EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week we had news of Margaret Billings‘ death and funeral, and we posted the obituary. The Billings Ranch has been around since the 1940s. — In September, Carol Beam, Boulder County Parks & Open Space (and Lyons resident) wrote an article about the grant that she obtained to work on preserving the history of the lands that the Billings family owned, and is now part of Boulder County Open Spaces. Below is a description of what happens when a family gives/sells/donates/bequeaths their pertinent, large piece of property for Open Space. In the final paragraph is a description of the Lyons museum’s book about the Billings family.
On March 1, 2021, History Colorado awarded Boulder County Parks & Open Space (BCPOS) a $22,150 grant in partnership with a $2,000 BCPOS cash match to complete an intensive-level cultural resource survey on the 326-acre Billings Open Space property located along Longmont Dam Road (County Road 80) west of the Town of Lyons.Boulder County Parks & Open Space
Billings Family Brief History
by Carol Beam, Boulder County Parks & Open Spaces (“Images” magazine)
Boulder County is the ancestral homeland to numerous indigenous people that include, but are not limited to, the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, Comanche, and Sioux. Some indigenous people were occasional visitors to the area, but others, like the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute were more prominent in the area.
Around 1880, the Billings brothers, George, Ferdinand, Norton and Jabe, arrived by covered wagons from South Dakota to the Lyons area. The brothers, their wives, and children prospered in the area with their descendants remaining there today. BCPOS acquired the Billings Open Space in a series of acquisitions from Claire and Margaret Billings between 2000-2007. Claire and Margaret acquired the property in 1965 from Claire’s parents, William and Eugenia Billings, who owned portions of the property since the early 1940s. The property was used for livestock grazing.
What are Cultural Resources
Cultural resources are highly valued because they represent a cultural system. A cultural resource may be a tangible entity or a cultural practice. Tangible cultural resources are categorized as districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects. Archeological resources, cultural landscapes, and ethnographic resources can also be considered cultural resources.
Why conduct a cultural resource survey? The BCPOS mission statement, “To conserve natural, cultural and agricultural resources and provide public uses which reflect sound resource management and community values” ensures that BCPOS considers potential adverse effects to cultural resources prior to action that may disturb a site. In the case of the Billings Open Space, the activity that may have a potential adverse effect to cultural resources is the proposed forest thinning activities to reduce wildfire risk on the property in 2022-2023. Using mechanical tree harvesting equipment, trucks, and chippers to complete the forest thinning, BCPOS, along with its contractor, will identify and document cultural resources in advance of the forest thinning project, helping the department make informed management decisions to protect significant cultural resources from damage or destruction.
What is a cultural resource survey? A cultural resource survey combines fieldwork and post fieldwork reporting to identify and evaluate all cultural resources over 50 years in a specific project area, such as the Billings Open Space.
Cultural Resource Survey Fieldwork
The Billings Open Space cultural resource survey fieldwork will be conducted by a team of professionally qualified and Office of the State Archaeologist-permitted crew chief and two crew members. The field crew will walk the site with a maximum spacing of 50 feet to provide 100% ground coverage of the property. It is expected that the survey crew will complete fieldwork activities in mid- to late October 2021 and complete the post fieldwork reporting by early 2022.
During fieldwork, cultural resources 50 years old or older and visible on the surface or in subsurface exposures will be documented according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Identification and Evaluation and History Colorado’s Cultural Resource Survey Manual.
Lyons History Notes
by Kathleen Spring
The Billings family was a prominent family in the Lyons area. They were ranchers, road builders, timber workers and miners, striving to eke out a living. William P. Billings was born in 1885 in a house near where Shelly’s Cottages was on the N. St. Vrain River. Willie married Eugenia, the daughter of the local Lyons postmaster in Lyons (from 1920 to 1936). About 1908, Willie and his brother Herbert were given money to make a down payment on the Bucherdee Ranch. (It was a short distance above the George Billings Ranch). He later bought out his brother’s share and also homesteaded 160 acres adjacent to Bucherdee. The homestead was acquired around 1911. He eventually acquired 3,100 acres of mountain land. They had six children, and Clair was one of their boys.
Clair Billings (1922 – 2005) and Margaret McCain, Lyons, (1923 – 2021) married in 1944, and moved into their Billings Ranch in 1956. It and their cattle ranch were located a few miles outside of Lyons, near Highway 36, on Longmont Dam Road. Clair was a rancher, and house builder (mainly in Estes Park).
Boulder County Open Space has a grant to study the wider ranch area for artifacts and for preservation goals. They will be seeking input from locals in 2021-22.
The Lyons Redstone Museum has a booklet “They Came by Covered Wagon, A History of the Billings Family,” by Frank D. Weaver $10.00. The family history is also listed in the book “Piecing a Town Together” by Denise Berg & Frank Weaver $25.00, which highlights SIX Billings families in Lyons, and includes many photographs. And the Lyons History Video Project did an interview of Clair and Margaret Billings n their home in 2001, which will be transcribed into a book in the future.
Contact the Lyons Redstone Museum for copies of the books (303) 823-5271 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum is closed for the season, so it may take a week for response time.