Yellowstone Genealogy Forum


Northern Pacific Chronology of Presidents

Revised 20 June 2001c

Since its inception, the railroad has had a difficult time in creating and maintaining the empire started in 1864. This chronology of presidents for the line was created from genealogy biographies of many of the men listed below.

Reference:  President Lincoln signed an Act of Congress on July 2, 1864 creating the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, whose route was to approximately follow the path created by Lewis & Clark in 1804-1805. This Act provided for Right of Way and land grants.

Date Range



12-7-1864 to 1-5-1866

Joshiah Perham

Elected by 1st Board Meeting

1-5-1866 to 11-1-1872

John Gregory Smith

Congress extends completion time

11-1-1872 to 6-30-1875

Gen’l George Cass

Fredrick Billings named Managing Director

6-30-1875 to 5-24-1879

Charles Wright Barstow

Fredrick Billings creates re-organization plan

5-24-1879 to 6-9-1881

Frederick Billings

First 100 miles west of Missouri contracted

6-9-1881 to 9-15-1881

A. H. Barney

Interim president after Frederick Billings resigned

9-15-1881 to 1-4-1884

Henry Villard (aka Hilgard)

Raises millions from ‘Blind Pool” for construction

1-4-1884 to 9-20-1888

Robert Harris

Elected after Villard was ousted

9-20-1888 to 10-20-1893

Thomas Fletcher Oakes

Monad logo adopted in 1893

10-20-1893 to 6-19-1896

Brayton C. Ives

Railroad slips into 2nd bankruptcy

6-19-1896 to 7-1-1896

(No president)

Reorganized as “Northern Pacific Railway”

7-1-1896 to 7-21-1896

Edward D. Adams

Receivership president

7-21-1896 to 9-1-1897

Edwin W. Winter

James Jerome Hill gains tentative interest in line

9-1-1897 to 10-23-1903

Charles Sanger Mellen

X Class 2-8-0 steam engine accepted

10-23-1903 8-27-1912

Howard Elliott

Sherman Antitrust Act violated (1st Term)

8-27-1912 to 1-11-1918

Jule M. Hannaford

1st Term

1-11-1918 to 2-29-1920

Howard Elliott

2nd presidency term

3-1-1920 to 12-1-1921

Jule M. Hannaford

2nd presidency term

12-1-1921 to 9-4-1939

Charles Donnelly

Company lands are geologically surveyed

9-4-1939 to 9-28-1939

(No President)

Charles Donnelley died in office

9-28-1939 to 12-31-1950

Charles Eugene Denney

Mechanized accounting practices installed

1-1-1951 to 9-22-1966

Robert Stetson Macfarlane

Welded rail program initiated

9-22-1966 to 3-3-1970

Louis Wilson Menk

Last president of the line prior to merger

The corporate records of the line’s operation were donated to the Minnesota Historical Society on December 2, 1968.  On March 3, 1970 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, Great Northern Railway, Northern Pacific Railway, Spokane Railway, Portland and Seattle Railway merged into the “Burlington Northern Railroad.”


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