Located on State Highway 15, five miles west of Interstate Highway 35, in the northwest corner of Noble County, Billings is approximately thirty-five miles from both Enid and Ponca City, Oklahoma, the major shopping and medical centers for residents. Billings actually began in the Cherokee Outlet land run of 1893 as the town of White Rock, located three miles east and two miles south of its present location, and prospered in an agricultural area devoted to livestock and grain.
This prosperity encouraged the Enid and Tonkawa Railway (after 1900, part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) to run a spur line out from North Enid in 1899. The railroad, however, did not go through White Rock, and the residents soon moved to the new location. After a Billings Town Company formed, with directors M. O. Billings, Wesley Taylor, and James M. Taylor, the town was named for Billings. A Spring Carnival souvenir booklet dated April 14, 1900, reveals that the townsite was opened October 23, 1899. By April the population approached eight hundred, served by forty business houses, three churches, and two lodges.
After peaking at 846 in 1920, the population varied from 500 to 600 from 1930 to 1980. The Billings News informed the community from 1902 through 1985. One graduate of Billings High School, Henry L. Bellmon of the class of 1938, made a significant contribution to the history of Oklahoma. He served two terms both as governor of Oklahoma and in the U.S. Senate.
With a 1990 population of 555, the town had lost most of its downtown merchants. However, employment was provided by a manufacturing plant, a grain elevator, a nursing home, and the local school system. The nearby county seat, Perry, provides a major source of employment and the closest hospital. Ironically, the railroad tracks that brought Billings into being were removed in 1986, but the community remained. At the end of the twentieth century it supported two museums, the Renfrow-Miller Museum and the Henry and Shirley Bellmon Museum, in addition to an active chamber of commerce. Population in 2000 stood at 436.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Henry Bellmon and Pat Bellmon, The Life and Times of Henry Bellmon (Tulsa, Okla.: Council Oak Publishing Co., 1992). "Billings Centennial Commemorative Edition," Perry (Oklahoma) Daily Journal, 13 October 1999. Robert E. Cunningham, Perry: Pride of the Prairie (Stillwater, Okla.: Frontier Printers, Inc., 1973). Noble County Genealogical Society, History of Noble County, Oklahoma, Vol. 1 (Norman, Okla.: Privately printed, 1987).
Jerry H. McKeown
© Oklahoma Historical Society