Yellowstone County Places

Billings Quarry – William Heffner


Revised 20 June 2001c

 The quarry was placed on 80 acres of land, bought from NPR by William H. Heffner before Billings was established. It was located at the end of Virginia Lane at the base of the rims and 27th Street.  It was positioned 800 feet east to west, and extended 1,000 feet toward the rims. The last of his equipment arrived on August 12, 1882. Heffner was a large 265-pound man, a former pioneer scout for the army, freighter, and sawmill operator for the government at Fort Custer, then operated a sawmill in Coulson in 1881 before starting this business. Logs for the Coulson Sawmill were floated downstream from places like Livingston. He hauled cut timber to the railhead at Miles City. He employed about 50 men during the summer months.  He kept 10 to 12 teams hauling cut stone to the loading docks at the railroad between 27th Street and Broadway (Main Street). Up to four carloads a day were shipped to locations as far as Chicago. The first state capital building used this stone.

The site had a free-running water stream and provided water for cutting the sandstone, and the saw boilers. A spring flowed through the outer edge of the rims and was probably the source of the water. After 1950, the three access entry points to this underground stream were sealed and hidden. Toothless steel blades sawed through the sandstone slabs, using sand from the cut as the abrasive material.  All sorts of fancy cuts could be made with the saw. Slabs weighing up to 20 tons would be blasted out of the rims and carried to the saw. For harder stone a diamond dust abrasive blade was used.

In Billings the stone was used in the Parmly Billings Library, the original courthouse, the Gazette building, Billings State Bank, and most schools, churches and various government buildings. The stone can literally be seen all over Billings, as fences and retaining walls in Pioneer Park, and along Rimrock Road.. In 1906 he ceased operations, one year before his death. His son C J Heffner reopened the quarry in 1909, and operated it until 1927. The steam boiler was handmade and remained onsite until WWII, when local citizens rounded up all available scrap metal for the war effort.

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Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator

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