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Billings History, Montana

Billings, also known as the “Magic City”, represents a real metropolis for Montana standards – there a little more than 100 000 souls living in the city itself, and a total of about 180 000 in the whole Billings Metropolitan Area. The nickname “Magic City” comes from the rapid development the city went through, since its foundation in 1877, until the present days, when it’s the largest and most populated city in Montana (followed by Great Falls, Missoula, Helena and Bozeman).

Billings History - First Settlers

Billings’ history is highly connected with the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad. For centuries, Billings area represented hunting grounds for Native American tribes as Crow, Sioux, and Cheyenne. Steamboats circulated up the Yellowstone River in the mid 19th century, facilitating commerce in Coulson, a town that was rapidly forgotten when the railroad was built and Billings established a few miles west. The first pioneers who came in this part of Montana foresaw its potential for farming and raising cattle. As the arrival of European settlers menaced the Native American lifestyle, the Sioux-Wars began in 1860’s.

Only 65 miles southeast of Billings, the bloodiest battle in this war took place (The Battle of Little Bighorn), when an entire US Army regiment was killed by the Sioux and Cheyenne allies. Nevertheless, as the railroad extended, the immigration flow couldn’t be stopped any longer. The Union Pacific owners intensely promoted these new acquired lands, to a degree that, from 1882, when Frederick Billings (whose last name was later borrowed by the new establishment) and his associates formed the Montana & Minnesota Land & Improvement Co., till 1883, Billings already had 1500 inhabitants. In Billings’s history, 1982 marks the year of the incorporation, when it officially became a town of Montana.

Billings History - Industrial Development

In the early 1900’s, land was given for free, so many families came to get their 40 acre plot and start a farm. When the vast prairies became irrigated from the waters of Yellowstone River, agriculture was given a boost, yet the area proved to have many more resources. The minerals, coal, natural gas, and oil helped the industry flourish, not to mention the vital role played by transportation. Agriculture and industry joined forces when large beetroot plantations were cultivated and sugar refineries were ran with the help of Japanese, Russo-German and Mexican workers.

Billings represents a strategic point for a vast territory, as it is the main medical and cultural centre serving Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming. In 1992, Billings received the All America City Award, in recognition of its public policies and community implication and was ranked by Best Life Magazine as the third in the top of the safest places to raise a family in America.

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