Billman and Burlingame

By Scott N. Lowery

Mention of the names Billman and Burlingame may conjure up thoughts of a railroad or law firm, but although they are neither the respective family names are firmly imbedded in the early formation of the South Williamsport community.

Samuel Billman was a descendent of Hans Bielman who first arrived in America in 1736 living in Lehigh County. During the French & Indian Wars, Han’s wife and two of his five children were killed by Indians. Hans was partially scalped but survived, recovered, re-married and later family members relocated to Northumberland and South Williamsport, drawn to job opportunities created by the lumber boom.

In 1882 Samuel Billman was employed as a laborer and resided in a residence located on River Road in South Williamsport. As time passed members of the Billman family migrated to Ohio. One son remained behind and raised three daughters in a Sears house he built on Southmont Avenue in 1921. Family members remained in that dwelling until 1962.

The Billman name was prominent as the name of one of two Post Offices located in South Williamsport before the Borough was incorporated in 1886. It was located near Maynard Street. The second Post Office was located near Market Street, named Burlingame after a gentleman who owned land in the area.

Edwin Burlingame was a descendent of Roger Burlingame who was the first white settler in the area now known as Cranston, Rhode Island. Born in 1836, he was involved in a variety of business endeavors eventually becoming the president of Potter County Lumber Company operating in the northern part of Pennsylvania. He moved to Williamsport in 1867 living in a home at 53 Lycoming Street. He owned land near Market Street which was called Burlingame and later referred to as Rocktown. He divided the surrounding area into building lots.

Burlingame was a prominent civil engineer who designed two river bridges and the city’s water works. He also organized and built the Williamsport Rubber Company, later known as the United States Rubber Company. He later left the Williamsport area and became the engineer on the first Hudson River Tunnel in New York. He then went on to build water works in more than 10 U.S. cities.

(from information researched by Chuck Luppert)

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