Yellowstone County MTGenWeb

Yellowstone County Biographies

Fred Haskel Foster
NPR Engineer – City Mayor

Revised Sunday, May 27, 2012 Lineage correction

Fred Foster arrived in Montana along with others in the Northern Pacific railroad engineering corps on August 18, 1879. He formed a business partnership with Perry W. McAdow in 1881, at Coulson, which lasted until 1883. In 1882 he patented a piece of land, and platted a section to become the Foster Addition to Billings. Following this, he went to Washington DC and spent a year there lobbying for opening of the Crow Reservation western end for settlement. He successfully got a commission appointed to negotiate with the Crow Indians, and he became a member of that commission. He was one of the first Yellowstone County Commissioners, and became Mayor of Billings in 1889. This followed for another term in 1893, followed by three consecutive terms from 1903 to 1909. He was a school trustee in 1904, and in 1895 he was clerk of the Montana Senate. In total he served six terms.

         1889 – Fred Foster was elected Mayor for his first term. He was a surveyor with NPR, and dabbled in real estate. His father created Foster’s Addition, and was a party to Henry Rowley’s successful ventures to create Billings. There was no opponent running against him, and only 132 voters turned out. After this term he withdrew from the elections and concentrated on managing his father’s land development acquisitions.

         1893 – Fred was again asked to run for the Mayor’s office. As a result of his name appearing on list of candidates, all others dropped out, and went to the polls unopposed.

         1903 – Fred ran for the office on the Democratic Ticket and was elected, and for the next three terms (six years) retained that position. He captured all four wards in the precinct. At the same election voters decided to annex the northeast section of the city.

         1905 – Fred beat out Rev. Miller by 585 to 312 votes.

         1907 – Fred beat out W. B. George by only 68 votes (685 to 617). This was his to be last entry into the race; however:

         1909 – Last term in office

He was born in Minnesota February 2, 1856 of Scotch-Irish parents. He married Georgia McLaughlin, from Minnesota, in Billings (Coulson) 1882, and had nine children, five of whom reached adulthood. He died October 26, 1917 in Billings.

Robert Foster, [father of son Fred, created “Foster’s Addition” to the Town of Billings, was subject of a land ownership dispute], died intestate on October 9, 1909 in Billings, MT. As there was considerable property and debt to be settled, his heirs claimed prior ownerships to the lands known as Foster’s Addition, due to an apparent clerical error in filing. The North Town Land Company, whom had current title to this specific land, filed a suit against the heirs. [Fred’s father, Robert, died intestate in Billings on 9 September1909[1]; his mother Lucinda A. Foster, died intestate on 12 February 1883[2].] Only the legitimate living heirs by law and as established by the court, in order of their interests, were entitled to receive distribution from Fred’s estate. These are listed below, and no explanation was located as to why these persons were selected, other than they are the ones involved in land transaction transfers prior to Robert’s death: [Reference: Civil Complaint No. 3934 Filed on December 8, 1913, in District Court, 13th Judicial District of the State of Montana, Billings, MT.] Determination of whether or not this land is to be considered part of that estate is what is being examined.


Fred H. Foster & Georgia Foster (Fred H. Foster and wife Georgia, and named defendants)

Josephine Foster [Note: Charles Foster’s 2nd wife]

Clara L. King (Husband John R. King, and named defendant)

Agnes Foster [Note: Dr. Henry W. Foster’s wife]

Mable P. Lamme (Husband Maurice Lamme, and named defendant)

Myrtle Steffins (Husband Claude L. Steffins, and named defendant)


There were initially two parcels of land associated with the development of Foster’s Addition: Hezekiah James and William Blair. Together these parcels comprised 160 acres of land in the SE1/4 of Section 32, Township 1 N, Range 26 East, immediately west of the Billings original land site. These two persons provided the additional acreage through Section 2306 of the Revised statutes of the United States. They were previously granted land Patents for 80 acres or land, acreage that was less than the 160 acres allotted to them. Through a legal shuffle they obtained the additional 80 acres each, and transferred immediate title to Robert Foster. The actual Patents for the land were issued approximately two years later, and filed five years after that time. By having them get the land before it was known about the town of Billings, they kept the town’s beginnings secret. Other land deals around the Billings’ area were similar in nature.


On 28 February 1882, all lands and premises were conveyed to Robert Foster. Power of Attorneys were issued to other attorneys so that Robert Foster could acquire the 160 acres of land he wanted, which included all water, mineral and mining rights.


Hezekiah James (Arkansas Resident):


The entry filing was on September 27, 1882. This consisted of a $6.00 filing fee. (C. A. Vedder was the attorney, $500 fee)


Quit Claim Deed filed September 28, 1882 from Hezekiah James (Arkansas resident) to Robert Foster for $680. All W1/2, SE1/4, Section 32-1N-26E [80 acres], Custer Co[3], MT.


Warranty Deed filed Nov 18, 1882 from Robert & Lucinda Foster to Thomas C. Kurtz for $8,000, one-half undivided interests in the 80 acres of land.


William Blair (Arkansas Resident):


The entry filing was on September 27, 1882. This consisted of a $6.00 filing fee. (L. A. Luce was the attorney, $200 fee)


Quit Claim Deed filed September 28, 1882 from William Blair (Arkansas resident) to Robert Foster for $680. All E1/2, SE1/4, Section 32-1N-26E [80 acres], Gallatin Co, MT.


Warranty Deeds filed Nov 18, 1882 from Robert & Lucinda Foster to Thomas C. Kurtz for $8,000 each, one-half undivided interests in the two 80 acre parcels of land.


Creation of Foster’s Addition


Robert Foster & Thomas Kurtz (and their wives) jointly created Foster’s Addition. The survey for the new addition was initiated and the plat filed on December 26, 1882 in Custer County with the First Judicial Court. It was “acknowledged” by Thomas and Anna Kurtz on June 9, 1883 in Clay Co, MN. On June 26, 1883, Robert & Lucinda Foster acknowledged it at Hennepin Co, MN.


On November 25, 1883 Robert & Lucinda Foster gave full Power of Attorney to their son Fred H. Foster for their one-half interests in the Foster’s Addition [Creating a full partnership with the Kurtz’s.]. This was acknowledged only in Hennepin Co, MN.


On January 29, 1884 Fred and Georgia Foster Quit Claimed all of Foster’s Addition back to his father, excepting for Lots # 13-24 in Block 56. [There was never a transfer of title from Robert to Fred for the property (only Power of Attorney), so this transaction is not understood.] Robert retained the land until July 17, 1888 when he sold 1/4 interest in Lots 4 &6 of Block 27 and others via a Warranty Deed to John H. Conrad for $3,000. Fred Foster was the attorney-in-fact for Robert. John Conrad and wife Mabel Barnaby Conrad, in turn Quit Claimed his interests on October 29, 1890 to John R. King (stepfather of Clara Louise Foster.) John R. King and wife Annie E. King gave a Warranty Deed to J. A. Savage on December 4, 1891 for the same land. J A Savage (unmarried) retransferred the interest in the land via Warranty Deed back to Robert Foster on December 22, 1892. This was filed in Park Co, MT. On December 24, 1892, Robert Foster (now a widower) mortgaged his remaining interests in the land for $2,000 to John R. King. The note was due in one year and carried an interest rate of 10%. Assignments (payments) of this mortgage were never recorded, but the transaction was recorded in Yellowstone Co on the December 24th date. King transferred the mortgage to National Park Bank in Livingston, MT. This initiated a lengthy series of claims and clarifications regarding the legality of ownerships, since the loan was never repaid.


The claim stated that the land was held in trust for Fred H. Foster and that Robert Foster never actually owned any interest in the properties, and never claimed title or interest in the estate. Since that time, and until 20 March 1902, North Town Land Company had sold or transferred all properties belonging to Fred to other purchasers via Warranty Deeds with a claim to defend the purchasers against any claims that heirs might have. The heirs claimed that the properties were sold without granted rights to do so, and as such claimed all the right of prior ownerships.


In 1900 Thomas C. Kurtz, and his wife Louise Kurtz conveyed all of their interests to F. G. Barrows (receiver for the estate of Henry A. Bruns and Thomas C. Kurtz, re: Merchants Bank of Moorehead.) [They were unaware that a mortgage existed, and that it wasn’t paid.] Barrows then sold all interests to Austin North (North Town Land Company) and filed the receiverships in Minnesota. None were filed in Montana, thus the Foster’s claim was that the transactions were not legal; and the fight for ownership began.


However, the files identified where the defendants were located, and they were to be served summons by the court in Billings on December 8, 1913:


Claude L. Steffins & Myrtle Steffins, Gallatin County, served on January 6, 1914 with summons dated at Bozeman January 5, 1914. [Sheriff W.S. Evans & Deputy George R. Huffman.]


C. H. Newman [Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners], and Fred and Georgia Foster were served on January 8, 1914 in Billings by Sheriff J.C. Orrick.


It was reported that none of the other heirs resided in Montana and could not be located. Notices of the pending litigation were then posted in the weekly local papers as an attempt to locate the missing heirs. [January 8, 1914 through January 29, 1914] None were located.


On June 22, 1914, the court ruled against the Fosters, and that all properties belonged to the North Town Land Company. [JB, #6, page 220, filed June 22, 1914, in Court House] Austin North paid the mortgage, and the title was cleared.

[1] Death Certificate

[2] The Case file states he died 9 February 1909. This has to be a clerical error. See death records and burials in Mountview Cemetery.

[3] Now Yellowstone County.

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Katy Hestand
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