John Conta Family

With a keen eye for business opportunities, ywas one of the first entrepreneurs to purchase land in the Georgetown area of Ravensdale. In 1905, he opened one of the first saloons serving thirsty miners of Ravensdale and Black Diamond. His Eagle Saloon in Ravensdale was located on two lots along what is now Kent Kangley Road. The site is now home to the Brava Hair Studio, owned and operated by his great-niece, Frances Miller. Born in Italy, John and his brothers immigrated to the U.S. about 1890 and soon found themselves in Dawson City, Yukon Territory. During the Klondike gold rush, they operated the Conta Brothers Dairy and the Central Hotel in Dawson. John was also a gold prospector and miner with extensive gold dredging operations over many years near Fairbanks. He also operated a road house there. In addition to his Eagle Saloon, John also owned the Oberto & Conta Saloon in Seattle in partnership with John Oberto, later of Oberto sausage fame. Other business ventures included the London Hotel in Vancouver, B.C.; a dairy in Renton; and cattle drives to the Klondike supplying meat for hungry miners. During Prohibition, while working as a merchant for a Ravensdale pool room, he was arrested for peddling moonshine. When Prohibition ended, John was one of the first two saloon owners in Ravensdale to receive a license to sell alcohol. The other was John Markus, Sr. Pictured here in 1910 are John Conta with his son, John Alasco, and his wife, Marianne Deiro, a relative of the famed accordion virtuosos of the vaudeville era, Guido and Pietro Deiro. Following John and Marianne’s divorce, Marianne was tragically murdered in 1913, by a boarder at her Seattle rooming house after refusing his amorous advances. John died in 1954 in Sitka as a recognized Pioneer of Alaska. Though never a full-time resident of Ravensdale, his ties to the town, as well as to Kittitas County, were strong, and he played a significant role in Ravensdale’s early and “colorful” history. This photo comes courtesy of Frances Miller, with additional research provided by Donna Brathovde.