Yellowstone Genealogy Forum


Edwin Martin Newman – Pioneer Farmer


Saturday, February 05, 2005


Forward & Special Acknowledgements

In support of the 100th year anniversary of Billings, The Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands established plans for the development of Riverfront Park [Billings Boulevard and the Yellowstone River] for use by its citizens. Vern Prill, of the Park Department, directed the research and eventual determination of land ownership during its origin.  The public report of findings was compiled by Judy McNally and issued by the Park Department on November 16, 1981. The original land survey maps prepared by de Lacy, Davis and Minnie, used in the report may be found in the Bureau of Land Management offices. Disclosure and research for details about the area were provided by a group of people who unselfishly gave their time and energy to the project:

o       Elmer Bromenshenk      Billings                          Orson Nickerson Newman property location

o       James & Inez Driscoll   S Riverside Drive          Ed Newman Property location

o       Joe E Miller                  Nutter Blvd                  Courtesy of Elmer Bromenshenk

o       Ethel Sollie                   Edwin’s Daughter         Family Remembrances           

o       Mrs. Roy Newman      

o       William Newman Scott

o       Mrs. D.Celia Willis       S Riverside Drive          Ed Newman Information

o       William M Willis                                               Joseph Cochran & Ed Newman Information

o       John Stricker                S Broadway Street       Orson Nickerson Newman property location

o       Eliz Stricker                  S Broadway Street       Orson Nickerson Newman property location

o       Rick Halvorson                                                 County Assessors Office        

o       Tom Fraser                  School Dist #2              Newman School Information

o       Spencer Lauson            Ronan Drive                 Cochran Information

o       Mrs. Harold Kinsley     Lewis Avenue               Cochran Information

o       Helene Wallis               Clark Avenue               Cochran Information

o       Jim Minnie                    Surveyor                      Headed team of specialists to locate “Josephine Tree” exact placement.

BLM records and genealogical files from the Yellowstone Genealogy Forum provide additional details and maps.

Ed Newman & the First School in Billings

Ed Newman was born March 31, 1858 in Croton, MI, and died May 26, 1926 in Billings from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. [Father was Orson Nickerson Newman, Onida, NY; mother Elizabeth Metalda Tripp, Quebec, Canada] He married Flora Amna Alling August 1, 1883. She was born February 9, 1856 in Reeds Town, WI, and died July 21, 1935 in Billings. [Father was Edward Alling, OH; mother Elizabeth Dean, OH]

In spring of 1878 several new families started to move into Clark’s Fork Valley Bottom. One of the foremost persons was Orson Nickerson (O. N.) Newman, a former justice of the peace in Madison County. He also farmed in Nebraska, Oregon & California. He and his family arrived in March 1878, along with 35 head of cattle, three yoke of oxen and three teams of horses. [Images of Billings, Carrol Van West.] Orson constructed a large log house in Lot #1, Section 16 that became a community center for dances and parties. The “grand” family home was considered the best in the region. [Caption recorded in the O. N. Newman Papers at MSU-Bozeman.]

Standing: William Marvin, Mary Amanda, Charles Henry, and Asa Dow

Seated: Albert Alonzo, Sarah Jane Newman McKinney, Edwin Martin, Elizabeth Metalda Tripp, and Orson Nickerson

On Ground: Abe Benton (Pete), and Mark Twain Newman

Ed acquired 120 acres of land (Lots 2 & 3) in Section 15, Tp 1 S, Rn 26 E in 1883. Date that he took pre-exemption is not available as the BLM records were lost. He placed a fence around the property soon after arriving according to the survey notes made by de Lacy in 1878. Arriving with Ed was Richard W. Clarke. He later made a CASH SALE for his property on Sep 16, 1887.  Richard was a dairyman and farmer. Aaron F. Ford (called Erron) also arrived with the Newman family in 1878, and lived in a tent on their property for a while. He lived at 101 S 31st Street at time of his death on 16 May 1918. Clark later married and had five children.

Before the Newman’s arrived, the location was used as an Indian campground and burial site. It was their custom to place the dead in the stump hollow of large tree trunks.

During their tenure on the property the Yellowstone River kept slicing off pieces of land, and it was reported that Flora said: “she could hear the bank splashing into the water.” It apparently took a lot of the land away as indicated by the map. The original river survey conducted in 1878 is shown dotted, the current position as a solid line.

When the Montana Power Plant was built in Section 2, additional reconstruction of the river course and banks followed, with the apparent change in location in Sections 2, 11, 14 & 15. The severe changes in the river’s course also shows up in Sections 16, 17 and others, is unexplained. This could be due to survey discrepancies, or actual reconstruction. Examination of the records relating to differences has not been researched. A Congressional Act evicted the settlers indicated as living in Section 16 as of 1877 in 1879. See Cochran Files for details.

Their original Ed Newman family home was too small to hold all of the family members, so the boys slept in a bunkhouse nearby. The original home was later incorporated into the Driscoll house after they acquired the property.


Jim Taylor, an early valley resident, built a small cabin on the northeast corner of what later became the Ed Newman land in Section 15. It was reported that the Indians, whom he apparently had cheated, escorted him out of the area, leaving the cabin vacant. [The name was reported to be Taylor, and it is presumed that Jim Taylor is the person being referred.] This cabin served as the first schoolhouse in the region. Ethyl Newman (Mrs. Sollie), daughter of Ed and Flora Newman, didn’t attend the school, but was able to identify its location. It sat next to a foundation located east of 3602 King Avenue South. The foundation itself originally held another second Newman School. This one was framed, had one room, and outdoor toilets. There was no playground equipment. One teacher taught all seven grades. A “big stove in the middle of the building” heated the school. Attending school were children from the Cochran, Frady (lived just east of Newman’s on Lot #1), Miller and Newman families. Their cabin was mile distant, so the Newman children walked; others who lived further away rode horses. [The Polk Directories refer to a South Side School located between 32nd and 34th Streets. This must be the 2nd wood framed Newman School.]

The first “real” teacher was Flora Amna, who followed Nat Givens, a farmer who volunteered his time to teach. According to the Blue Creek School District files, there were two schools referenced as being on the Newman property. The Newman-Elementary School at 605 South Billings Blvd, is the third Newman School, and is dedicated to his memory.

Between 1879 and 1910 there were a total of four different “Newman” Schools in School District #3, north of the Yellowstone River. Each one replaced the former, as population grew.

[It should be noted that the Josephine location, established by W.W. de Lacy on his survey map, represents the place where the boat tied up after reaching the Coulson area on June 7th, 1877 [Piloted by Captain Grant Marsh], and not the furthest point upstream location where it turned around on June 7th 1875 [Commanded by Col. Forsythe.] That location is at Duck Creek. See Josephine Story in Cochran Files.]


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