Gustav Billing, the Kelly mine, and the great smelter at Park City, Socorro County, New Mexico
— Robert W. Eveleth


That Socorro, New Mexico, was ever a booming industrial center is not readily apparent from our perspective of the 1980's. Yet for a time the town was one of the larger such centers in the Southwest. Many factors had contributed to this state of affairs. For example, the Socorro Peak mining district had developed mines that gave every indication of being successful producers. The Torrence ten-stamp mill and New Orleans and La Joya smelter had been erected on the south end of town to process the rich silver-chloride ores being produced. Moreover, impressive deposits of lead carbonate were being developed at Magdalena and these were shipped to Socorro to be treated at the local smelter or loaded aboard the cars of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, which had only recently arrived, for reduction at smelters in Colorado or elsewhere. Socorro, which had primarily been an agricultural community with a relatively steady population prior to the 1880's, began to grow as a result of this increasing industrial activity. The population reached 1272 by 1880 (Eleventh Census, U.S., p. 243). The really large boom came when Gustav Billing purchased and systematically developed the Kelly mine at Magdalena and constructed a large-scale smelting complex at Park City to treat its ores in 1883. Largely because of the honesty, energy, and enterprise of this one man, Socorro would enjoy over a decade of economic growth and would earn the title of Mining and Smelting Center of the Southwest.

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Recommended Citation:

  1. Eveleth, Robert W., 1983, Gustav Billing, the Kelly mine, and the great smelter at Park City, Socorro County, New Mexico, in: Socorro region II, Chapin, C. E., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 34th Field Conference, pp. 89-95.

[see guidebook]