What you should know about the Latter-day Saint ghost town near Zion National Park
Latter-day Saint pioneers once settled Grafton, Utah, and now it’s the most photographed town of the West
Said to be “the most photographed town of the West,” Grafton, Utah, is located south of Zion National Park. In 1847, Brigham Young and the pioneers trekked into Salt Lake Valley and settled around that area.
Latter-day Saint pioneers eventually spread out over the territory of Utah. By 1859, five families had settled along the Virgin River in a town called Wheeler (also called Grafton), but soon a flood destroyed the majority of the town on Jan. 8, 1862. A resident of Virgin recalled, “The houses in old Grafton came floating down with the furniture, clothing, and other property of the inhabitants, some of which was hauled out of the water, including three barrels of molasses.”
Like when St. Thomas, a Latter-day Saint town near Lake Mead, was flooded, the residents had to evacuate the area and start new.
What happened after Grafton was flooded?
According to Utah Stories, this community of survivors established another town: New Grafton, Utah. Eventually, the town grew and, according to a website about Zion National Park, there were 28 families who lived in the community.
The Grafton community experienced much hardship.
Flooding continued to plague the community and the soil was tough to farm. According to the website Only in Your State, the Virgin River flooded frequently, which destroyed crops and property. The Latter-day Saint settlers had conflicts with the Paiute tribe who lived in that area.
Residents also died premature deaths. Only in Your State details the deaths of six people, including three children, who died of diphtheria. A red rock gravestone shows the death of Loretta A. Russell and Elizabeth H. Woodbury from a swing accidentally breaking. This gravestone, along with other graves, still remains. This graveyard and a renovated school house remain in the town. Both Grafton and New Grafton were cotton growing communities. They also included farm land and orchards — some orchards remain today.
What else remains in the town of Grafton?
St. George News also notes that the Alonzo Russell home, John Wood home, David Ballard home, and Louisa Foster Russell home remain in Grafton, and that the residents of Grafton were known for their music talents.
Mary Bertha Wood Hall, who grew up in Grafton, recorded in her recollections of the town, “Nearly every night and every few nights, everybody in town with music would get out there in front of the school/church building and start playing. Everybody would sing and everybody would dance. There was really a lot of pleasure that we got out of the hours we spent there.”
The settlement in Hurricane Valley led to residents leaving the town for easier living. Eventually, the closure of the local branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921 led to the total abandonment of the community by 1944.
Is Grafton still abandoned now?
Now, the ghost town is used in movies.
This deserted town has been filmed in “In Old Arizona,” “The Arizona Kid,” “Ramrod” and most famously, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Now the town has been listed on the National Historical Register and people can travel from SR-9 to see the iconic Western town that has fascinated movie directors and historians alike.