Halleck, Peachy & Billings

Halleck, Peachy & Billings

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Halleck, Peachy & Billings was one of the leading early law firms in San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

 and specialized in land cases. The firm was organized by Frederick H. Billings
Frederick H. Billings
Frederick Billings was an American lawyer and financier. From 1879 to 1881 he was President of the Northern Pacific Railway....

 and Archibald Carey Peachy in 1849, who were joined soon after by Henry Wager Halleck
Henry Wager Halleck
Henry Wager Halleck was a United States Army officer, scholar, and lawyer. A noted expert in military studies, he was known by a nickname that became derogatory, "Old Brains." He was an important participant in the admission of California as a state and became a successful lawyer and land developer...

. Halleck, Peachy & Billings was employed by claimants in the settlement of titles to Mexican land grants
Ranchos of California
The Spanish, and later the Méxican government encouraged settlement of territory now known as California by the establishment of large land grants called ranchos, from which the English ranch is derived. Devoted to raising cattle and sheep, the owners of the ranchos attempted to pattern themselves...

. The firm dissolved in 1861 after Halleck returned to military life and left California.


The firm handled more than half of the land claim cases in California immediately following the enaction of the Land Act of 1851. Although Halleck wrote the land title report that helped draft the Land Act of 1851, he did not support the Land Commission
Public Land Commission
The Public Land Commission, a former agency of the United States government, was created following the admission of California as a state in 1850 . The Commission's purpose was to determine the validity of prior Spanish and Mexican land grants in California.California Senator William M...

, and the firm of Halleck, Peachy & Billings defended many land titles against the Commission. It has been said that Halleck handled the preparation of the briefs for the cases, Peachy the oratory, and that Billings brought in the business. In 1853 Halleck built the Montgomery Block
Montgomery Block
The Montgomery Block was San Francisco's first fireproof and earthquake resistant building. It was located at 628 Montgomery Street, on the south-east corner of the intersection of Montgomery and Washington streets....

 in San Francisco, and the partnership became permanently located there. The firm was dissolved in 1861.


Halleck (1815–1872) was an engineering graduate of West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

. When the Mexican–American War
Mexican–American War
The Mexican–American War, also known as the First American Intervention, the Mexican War, or the U.S.–Mexican War, was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 in the wake of the 1845 U.S...

 began in 1846, Halleck was ordered to California. In 1848 Halleck wrote a report on land titles which was based on land grant settlements made by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. Having studied law in his leisure time, resigned from the army in 1854, and joined two other attorneys of a major San Francisco law partnership, renamed Halleck, Peachy & Billings. He wrote two legal works acknowledged to be leading texts in their time - Mining Laws of Spain and Mexico and International Law. In 1861, four months into the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Halleck was appointed to the rank of major general
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 in the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 and left California.


Archibald Carey Peachy (1820–1883) was a native of Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 who came to California in 1849. On the trip, Peachy met Frederick Billings, and soon after their arrival in San Francisco they formed a partnership as Peachy & Billings. Peachy was a member of the California Assembly in 1852, and of the California State Senate
California State Senate
The California State Senate is the upper house of the California State Legislature. There are 40 state senators. The state legislature meets in the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The Lieutenant Governor is the ex officio President of the Senate and may break a tied vote...

 in 1860 and 1862.


Frederick Billings (1823–1890) graduated at the University of Vermont
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont comprises seven undergraduate schools, an honors college, a graduate college, and a college of medicine. The Honors College does not offer its own degrees; students in the Honors College concurrently enroll in one of the university's seven undergraduate colleges or...

 in 1844, and was admitted to the bar in 1848. In 1849, he was appointed legal advisor of California Territory under Governor Mason
Richard Barnes Mason
Richard Barnes Mason was a career general officer in the United States Army and the fifth military governor of California before it became a U.S. state.-Early life:...

. At this time he became acquainted with Henry W. Halleck. In the spring of 1849 Billings began the practice of law in San Francisco. In 1863 Billings was an important political figure and was credited by some with saving the state of California for the Union. After returning to Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

 in 1866, Billings reorganized the troubled Northern Pacific Railroad and was elected its president in 1879.


Trenor W. Park
Trenor W. Park
Trenor William Park was an American lawyer, political figure, businessman, and philanthropist.-Life:Trenor William Park was born in Woodford, Bennington County, Vermont on December 8th, 1823...

 (1823–1882) of Vermont, came to California in 1852, where his father-in-law Hiland Hall
Hiland Hall
Hiland Hall was a United States Representative from Vermont. He was born in Bennington, Vermont. He attended the common schools, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1819 and commenced practice in Bennington....

 had been appointed to the chairmanship of the United States Land Commission of California, by President Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and the last member of the Whig Party to hold the office of president...

in 1851. Soon after arriving in San Francisco, Park commenced the practice of law, and was invited to join the law firm of Halleck, Peachy & Billings, which became Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park.