Biography of William Billings

WM. BILLINGS. – The name Billings at once suggests the picturesque hills and valleys of Vermont; and we find that the subject of this sketch is indeed a Green Mountain boy, having been born in Ripton in 1827. He lived upon his father’s place until 1846, and in that year went down to New Bedford and shipped before the mast. This step brought him to Washington Territory; for, in 1849, he was left at Honolulu, from whence, in the bark Mary, he came to California, the gold of the Yuba mines detaining him but a few months. Indeed, the best place to obtain California gold was not always in California. He came to Portland in the autumn, and found employment in hewing timber for the first steam sawmill in that embryo city. Remaining here until 1852, he joined a company of seventy gold hunters who bought the brig Eagle for the purpose of going to Queen Charlotte’s Island prospecting. The expedition proved a failure; and the company returned to the mainland, disbanding and selling their vessel at Olympia.

Being thus landed in his future home, Mr. Billings located a claim three miles from town and followed lumbering three years. But the war of 1855 called him from this peaceful and remunerative occupation, making a soldier of him for a year. He served in the Yakima country, and after his discharge in 1856 busied himself a number of years at Olympia in whatever enterprise or business came to hand. In 1860 he entered the field of politics, being the nominee of the Republican party for sheriff of Thurston county. In this campaign he was successful, and was the first Republican elected to office there. Upon retiring in 1862, he was appointed corporal in charge of the Puyallup Indian reservation, and in 1867 was transferred to the Black river reservation in the same capacity. Returning to Olympia the following season, he was appointed to fill an unexpired term as sheriff, and was nominated and elected to the same place when the office was again within the gift of the people, and has served continuously in this position up to the present time, always as a Republican. Farmer, sailor, miner, logger, soldier, politician, Indian disciplinarian, – Mr. Billings “is built four square to every wind that blows,” and could make and fill a position in any part of the world. He is a substantial citizen of unquestioned probity, and has a fine family of five children.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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