Vincenzo Conte, or Jim as he seemed to be more commonly referred to was a goat rancher who lived near Butterfield Canyon. Originally from Italy, Jim and his wife Anna had been living in Utah for the last several years.
On the 14th of January, 1930, Jim (50) and his young nephew Joe Cerrone (19) headed towards Bingham. Joe had recently been offered a mining job and needed to have a physical with the company physician. Apparently, Jim would often cut through the Yosemite Tunnel to get from Butterfield Canyon to Bingham instead of having to make the trek over the hill. When the two failed to return the next day the authorities were alerted and people began searching for them.
On January 17th a boy informed the officers that he saw two men enter the tunnel three days prior. The officers searched the tunnel but found no sign of the men. Later that day a miner by the name of O.H. Gray discovered their bodies in a “small stope some 20 feet from the main tunnel.”((The Bingham Bulletin, January 23rd, 1930)) Jim was holding a flashlight in his hand which would turn out to be an indicator into the cause of their deaths.
The authorities believed the two men decided to explore the tunnel and wandered off into a side tunnel. They encountered what was called “the deadly black damp” (carbon monoxide). Because Jim was carrying a flashlight instead of a candle, they didn’t have enough warning that the air was bad until it was too late.
More men arrived to help recover the bodies and found that a candle would not stay lit in the area surrounding the dead men. Deputy Sheriff O.W. Timothy and J.L. Householder had to take turns in slowly bringing the bodies into fresh air so they could be removed from the tunnel.((Salt Lake Telegram, January 17th, 1930))
The funeral for Jim Conte was held on January 22nd, 1930. He was buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City. The body of his nephew, Joe Cerrone, was returned to his parents in Denver, Colorado for burial. Two years later, Jim Conte’s widow Anna, and the parents of Joe Cerrone filed suit against the mining company. They asked for $20,000 in damages claiming the mining company failed to properly warn people of the dangers inside the tunnel.((Salt Lake Telegram, January 23rd, 1932)) Accounting for inflation, that amount is equal to approximately $284,000 in 2017. I was not able to determine the outcome of that suit, or what became of Anna. It appears, however, that Anna stayed in the small mining town of Lark, Utah into the 1940’s.
Here is a closeup of Jim Conte’s tombstone. His picture is still so clear and in really good condition despite the fact that he died 87 years ago.