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Inventory of the Halleck, Peachy & Billings Collection, 1837-1861
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Subject Matter

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Halleck, Peachy & Billings Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1837-1861
    Creator: Halleck, Peachy & Billings
    Extent: 80 pieces
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Purchased from the Argonaut Book Shop, December, 1946


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Halleck, Peachy & Billings Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Halleck, Peachy & Billings was one of the most prestigious law firms on the Pacific Coast, headquartered in San Francisco and specializing in land cases. It was organized by Frederick Billings and Alexander Carey Peachy in 1849, who were joined soon after by Henry Wager Halleck. In 1853 Halleck built the Montgomery Black in San Francisco, and the partnership became permanently located there. The firm handled over 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, 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. The firm was dissolved in 1861.
    Henry Wager Halleck (1815-1872) was a West Point graduate (1839) and a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He was sent to California at the beginning of the Mexican War, and was involved in military operations in Lower California and for a brief time was Lt.-Governor of Mazatlan. In 1847 he was made a captain and sent to Monterey where he became Secretary of State and Auditor of Revenues to the military governor of California, Colonel Richard B. Mason. In 1848 Halleck wrote a report on land titles which was based on land grant settlements made by the United States in Florida. After the termination of the law firm, Halleck became a general in the Civil War. He was a top aide to Abraham Lincoln and was present with those in the room at the time of Lincoln's death.
    Frederick Billings (1823-1890) is supposed to have been the first lawyer to begin practice in San Francisco. He was graduated from the University of Vermont in 1844, admitted to the bar in 1849, and appointed legal advisor of California Territory under Governor Mason. At this time he became acquainted with Henry W. Halleck. 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 in 1866, Billings reorganized the troubled Northern Pacific Railroad and was elected its president in 1879.
    The third member of the firm, Archibald Carey Peachy (1820-1883) was a native of Virginia who came to California in 1849, became a member of the California Assembly in 1852 and of the state senate in 1860. It is said that his sympathy with the cause of the South in the Civil War was a contributing factor in the dissolution of the firm of Halleck, Peachy & Billings.

    Subject Matter

    The major part of the collection consists of legal documents written chiefly by Henry W. Halleck relating to the California Land Cases-copies of land titles, drafts of briefs, and opinions used in establishing the legal titles of some 36 different land grants. There are also notes on Spanish land laws and a few papers relating to other legal cases in California.