Grafton, UT is full of southern Utah history and can be found just outside of Zion National Park. If you live in the area, or are visiting Zion National Park, there is no reason to not stop to see this sweet cemetery and ghost town. Grafton was settled in December of 1859 by Mormon pioneers. Around 1867, there was a local war with the native Indians that resided in southern Utah (Black Hawk War). After such, the Mormon leader asked that people reside in towns with 150+ men. This meant that the small town of Grafton, who barely reached a population of 168 total, evacuated and moved to the nearby town of Rockville, and some headed further away to Hurricane, UT.
DIRECTIONS: For those that are locals — head to Zion National Park. Non-locals: Coming from the city of St. George, head north on I-15. Take the Hurricane exit (#16) for State Highway 9. Continue through the town of Hurricane and LaVerkin. Turn right onto 500 North (UT-9). Right at the right turn, there will be a Davis Food grocery store on the right and a large sign to your right that says “Zion Canyon Corridor”. Continue on Highway 9 for approximately 15 miles. Once in Rockville, turn right on to Bridge Road (200 East).
The bridge that crosses the Virgin River was built in 1924 and is a single lane bridge. Take some time to admire this bit of history. At Christmastime, the bridge is lit with wonderful lights and wreaths (see pic below).
Continue across the bridge and hang a right (don’t take the straight road). This will turn in to Grafton Road which you will follow out to the cemetery and Ghost Town. The road will twist and turn. Stay to the right, even past the “Dead End” sign, which has a smaller “Grafton –>” sign underneath. Head towards the dead end. Eventually turn in to a dirt/gravel/mud road (depending on the season you choose to travel). The dirt road continues the rest of the way, about 2 more miles. You will then see a sign directing you to the left for the cemetery, to the right continues to the ghost town.
NOTE: If there have been heavy rains, I would NOT recommend visiting Grafton, especially if you don’t have 4-wheel drive. The roads can become impassable with rains (this isn’t just me saying this — there are signs with this warning!). I recommend going after the rains have been gone for 3-4 days. We went only 2 days after the rain, and although the mud was packed well, there were super muddy areas and one road we couldn’t even travel down in our minivan.
Bridge Road, Rockville, UT (heading towards Rockville, away from Grafton)
The cemetery has a great sign that explains the graves and the families that lived here. There are even a few of the Paiute Indians that are buried here as well.
This is a great time to teach your kids how to be extra respectful at a cemetery. Most children are accustomed to seeing plush green grass on flat lawns in modern cemeteries. However, these graves still have the humped dirt where the bodies lay. It is a great time to explain the pioneers burial process (by hand) verses how we do it now. It is incredibly important that those who visit remain respectful of the graves and don’t run across the tops or play on them.
There was quite the bout of diphtheria which took the lives of a lot of those buried here. My kids wanted to know all about it while we were there; all I knew was that I didn’t know what it was. So in case your kids are as inquisitive as mine, diphtheria is a bacterial infection. It can be passed from person to person through “respiratory droplets”, such as coughing or sneezing. Also from coming in contact with an object that the bacteria resides on (like toys). Symptoms are the same as that of a flu or bad cold: sore throat, fever, swollen neck glands. The infection can get in to the blood stream causing more internal damage as well. Before treatments, it was only a 50% survival rate. Treatments didn’t become common until around the 1920s, which is when rates dropped quickly thanks to vaccines. Although the illness is still seen around the world today. (https://www.cdc.gov/diphtheria/about/symptoms.html)
Two of the deaths that stood out to my children were those of two young women, ages 13 and 14. The historical sign says they died of a swing accident. In town there was a cotton gin, but it later moved to the city of Rockville. After it was no longer in use, the young kids of the town made a swing at the mill location. A lot of the town had concern for the safety of the swing, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. However, one night it came crashing down, killing two young women. For more information on this tragedy and the history of Grafton, visit: http://wchsutah.org/towns/grafton-history-jones.pdf
Once you have spent time at the cemetery, head back out and go the opposite direction to visit the ghost town of Grafton.