Perry W. McAdow
Revised 8 November 2002 [Added details]
W. McAdow (Bud) was among the Billings’
area first settlers and real estate dealers. He is probably best known of the Montana gold mining men.
He arrived in Fort Owen [Bitterroot
Valley of Western Montana] in July1861. He went on to Portland, and returned to Montana with Major Owens in the fall. Later
in December he and his future partner A. S. Blake started prospecting for gold
in the dry gulches near Deer Lodge. At Gold Creek they found gold, but cold
weather and snow forced them to seek Fort
Owen for shelter. Early
in the spring of 1862 they returned and found placer gold at Pioneer Gulch (the
first in Montana),
causing a flood of prospectors to come to the site in droves of wagon trains.
Next he moved to Grasshopper Creek [Willard’s Creek – Lewis &
Clark map], which in turn led to Bannack and Bill Fairweather’s May 26,
1863 discovery of gold at Alder Gulch, richest gold strike in the state. Perry subsequently filed mining claims at Fort Maginnis,
near the town of Maiden
[now a ghost town]. His arrival in the Clark’s Fork Valley
area is not documented, but would have been after Thomas McGirl had arrived,
probably mid May 1877. Before Coulson was named as a town, he operated his
store (also referred to as “Coulson”) from a tent presumably on his
property, as did a few others until after September 1877. The Nez Perce
Indians, retreating toward Canada,
burned a saloon tent, near his store, at that time. (The Nez
Perce, escaping from Cottonwood Canyon on Canyon Creek (north of Laurel),
split into three groups, the main body rushing to get to Canada, Chief Joseph
and six followers, and those who acted as rear guards.)
Perry was a merchant by heart, and he and Tom Cooper operated a sawmill in
the Grasshopper Creek area. He sold the mill in the summer of 1864, and moved
to Gallatin Valley to try his hand at ranching and
operating a gristmill [probably a flour mill]. In 1867 he and Nelson Story obtained a
contract from Fort
CF Smith to provide produce to the soldiers stationed there. He purchased
160 acres there for cash entry on May 1, 1871. The land consisted of two
Aliquot parts: E1/2NE Section 7, Tp 2S,Rn 6E and W1/2NW Section 8, Tp 2S, Rn
6E. He sold his land in the Bozeman area to NPR for
construction of a roundhouse on January 9, 1882. At Montana’s Constitutional Convention in
1883, Perry sought to have the legislature include a provision that gave women
voting rights. This didn’t sit very well with the committees and it was
rejected for fear that U. S.
Congressmen would reject statehood.
[Note: It is reported
in his biography, author unknown, that he moved from Gallatin Valley to Coulson
in 1867 to become a merchant and sawmill operator. However, these dates to not
seem to be consistent with the land purchases and the founding date for
Coulson, in June 1877; and according to the War Department’s military
expedition on the riverboat “Josephine”, piloted by Captain Grant
Marsh, in 1875, there were no white men in the area. A Billings Gazette 1914
article states he relocated to the Yellowstone Valley in the summer of 1877.
This must have been in May.] The Josephine riverboat reached Duck Creek on June
7, 1875. See Cochran
files for details.
He purchased 457.86 acres of land (Desert Claim Land identified later by
land surveyors in 1878) south of the Coulson area in Section 2, Rn26E, Tp 1S
[Josephine Park – City Water Plant sites, directly south of John
Alderson’s land, whose property was used for creation of Coulson. The
filing date for the land is not evident as the land filing records held by the
BLM were not microfilmed and apparently have been lost. Homestead applications
are supposedly available through NARA. He did claim ownership of these
lands prior to the arrival of Northern Pacific railroad and had tried
unsuccessfully, along with John Alderson and John Shock, to sell their land to
the railroad at an exorbitant price ($30,000?) for establishment of a permanent
town in Coulson, which was later platted in 1881 by Alderson. He located his
land in the summer of 1876, when the railroad surveyors were creating boundary
Perry published his water rights in Book A, Custer County on November 15,
1879. In that document he identified that he filed for his desert land claim
under Desert Land Act on March 8, 1877, Bozeman District Series. He received
formal title on March 18, 1879. He had the right to 2,000 inches of water for
reclamation and irrigation with water extracted from the Yellowstone River
situated on the south line of Section 10, Lot #4. This ditch crosses many other
parcels (See Abstract Title #2432-YGF Forum Files for details and property
On October 24, 1881 Perry made his final payment
of $457.86 to JV Bogert, Receiver in Custer County.
At time of filing Perry paid the Receiver in
Bozeman $.25 per acre as down payment, with balance due before he could take
On December 10, 1883 the United States issued
Perry a Patent for his land.
After Billings was created, McAdow was asked to sell about 300 acres to
support Billings. This was later known as “McAdow Subdivision”. The
attempt by Alderson to create a town out of Coulson failed, and the town of
Billings was created adjacent to it. [Coulson mainly ran in a northeast
direction essentially parallel to the Interstate Highway that runs through its
center, fully on John Alderson’s land and midway between where the
fairgrounds and Conoco refinery are presently located, according to photographs
of the town, and the land plat. A corner of the western edge of the property
was just before it reached the Headquarters Building, owned by the railroad.]
On June 22, 1885 he granted right-of-way to the Billings Water Power Company to
install pipes and ditches on his land. The ditch connected to the Yellowstone
River was called Coulson Ditch. Perry was operating a sawmill, with virtually
all of his output devoted to the railroad’s needs.
Joseph Cochran was one of his suppliers of logs, others ferried them down
river from areas as far away as Livingston.
The arrival date of the sawmill has not been identified, but had to have
been before September 1877.
Initially he had the mill located on his land,
along with a general store (tent), and a saloon (tent). In early 1878 John
Alderson apparently had decided to change his land plans from farming to the
creation of a more permanent settlement, and encouraged others to locate there.
This would make the town and businesses more accessible to the ferry across the
Yellowstone, which was located about ½ mile to the north of the main business
center. No land was platted at the time, but as businesses came into being,
they generally added to the line of businesses already there. John Alderson
asked Perry to put the sawmill onto his land, so as to better serve the entire
community. It is not known when this occurred, but was before October 1878, and
probably in early spring before cutting could begin. Walter W. de Lacy located
the mill as being on the north riverbank, about 0.6 miles south of the ferry.
Perry’s “saw house” was located a few hundred feet south of
the mill. There is no definition of what a “saw house” was, but
presumably it stored various tools and parts for the sawmill. The origination
contains more details. In the 1880 Federal Census, Perry’s family and his
ten workers were not listed. At that time he had a large farm on his land, and
a store on John Alderson’s land. There were 11 buildings reported as
being in “Coulson” [John Alderson’s land] according to
the 1880 Census. (Photo – Parmly Billings Library – Reprint of
1882 Picture. View looking south toward river.)
When Billings became a real town, Perry created a streetcar connection
between Coulson and Billings. He operated two horse-drawn coaches, and offered
patrons FREE BEER at his Coulson
store in exchange for the two-bit ride. This track ran from the
railroad at 27th Street down to 6th Avenue South, then
northeast to the town’s Main Street.
Perry, along with T. S. Wadsworth and George B. Hulme (originally from
New York City), formed the “Billings Street Car Company” on
25 May 1882. The organization of the company took place on the 20th.
Its function was to serve residents and merchants with trade and passage in the
City of Billings. This line was the first in Montana, and ran from 27th
Street & Minnesota Avenue south to 6th Street, then northwest to
where the Conoco refinery is located, and into Coulson’s Main
Street. The total distance was two
miles. The town of Coulson lay adjacent to Billings, and was only a few blocks
actual travel to its edges. Extensive lines were later created that essentially
created the bus line routes as currently in use. Perry McAdow and Fred H.
Foster jointly owned the McAdow store, founded in 1881 and placed on the
Coulson land at the north edge of the tract. This partnership lasted until
1883. Joining them was Jules Breuchard, who bought supplies for Perry on his
trip east in 1881 to get married. (Both Jules and Fred were employed by the NPR
at the time.) The local mail carrier, Billy Needham, upon completing his last
trip with the Lavina stage made arrangements to go back to live with his mother
in the east. He pulled off his coat in McAdow’s store and accidentally
dropped a pistol he carried in a pocket. The gun went off wounding him in the
leg, and he died a month later despite the efforts of J. H. Rinehart, hospital
steward at Fort Custer, to save him.
Perry created the McAdow Subdivision from his land, with Cleve &
Wadsworth as agents specializing in selling his lots. In 1886 he quit the
area and moved to Judith Gap, where he mined a little and operated yet another
sawmill. He struck it good, and established the “Spotted
Horse” mine that gave him his eventual fortune that had eluded him
earlier in Coulson and Billings.
A few years later in 1889 he sold out to Hauser & Holter, and he and his
wife Marian A (Tomlinson) vacationed in Florida
for a while, then moved to Detroit,
Michigan where he built an impressive mansion that
was their residence from 1891 to 1897. [Their
marriage is reported in the Billings Gazette issue Feb 7 1884. They were
married January 6, 1884.
The Detroit mansion became the First Unitarian Universalist Church. His wife Clara died in Detroit,
and her obituary is reported in the Billings Gazette (1-24-1896).] Perry has a brother, William B. McAdow who
started the first flourmill in the state, and three sisters. He was born in
Kentucky, of Scottish parents. He went to California during the gold rush days,
then back to his home in Missouri until the lure of the west caused him to
travel to Salt Lake City for a two year stay. He returned home again, and in
the spring of 1861 started out for Fort Benton. The steamer he was on caught
fire and exploded. He was left with only the clothes he wore, so he traveled
the remaining 350 miles by foot.