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Inquest of John Hunter

State of Utah, County of Carbon, Precinct of Scofield. An inquest having been held in Scofield, in Scofield Precinct, Carbon County, State of Utah, on the 3rd day of May, 1900, before William Hirst, Justice of the Peace of Scofield Precinct, in said County upon the body of John Hunter, there lying dead. We, the jurors, whose names are hereunto subscribed, declare that the said John Hunter came to his death through an explosion in Number Four mine while in the employ of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company.

The first witness was Andrew Smith, who said he thought the explosion was caused by a heavy shot igniting the dust.

Gomer Thomas, the State Mine Inspector, said: "I am State Mine Inspector, and have held that position for two years. I inspected the mines here on March 8, 1900 and found them in fair condition. The ventilation was good and the mine was free from gas. In my estimation the disaster was caused by a heavy shot of giant powder or loose powder exploding. The giant powder went off, caught the dust, and exploded it, being in the end nothing but a dust explosion. I went to a place where it was claimed they had powder stowed away, and the place showed that the explosion had started there, and showed further by the action of the explosion and by the body that was found there, that it was burned more than the other bodies which we found. In March, at the time of the examinations of the mine as regards ventilation, I found the Pleasant Valley Coal Company had complied with the law.

Dr. E. B. Isgreen, lives in Scofield and has practiced for two years. He knew John Hunter in his lifetime, but was not present when the body was brought out, though he examined it soon after. He saw the body when taken from the car, but could not recognize it, not being positive as to which one of the Hunters it was. He said suffocation by gas may have caused the death of those examined. He noticed in treating some of the miners, who went into the mine later as rescuers, that there was a smell of a poisonous odor. Some seemed to have struggled before death came, as the bodies showed great bodily violence.

J. H. Eccles, Jr., lives in Scofield and is a carpenter by trade. On becoming aware of the explosion he hurried to the opening of Number Four mine and assisted in rescuing the victims of the explosion. He was one of the four who carried John Hunter from the mine He recognized John Hunter and upon examination he found that life was not extinct, although he had the appearance of being dead.

J. M. Jamison resides at Scofield, and was at Winter Quarters' mine at the time of the explosion. He helped to carry John Hunter from the tunnel to the barn. Found him about thirty feet back from the opening. Being alive, he was carried down to the Company's boarding house, where a few moments later he was pronounced dead by Dr. Fisher. Later the body of John Hunter was taken down to his home in Scofield.

Hugh Hunter, a brother of the dead man, was the next witness called by the Coroner, and testified as follows: He was at Winter Quarters at half past twelve o'clock on May 1, 1900, the day of the explosion. He did not go to the scene of the accident, but saw the body of his dead brother at about six o'clock in the evening of the same day. In his lifetime his brother was a strong able bodied man.

The selection of one of the Hunter family, over which to hold an inquest, awakens new interest in this unfortunate family, bereft of all male members except two. Two brothers, John and David Hunter: one nephew, William Patterson Hunter; two brothers-in-law, Richard Stewart and Alex Wilson. Jr.; Robert Hunter, with his two sons James A. Hunter and James C. Hunter; one cousin. Adam Hunter and his son John Hunter; an uncle, Frank Strang and his son, Frank Strang, Jr., the untimely end of whom would cause even the strongest hearted to shed tears of sympathy with the stricken families that are left.

As soon as the first bulletins were sent to Salt Lake, the officers were besieged with inquiries as to the number of dead, and asking if certain ones, friends or relatives of the ones asking, were numbered among the dead. It was impossible for the Company to give any answer, as the information that they had received up to that time was of a very meagre character, as those who were sending the bulletins were not aware of the number of the dead, no one on the outside even dreaming that the men in Number One were overcome by the deadly afterdamp that crept steadily towards them. Men were found in all conditions, some seeming to realize their position, others being found with their tools still clutched in their nerveless grasp. John James, one of the County Commissioners, was found among the first, tightly clasped in the embrace of his son George, as though to shield him from the death that he knew was approaching. Those found in Number Four, where the force of the explosion was most felt, were more or less badly scorched, some of whom were not recognizable, while most of those in Number One, who were not caught under a fall, were all suffocated by the after-damp.

The mine, although damaged considerably, will be able to resume work as soon as all of those known to be in the mine are recovered. Great falls and caves in some of the entries will require a great amount of labor to clear up, but on the lower levels the work is mostly in replacing timbers and cleaning the dirt from the tracks, so that cars may be hauled into the deeper caves.

Opening to No. One Mine. Bernard Newren, Sam Wycherly, Eph Rowe


Source: History of the Scofield Mine Disaster, by J. W. Dilley, The Skelton Pub. Co., Provo, Utah, 1900.

Editors Note: The I.. O. O. F. were very active in raising money for the benefit of the widows and children along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This information is included for historical value, it does not mean the people of this project support these institutions.


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