Historical society<br>honors GC notables
A Grand Canyon couple who was heavily involved with the community for several years, a librarian who helped all those who came her way for nearly four decades and a geologist who performed pioneering research were all honored Saturday afternoon during the Grand Canyon Historical Society’s annual picnic at Shoshone Point.
George Billingsley, left, accepts the Pioneer Award from the Grand Canyon HIstorical Society’s Tom Carmony Saturday afternoon at Shoshone Point.
In its sixth year, the historical society and the National Park Service have now honored 18 individuals and two organizations with the Hall of Fame Award for Community Service. The honor is intended to recognize those who have selflessly contributed to the betterment of the local community over years past.
Sam and Eloise Turner were two of the three individuals receiving Hall of Fame community service awards. The historical society’s Al Richmond said one could not be considered without the other.
“They worked together in many of the community activities,” Richmond said. “Although Sam served as the Santa Fe station master for many years and was considered by many to be the ‘mayor’ of Grand Canyon Village, Eloise was probably the more outgoing, verbal member of the family.”
Eloise Fain Turner was a reporter for the Associated Press, also writing for Santa Fe Magazine. In 1956, she covered the mid-air collision of United Airlines-TWA jets over Grand Canyon.
During World War II, she taught at Grand Canyon School. Over the years, she was also involved in the community by directing local productions at the Community Building, teaching piano lessons and serving as co-president with her husband of the Grand Canyon Square Dance group.
Sam Turner Sr., supervised all of the Santa Fe structures that now form the village’s historic district, Richmond said.
“In this he took a personal interest in their appearance and did his best to take care of the facilities in cooperation with the Park Service,” Richmond said. “The park relied on him for a smoother operation of the utilities and water systems ... all built, operated and maintained by the Santa Fe at that time.”
Richmond said Eloise Turner contributed in another way that may be more intangible.
“In her years of teaching, and in the journals she wrote, along with our conversations, she was dedicated to the beauty of Grand Canyon and the importance of preserving it for future generations,” Richmond said. “She taught her school children those concepts. Sam and Eloise both contributed considerable time and effort to the Grand Canyon community.”
The historical society also honored Louise Hinchliffe, the longtime community librarian who had several levels of involvement locally.
“Louise Hinchliffe was a Grand Canyon institution for nearly 40 years,” Richmond said. “Her duties over the years included interpretation, museum and visitor center support, Natural History Association secretary, and she is primarily remembered as the librarian.”
While a librarian, Hinchliffe worked with the acquisitions of nearly 5,000 volumes and endured a couple of moves.
“Her real contribution to the community came through her long and considerable knowledge of the Canyon, the village, and its people,” Richmond said. “As librarian she assisted many authors with their research, reviewed manuscripts and corrected errors.”
Richmond described Hinchliffe as the librarian’s librarian.
“During her tenure, the card catalog at the library became the least used resource,” he said. “When researchers presented themselves to Louise with their requirements, she simply went into the stacks and returned with the appropriate books and documents … from memory. Louise also recommended additional sources and provided these as well.”
Besides her obvious library skills, Hinchliffe lived at Grand Canyon during a time when the village was forming. In fact, she named at least three streets.
“Another lasting impression left by Louise upon the community are the names of Juniper Hill, Center Road and Sunset Drive,” Richmond said.
At the time, Center Road was the center of the community, with railroad folks on one side and Fred Harvey Co., employees on the other. Thus, the name Center Street became appropriate.
Hinchliffe, who now lives in Sedona and could not attend Saturday, will be receiving her award from Richmond. Descendents of the Turners will receive their plaques along with a letter describing the honor.
This year, the historical society also honored George H. Billingsley with the Pioneer Award. Past winners of the honor include Harvey Butchart, Gale Burak, George Steck and Bill Suran.
Billingsley, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, was described by the historical society’s Tom Carmony as someone who has “probably seen more of Grand Canyon geology than anyone else alive.”
Billingsley has been involved with the Canyon in various capacities, including as a Park Service ranger at Havasu and a Colorado River boatman. Billingsley also has been noted for his pioneering research in the mining history of northern Arizona.
But his main contributions appear to have been through geology. One of his most impressive accomplishments was his discovery of a new geological formation in the Canyon. Called Surprise Canyon formation, it is located on top of redwall limestone.
“I just love the Canyon,” Billingsley said. “I’ve been studying it since 1964; I hope I have a few more years to go. I appreciate this, I’ve never gotten an award like this before.”
Billingsley helped develop new, modern geologic maps of the Grand Canyon, and has almost single-handedly mapped most of the Arizona Strip. He continues his work, one of his latest projects being the mapping of an area from Seligman to Winona to Tuba City to Grand Canyon.
“With geology in the Grand Canyon, there’s so much to learn,” Billingsley said. “That’s what keeps me going, the thrill of discovery. I love it.”
Billingsley co-authored “Quest for Pillar of Gold” with Earle Spamer and Dave Menkes. But his most treasured writing may be his 10,000 pages of journals about his field experiences in Grand Canyon and on the Colorado Plateau. They will likely end up in the Northern Arizona University archives someday.
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