Monday, January 27, 2014


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.

The High Point Inn. Photo via Following the Lieutenant.
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.

The Kee family. Photo via Following the Lieutenant.
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.


  1. Billy Kee is my great-grandfather. He went back to China, became even more wealthy--built factories and an absolute palace of a home....Then the Communists came and took it all away (he was deceased by the time this happened). The home he built is still used as a Communist Party office building in Canton.

    My grandfather and father fled to the United States, my grandmother and aunt fled to Hong Kong and stayed there until after WWII. My grandfather's birth certificate says that Billy's wife's name was Tao Shee (woman of the family Tao), but I have no other information on this.

    1. Thank you for your reply. I would be most interested to learn more about what you know of Billy and your family. His life is shrouded in myth here in Montana. It would be good to put some of those stories to rest. Thanks!