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Thomas P. Billings

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Mining Official Owes Rise to Experience

(Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 1943)

The slogan of a Salt Lake metallurgical firm is "There no substitute for experience." Perhaps the coiner of the phrase was thinking of Thomas P. (Josh) Billings when it was adopted by the company; perhaps the reverse was true. At any rate this "chicken or the egg" question is of no special importance this outline of another "man behind the gun" in mining.

"Josh" Billings, born in Salt Lake City, was educated in the public schools of the city, and was graduated from the University of Utah in 1906, having been elected to Phi Kappa Phi, an honorary scholastic fraternity. His summer vacations while at the university were spent rustling (and obtaining) jobs in the mines, on railroad location surveys and water power development, all of which afforded him the opportunity of seeing a large part of the western states on foot. Those vacation jobs taught him fundamentals which stood him in good stead in the years to come. His first "position" after graduation was directing a survey party for the Oregon Short Line Railway company on water power development along the Snake river in Idaho, followed by a shift to transit man on railroad location in Oregon. But the mines lured him, and in January, 1907. he returned to Utah and obtained a job with the Ohio Copper company.

Heinz Recalled

At that particular time, F. Augustus Heinze had great plans for Utah, including the building of a mill at Lark, enlarging the Mascotte tunnel to serve Ohio Copper, and building a smelter at Tooele. For this enterprise Heinze organized the Bingham Central railway, and Billings, as resident engineer, participated in the enlargement of the Mascotte tunnel and extending it to the Ohio Copper mine, then in the course of preparation for mining by the block-caving system. He located the site for a 3000-ton concentrator and helped in its erection.

His other activities included work on the construction of rail lines connecting with the Denver and Rio Grande system, and a preliminary survey for a railroad to extend from Lark to Tooele, where it was proposed by Heinze to build the Miners' Smelting company smelter. The 1907 panic put and end to all these activities, with a job of watchman in prospect for Billings. Jobs were scarce, so he went to San Francisco and worked as a laborer on concrete and steel construction.

Joins Utah Copper

A few weeks of that was "enough" and coming back to Utah Tom Billings was put on as a mill hand in the Boston Consolidated mill (now the Arthur concentrator of the Utah Copper company), where his shift boss was D. D. Moffat, now president of the Utah Copper company. From the mill he went to Bingham as engineer at the Utah Copper mine under the late H. C. Goodrich. The work involved surveying railroad extensions and switchbacks for ore and overburden disposal tracks leading from the open pit.

At that time D. C. Jackling's creation was producing 8000 tons of ore, of which 3000 tons were obtained from underground block-caving supervised by the late John McDonald, and 3000 tons from steam shovel operations directed by the late J. D. Shilling Sr., two men who were pioneers and who "knew their stuff." Billings appreciated the importance of this work and its associations, but his bent for finding and developing ore caused him to accept an offer in the Pioche, Nev., district as engineer and shift boss underground with the Nevada-Utah Co. (It is said that the organizing of a southern Nevada baseball league was so attractive that "Josh" couldn't resist the offer.)

Returns to Salt Lake

After 16 months at Pioche; Billings returned to Salt Lake City. Here he met the late Imer Pett, a meeting which was to lead to many years of as splendid an association as has ever been experienced by two men. Its influences were profound and permanent, as indicated by Billings' demeanor in later life. Mr. Pett who had formerly been associated with Heinze in the Ohio Copper venture, had just been appointed manager of the Bingham Mines company, a reorganization of the Bingham Consolidated Mining Smelting company, and controlled by the Hornblower and Weeks interests of Boston. Properties included in the new venture were the Commercial mine in Bingham, the Dalton & Lark mine at Lark, and the Eagle & Blue Bell mine at Eureka.

At the time of the reorganization, the Bingham Mines company assumed an indebtedness involving a bond issue of $1,500,000 and $300,000 in notes payable to Salt Lake banks. The mining properties constituted large areas, but there was little ore in sight. Operations were resumed with block leasers at Lark, and at the Eagle & Blue Bell, but on company account at the Commercial mine; this detail is here recorded for a definite purpose.

Named Superintendent

Billings' first job with the Pett organization was as assayer for about a year before he was made engineer. While block leasing was in progress in the old, more or less abandoned workings at Lark and Eureka, a plan for exploration and development was encountering success. In 1917 the company acquired the Victoria mine in Eureka, and in 1920 obtained control of the Montana Bingham Consolidated Mining company's properties at Bingham. Billings was appointed superintendent of the newly acquired operations, followed by advancement to general superintendent of all the mines under Mr. Pett's management in 1922. By the end of 1923 he had been advanced to manager of mines.

During his association with Mr. Pett, from 1910 to 1929, Billings worked with mine superintendents of great practical ability, men like Joseph (Joe) Hyland and William (Billy) Owens. It was this combination of men that was largely responsible for the success of the Bingham Mines company in paying off all debts and the original bond issue, plus the payment of dividends running into millions of dollars.

During the same period of years the company acquired numbers of claims in the Bingham district and with the Dalton & Lark mine as a nucleus. expanded its holdings into one continuous property extending from the U. S. mine of the U. S. Smelting Refining and Mining company, in upper Bingham northeasterly for a distance four miles. It was these properties and the Eureka mines which he U. S. company acquired in 1929. Billings "went along" with the properties, first as assistant to the late E. A. Hamilton. In 1934 he was advanced to manager of mines in Utah, and just recently was promoted to assistant general manager of metal mines.

Expert on Leasing

Tom Billings probably knows more about and more thoroughly appreciates the importance of block leasing than any other man mining. From 1916 to 1927 he found time to operate leases in to Chief Consolidated mine at Eureka. At Bingham, with his associate, George Robbe, he was involved in the improvement in the technique of leaching copper from waste dumps of the Utah Copper company, from which company they obtained leases.

"Josh" Billings has, among other characteristics, a smile that comes from the heart; the kind smile that makes refusal or the carrying out of an unpleasant duty most painless to the individual affected. He knows; but not all, like all men so well fortified by experience. His kindly firmness reminiscent of Imer Pett, and most men like him instinctively. He is a real Utahn because his father, then then mining gold at Angels Camp, Cal., joined the California volunteers under General Pat Conner, came to Utah in 1860, and he1ped to establish Fort Douglas. Billings married Elizabeth Hyland, daughter of "Joe" Hyland, who had lived in mining camps and was completely sympathetic with his work. "Josh" says she has "kept the ship afloat through thick and thin." They live in Salt Lake City, where they have reared two daughters, Eudora, a graduate of the University of Utah, with an added Master of Arts degree from Stanford university, and Betty Carole, a student at Judge Memorial school at Salt Lake City.

As Al Smith used to say, "Just look at the record."

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Thomas Parry Billings, Obituary

(Salt Lake Tribune, February 27, 1977)

Thomas Parry Billings, age 94, prominent Utah mining executive, died Thursday (February 24th) at home of natural causes. Born October 21, 1884 at Salt Lake City, Utah the son of Lucias A. and Emma Parry Billings. He married Elizabeth Hyland in Salt Lake City, November 9, 1913. He graduated with honors from the University of Utah in 1906, where he was elected to Phi Kappa Phi and Theta Tau honorary fraternities. Mr. Billings was a pioneer in the mining industry of Utah beginning his career with Bingham Mines Company. During his fifty years of service to the industry he pioneered the recovery of copper from leased waters of Bingham Canyon, supervised the construction of the Yosemite Tunnel during World War II, was appointed by the government as a dollar a year man in helping to produce arsenic ore at Gold Hill, Utah. When the Bingham Mines were purchased by the U.S. Smelting Refining and Mining Company Mr. Billings became manager, later general manager of mines for the company's Western states, retiring in 1949 as consulting engineer. He was a contributor to several mining periodicals and advisor to writers of mining history in the West. In 1920, Mr. Billings, then general manager for the Bingham Mines Company, gave to the state of Utah a specimen known as geode, high in lead-silver ore which is now in the Utah State Capitol. In 1952, he was appointed head of the lead and zinc department of the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. in which capacity he remained for one year. In 1965, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the American Institute of Mining Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, in recognition of his fifty years of service to the mining industry in the United States.

He had been an active member of Fort Douglas Golf and Country Club, now Hidden Valley Country Club; a former member of University Club; a member of the Emeritus Club, the University of Utah Alumni Association of Utah Mining Engineers. He was a member of Argenta Lodge No. 3F & A.M. and of the Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, also the York Rite of Free Masonry of Salt Lake City and El Kalah Shrine of Utah.

He is survived by two daughters: Mrs. Valois A. (Eudora) Zarr, Salt Lake City; Mrs. Mike (Betty) Klonizos, Midvale; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; his wife, Elizabeth preceded him in death February 3, 1977. (20 days before his own death)

Public funeral services will be held Monday at 12 noon, at the Masonic Temple. Friends may call Sunday 7-8 p.m. at Nell O'Donnell Mortuary, 372 East 100 South. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children. Interment at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

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