nominating speech for George F. Edmunds.
He constructed a chapel for the Congregational Church of Woodstock. Although he never owned a home in Billings, Montana, a railroad town established in 1882 and named after him, he provided the money to build the First Congregational Church. His son and daughter provided the financial support to build the Parmly Billings Memorial Library in Billings, Montana. Frederick Billings endowed Billings Library, completed in 1885 for the University of Vermont, and purchased the George Perkins Marsh collection of 12,000 volumes for it.