The town of Lombard once sat along the Milwaukee Road, between Toston and Logan, at the crossroads of the Northern Pacific. Originally known as Castle Junction, the town was founded in 1895 and renamed for the Northern Pacific’s chief engineer A. G. Lombard. Until 1930, no roads led to Lombard and it was accessible only by train and horseback. Chinese immigrant Billy Kee was mayor of Lombard and built a two-story hotel in 1897 called the High Point Inn.
According to some sources, he was the cook for Senator Thomas Carter who helped him acquire the hotel in Lombard. He ran a good establishment with clean beds and a well-stocked restaurant serving meals prepared by Kee’s two Chinese cooks. The hotel featured a community bathroom with hot and cold running water. Kee was known as a “flexible” proprietor. When he retired at night, he would leave the light on for any latecomers and the cash register open. The guests would write their name in the register, put their money in the till, and take a key to a room. Mystery surrounds Kee, who became Montana’s wealthiest Chinese resident. How he amassed his wealth as a hotel proprietor is unknown. Billy, his wife, and his children eventually went back to China.
According the several sources, he became a successful merchant, but according to another probably erroneous source, he got mixed up with the wrong political party and was beheaded. Lombard, however, flourished into the 1950s. It was a popular stopping off place for overnight guests attending dances in nearby Maudlow. Lombard’s greatest fame came in 1931, when actors and crew filming the movie “Danger Lights” descended briefly upon the tiny community. Filming was done along the Milwaukee Road in various places in Montana. Actress Jean Arthur, one of the leads, was the only female in a troupe of one hundred men that that traveled 31,000 miles shooting footage in Montana. But Lombard faded. Today, where there was once a community, nothing remains.