Its First Hundred Years
One of the first depot agents to serve the Billings community, and one of its most ardent civic boosters, was L. W. Sanders. In 1879 he entered into a partnership with M. T. Russell to establish a general merchandise store. His ability in commercial enterprise and his faith in Billings soon became apparent, and in 1884 he founded the J. W. Sanders Mercantile Company. During his lifetime, and later under the ownership of J. B. Berghaus, the store became known throughout the region as a leading business concern.
Billings' pioneer printer and publisher was one E. Osborn, who started The Southwest Missourian in 1879, later changing the name of the newspaper to The News-Record. In 1881, the newspaper and printing plant were sold to W. W. Kinloch and the newspaper's name was changed to The Billings Times. It was published for over seventy years, under a succession of editors, until its publication was discontinued in 1954.
Other firms which appeared upon the Billings business scene before the turn of the century included the C. A. Neyer Hardware Company, Hill Bros. Hardware Company, TurnerWest Dry Goods Company, the J. M. Hall, J. A. Suttlemyre, J. S. Schmill and Brown grocery stores, William Watkinson, Jeweler, the J. W. York and Andrews drug stores. There were many more, some of them of short duration, others still prominent names in the business life of Billings.
Billings was incorporated as a village in 1884, and included the land originally laid out by the railroad company in the early '70's. The new municipal corporation also included the Purdy, Plymouth, Stansberry, S. Jones, Hall, Rauch and Griesemer Additions. Frank Morris was selected Chairman of the Board of Trustees, C. E. Purdy served as first Village Clerk, and the Board appointed John Mendenhall as first Village Marshal. In 1891, Billings attained its present status as a city of the fourth class.
Billings' first financial institution, The Bank of Billings, was chartered in March 1889, and opened its doors for business on May 14 following. The original officers were T. J. McCord, President, J. W. Sanders, Vice President, and A. J. Howard, Cashier. Other directors included Joseph J. Pierce