Utah ghost town is rich in pioneer history

Surrounded by serene pastures and stately groves of trees with the soaring cliffs of Zion National Park for a beautiful backdrop, tiny Grafton ghost town invites visitors to step into its pioneer past. Established by Mormon families in 1859, this intriguing historic landmark lies across the Virgin River from Rockville, one of several pioneer-era towns along Utah’s Highway 9, the main access road for Zion.

(From Las Vegas, follow Interstate 15 north into Utah, watching for the Highway 9 exit toward Hurricane a few miles beyond St. George. As you drive through Rockville toward Zion, look for Bridge Road on the right. Turn there, crossing the river on a single-lane bridge. Keep turning right at any fork to follow the graded road that parallels the river for a few miles before it dead ends at old Grafton.)

Rich in history but abandoned in 1945, Grafton might have disappeared if not for the creation of a preservation group in 1997. The Grafton Heritage Partnership worked to list the old town on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of what visitors see today in Grafton is the work of that group — the signs, restoration of the gravesite fence and rehabilitation of some of town’s original buildings. Volunteers restored two adobe buildings, the main Russell residence built in 1862 and the handsome two-story schoolhouse erected in 1886 that also served as church and social hall. Grafton Heritage Partnership also purchased about 160 acres around Grafton to ensure the site retains its pastoral setting. The group plans to remove exotic trees that thrive along the river and to replant native cottonwoods, willows and grasses.

Private owners near the town site restored three other early homes, outbuildings and split-rail fences to add to Grafton’s appeal. Visitors today park at the end of the road and walk short pathways to the restored buildings for inside views.

At the Grafton Cemetery, a sign provides details of some of the pioneers buried there. Frontier life took a toll on many — particularly the young, the old and women of child-bearing age. Disease and accidents took many, but so did violence.

The five Mormon families who crossed the river in 1859 established the tiny community of Wheeler about a mile south of the permanent site of Grafton. They were soon forced by flooding to move upstream. In January 1862, the rampaging Virgin River flooded four of the 10 villages established as part of the Cotton Mission, including Grafton. The river was always a difficult neighbor, given to fits of flooding and supplying irrigation water so silt-laden that farmers had to dredge channels frequently. The Cotton Mission produced cotton, but the farm families were hungry and most turned instead to planting gardens and orchards and raising poultry and livestock.

The cemetery’s largest grave — surrounded by a wooden fence — is the final resting place of Joseph Berry, his brother Robert and Robert’s young wife, Isabelle, who died in 1866, a violent year in Grafton’s history. The Berry family fell victim to the nascent region’s long conflict with native people during the Black Hawk War. The times were so troubled that Mormon leader Brigham Young called the people to regroup, leaving their homes for larger settlements. The farm families in Grafton retreated to Rockville, crossing the river daily to tend their fields, but never alone or unarmed.

The three members of the Berry family were killed by hostile natives as they headed home to another town east of Zion National Park. Their killings were in retaliation for the shooting of several Indians by the Utah Militia following the killings of two ranchers and theft of cattle at Pipe Spring by marauding Navajos from south of the Colorado River. Their bodies were brought to Grafton for burial during a short time when the town served as county seat of the wrong county. Grafton was then thought to be in Kane County, but later surveys placed it in Washington County.

Grafton was resettled in 1868. Never a large town, Grafton had 28 residents by 1869. Many families moved to Hurricane when a new canal brought water in 1906, some moving their homes. The last resident left Grafton in 1945.

Grafton might look familiar to lovers of Western movies, including 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Life
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon
"Jackson: The Red Rock Canyon Burro" is a children's book about Red Rock Canyon (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interfaith Amigos speak in Las Vegas
Celebrity photographer dedicates dance book to Las Vegas shooting victims
Behind the scenes with local celebrity photographer Jerry Metellus as he talks about his Dance For Vegas coffee book dedicated to the 58 victims of the October 1 shooting. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation founder Gina Glass talks awareness
Gina Glass, 35, founded Dreamsickle Kids Foundation to raise awareness for sickle cell disease in Nevada. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like