Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mine Owner and Long-Time State Senator J. Howard Sims [otd 05/12]

Howard Sims, ca. 1955.
Beal & Wells photo.
Mine owner and State Senator James Howard Sims was born May 12, 1904 in Salmon, Idaho. His father James came to Idaho from Texas in the 1880s, settling along the lower Wood River. In 1888, he moved north of Shoshone. Howard’s mother was born in Oregon; she and James were married in 1893 near Bellevue. Three years later, the couple moved to the Salmon area.

For over twenty years, James engaged exclusively in mining, and young Howard (he seldom used his first name) learned that business at an early age. His father bought a cattle ranch in 1917, so Howard also became versed in that life.

He graduated from Salmon High School in 1922. Howard had an appointment to attend the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, but chose to stay in Idaho. (Probably a wise decision. The Naval Limitations Treaty, signed in February 1922, forced the U. S. to scrap twenty-six existing or under-construction warships.)

After working with his father in mining and ranching, Howard began his own mining venture in 1924. He likewise moved into ranching about 1930. Father and son actively pursued mining prospects throughout the Thirties and early Forties. The Helena Independent, in Montana, reported (August 6, 1937) on a lease arrangement that involved them both: “The claims … were owned by James Sims of Salmon. Operations will begin August 15, with Howard Sims, state senator, as resident manager.” Despite some optimism at that time, the property, a lead-silver prospect near Gilmore, Idaho, never became a profitable operation.

In fact, Sims recalled that, while their mining and ranching sometimes put them “in the money, … more often we were not.” They did do well in the mid- to late-Thirties with one gold mining operation. But even that ended when the advent of World War II suspended gold mining. The War Production Board sought to shift mining equipment and manpower to the production of essential war materials, especially copper. After the war, Howard added copper, and the strategically important cobalt, to his mining interests.

Howard Sims served his first terms in the Idaho Senate in 1938-1942. He then followed with several consecutive terms in 1956-1964. While there, his mining experience provided valuable input to various committees related to that industry. Oddly enough, despite his previous popularity with voters, Democrat Sims could not ride the 1964 Lyndon Johnson landslide: He was defeated “rather decisively” in his re-election bid.

Sims remained actively engaged in mining into the 1960s. In 1963, his company received an “exploration assistance” grant to search for gold and silver in Lemhi County. (Such subsidies were to be reimbursed from later mining profits.)
Early Pope-Shenon Mine buildings. Idaho Geological Survey.

Also, from 1969 until his death, Sims was an officer of  Salmon Copper Mines, Inc., which had an interest in the Pope-Shenon Mine, in the mountains southwest of Salmon. Very little work was done at the property during his tenure with the company. However, back in 1928, only one other Idaho property produced more copper than the Pope-Shenon mine.

Sims spent six years on the executive board of the Idaho Mining Association. In the late 1960s he was the mining expert on the Salmon National Forest Advisory Council. Sims also had an interest in mining claims in Nevada, northeast of Fallon. Those mines produced antimony (when the price was favorable) and silver.

Howard died in an airplane crash near Twin Falls in January 1971.
References: [B&W]
Victoria E. Mitchell, "History of the Pope-Shenon Mine, Lemhi County, Idaho," Staff Report 97-15, Idaho Geological Survey, Moscow (1997).
"U.S. Aid Will go to Idaho Miner," Spokane Daily Chronicle (June 18, 1963).
War Production Board Limitation Order L-208, 7 Fed. Reg. 7992-7993 (Oct 8, 1942, with subsequent amendments.)
"Wind Halts Search for Missing Plane," The Idaho Statesman, Boise (Jan 12, 1971), (Jan 20, 1971).

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