Yellowstone Genealogy Forum


Henry Albert Frith - Lawyer

[Reference: Billings Gazette 1960 Special Edition

Revised 6 February 2002

Some researchers referred to Henry as being the first settler in the county, arriving before Thomas McGirl, and settling in the Huntley area. All biographical references of other settlers at the time in 1877 indicate that he arrived after Thomas. His biographical sketch (April 15, 1922) stated he departed Fort Concho, TX and traveled by train, rail and steamboat arriving at Standing Rock, ND in the summer of 1876 immediately after the Custer Battle (June). He then traveled to Cantonment {Tongue River – Miles City, MT] June 15, 1877. At the time of his arrival he was a soldier in Company H, 11th US Infantry.  [Photo source un-named].

Henry was born 13 Apr 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland, son of Henry Albert Frith, born in Scotland and mother Christina Monroe[1], and also born in Scotland. He died in Long Beach, CA 19 March 1943. His body was shipped to Billings for burial in Mountview on the 24th.  He married Helen G Miller in 1905 and later in 1927 moved to Long Beach. Helen was born 15 June 1874 in Iowa City, IA[2]. Her parents were Charles C. Miller (Germany) and Sarah McCullough (Ohio). She died 4 Jan 1955 in Long Beach, and was also buried in Mountview (January 11th). He had no children from this marriage. He came to America at an early age. He enlisted in 1868 and was assigned to Company H, 29th Infantry, which later became the Eleventh.  His company was first ordered to Texas to help keep order during the reconstruction efforts following the Civil War. He served in campaigns in Texas and Indian Territories until receiving a discharge to enter civilian life in 1872. He taught Negro students in Texas, but being that he was white, he was very unpopular with them, so he reentered the army in 1873. He was reassigned to his former command, and for a while served in the Signal Corps under General Greeley of artic fame.

In the winter of 1876 his command was ordered to the newly formed Montana Territory along with his regiment to disarm the Sioux Indians and establish Forts Keogh and Custer. Colonel Nelson A. Miles was commanding. Early in 1877, following completion of the military assignment in June, he again received an honorable discharge, and immediately located a homestead on land near where Thomas McGirl was located. (160 acres NE , S34, 2N, R27E) In 1895 he purchased another 56.5 acres in the same area for cash. Thomas McGirl’s business was expanding and he opened another store to help carry the business load. Henry managed the store for him until 1879 when he left to go into the Judith River area and serve as deputy director of the Yogo Mining district. At times he also carried on a general trade with the Indians in the Musselshell regions. The Indians considered him to be “always talking with a straight tongue.”  He left the area soon afterwards and entered Kent College of Law in Chicago, graduating in 1896.  He returned to Billings, and entered law practice there. In addition to his law practice, he served for 27 years as the United States referee in bankruptcy for the fifth judicial district, which covered most of eastern Montana.

He served on the Billings’ City council for a term, and was appointed by the governor to be a member of the local park board.  He was one of the leaders in the establishment of the Association of Pioneers of Eastern Montana, serving in various capacities as secretary, treasurer, and president. He also served as the national judge advocate for the United Indian War Veterans of America. One can easily see why he became so interested in the Association of Pioneers of Eastern Montana when he tell the story[3] about trading with the Indians. It is hilarious, and represents what the past has to offer.




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[1] His Biographical Fact sheet prepared by him on April 15, 1922 stated mother’s maiden name was “Munroe”, his Death Certificate details stated “Monroe.”

[2] Funeral Records from the YGF.

[3] Montana Biographies, compiled by ID O’Donnell, 1881