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Colonel C.B. Little

By | Last Modified: May 5, 2017

Colonel Clarence Belden “C.B.” Little was a prominent businessman, banker, lawyer, judge, and political figure in Bismarck’s early history.

Little was born in Pembroke, New Hampshire on November 18, 1857. After graduating from Dartmouth college with an A.B. degree in 1881, Little later attended Harvard law school and began practicing law in 1883. Later that year, while en route to practice law in Seattle, Little stopped in Bismarck and became enamored with the frontier town and, instead, decided to remain. In 1884, one year after arriving in Bismarck, Little was elected judge of the Burleigh County probate court.

A Republican, Little was a member of the first North Dakota senate… a position he held for twenty years. During his tenure in the senate, Little held several prominent positions, including chairman of the judiciary committee and chairman of the Republican state committee. In 1916, Little served as a delegate-at-large to the Republican national convention.

Banking Legacy

Shortly after arriving in Bismarck, Little befriended Richard B. Mellon, a local banker who later became one of the founders of the famous Mellon banking legacy. Mellon introduced Little to the banking industry and, by 1884, Little became Mellon’s competitor upon his election as a director of Capital National Bank. In 1886, Little became president of Capital National and, in 1895, he purchased the controlling interest in First National Bank, which was founded in 1879.

Little merged Capital National Bank and First National Bank, assuming management of the combined institution. Even after retiring from active business participation, Little continued as president of First National Bank until his death.

Dispute their rivalry, Mellon and Little remained friends for years. When Mellon relocated from Bismarck, he asked Little to join him, but Little declined.

Provident Life Insurance

In addition to his successful banking endeavors, Little also helped establish Provident Life Insurance Company, which eventually grew to become the largest privately owned institution in North Dakota. He served as the company’s president for many years.

Personal Life

Little was married twice, first to Caroline Little in Boston on November 24, 1885. His first wife died in 1933, five years later, Little married again, to Irene Shepard. Little had two children, George and Viroque.

Little’s long-time private residence, located on the corner of Washington Street & West Avenue A, is today owned by the Bismarck Catholic Diocese. For many years, it housed the Benedictine Sisters. Little lived in the house from its 1902 completion until shortly before his death.

After battling illness for several months, Little died on September 25, 1941 in Saint Paul.

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