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Front Page » September 8, 2011 » Carbon County News » 1970: Last mine in Spring Canyon closes
Published 1,487 days ago

1970: Last mine in Spring Canyon closes

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Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth in 1891.

It's not often that stop sign placements make the news, but in early January 1970 one did and it is a traffic pattern that holds today. The change was that 300 North and Carbon Avenue went from motorists having to stop at a stop sign on Carbon Avenue and then turning onto 300 North either going east or west to one where Carbon Avenue travelers would have the right-of-way. There were two reasons for the change. One was that the incline over the Price canal at the previous stop sign created a mess in the winter as people stopped at the sign in the snow during the winter, they couldn't get going again. (In those days the large majority of the cars on the road were rear wheel drive and didn't have the traction that today's front wheel drive cars do. Four wheel drive was very rare.) Secondly, traffic patterns that had been generated by the construction and opening of Mont Harmon Junior High the previous year had precipitated a change.

In early March a mail plane that stopped on a regular basis in Price was reported missing. The plane, piloted by a 22 year old man from Dallas, Texas. The report of the missing plane created quite a stir at the Carbon County Airport as 15 planes from the Civil Air Patrol searched the flight path area for the missing aircraft. Ground patrols were also organized, with the Jeep Posse and Search and Rescue searching for the plane. During the search one of the search plane's landing gear gave way upon landing at the airport and it caused some damage to the plane. No one was hurt. By March 19 the search for the plane had been suspended.

The missing plane's assumed flight course had been searched time and time again, and as early spring snows and time went on, hope of finding the pilot alive dwindled. The CAP and other private pilots continued to search on their own on days the weather was good, but no formal search went on. In May officials asked anyone venturing into the back country between Moab and Price to keep their eyes peeled for the plane. However the plane was finally spotted in June by two people in a CAP plane that was still searching. The crash scene was on Patmos Peak, east of Columbia. Based on what officials found, the pilot was killed instantly upon impact.

In mid-March a freak accident occurred when a man was electrocuted by a power line that he had shot down with a rifle during a copper salvaging operation in Spring Canyon. Utah Power and Light said at the time they knew nothing of the salvaging operation after the accident in which Samuel Basso, 19, was killed. He and another man were using the rifle to smash insulators to get wire off poles when he instead severed the line which fell to the ground, which was very slippery at the time. The victim slipped and fell on the line which was charged with 7,200 volts.

In April the last active coal mine that was operating in Spring Canyon closed for good. Saying that the newly enacted federal Mine Safety Act was the last straw, the owners shut down the mine. The Spring Canyon Coal Company closed after 54 years of operation. Many mines in the canyon had shut down in recent years until finally there was one left and it could not survive in the coal market of 1970.

The next week it was announced that Notre Dame High School would close for good too. At the time of the announcement the school said that they would continue with classes for first grade through ninth grade students. Long range financial problems and decreasing enrollment were cited as the reasons for the closing.

In late May, Utah Power and Light announced the location for a new power plant in the area. The Huntington Canyon Power Plant. Construction was to begin in 1971 and people in the area were excited for the new construction and power plant operation jobs.

Car accidents in 1970 claimed numerous people and two car wrecks in a period of four days claimed five lives in June. Many, many of the accidents occurred along or on Highway 6 in one place or another. By the end of 1970, 21 people would die on highways within Carbon County.

In late June Koret of California announced that the Price factory had produced its one millionth set of slacks. The plant, which had opened only a couple of years before, was humming along supplying clothing to the company's distribution warehouse in San Francisco, Calif., which distributed products to 5,000 accounts.

On the last day of July, a horrific murder took place in Price when Loretta Jones, 23, was found dead in her home, having been stabbed multiple times. The manhunt almost instantly yielded a suspect that was arrested in Provo, but the man who was taken into custody turned out not to be the person based on his whereabouts at the time of the crime. The investigation eventually centered on Tom Egley, a Helper resident, who had been acquainted with Jones. He questioned and eventually arrested for the crime, but he never came to trial because the case was dismissed for a number of reasons that fall. No one has ever been prosecuted for the murder in the 41 years since it took place. In 2010 the Carbon County Sheriff's office reopened the investigation, even traveling to Kansas and reinterviewing Egley, but no charges have yet been filed in the case.

August brought about another shock to the county when Carbon High School's basketball coach, Tony Welch, was killed in an automobile accident in Salt Lake. Two other well known coaches from the area, Boyd Bell (Carbon's football coach at the time) and Paul Dupin (who taught at Mont Harmon) were thrown from the car and badly injured. They were in Salt Lake together attending a Utah High School Activities Association function.

November brought the dedication and opening of I-70 through the San Rafael Reef across the Swell. The road as opened consisted of only two lanes, but over the next few years two more lanes would be added. The cost of the dedicated road in 1970 was $17 million with another $12 million in projects still on-going at the time. Congress had also just appropriated , and the Utah Department of Highways had programmed, another $21 million to bring the road up to four lanes all the way across from Green River to Salina.

Another military man from Carbon also made the news because of injuries received in Vietnam.

The Marine Corps notified relatives in early December that Private First Class Alfonso Trujillo was injured in action in November. He was recovering at the time at a Da Nang military hospital.

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