Imagine any Western movie and you can almost conjure up in your mind the beauty of the scenery surrounding what’s left of the town of Grafton.
Grafton is a ghost town in Utah. It is just south of Zion National Park and along a turning from Rockville. Various movies have been filmed here including, most famously Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and when you see it for yourself you will realise why.
Grafton started in 1859 with Mormon settlers. The Virgin River valley had water and fertile land enabling the settlers to grow crops and cotton. Locals also had fields of corn in the nearby Zion Canyon. By 1900 the town had a population of 120. Unfortunately in the end it was the same river that contributed to the settlers moving away from Grafton as it was prone to flooding and every year it washed away some of the fertile soil. This and the threat of Indian raids meant that people began to move to safer places and Grafton had become a ghost town by 1944.
Now days Grafton stands as a lasting and well preserved reminder of times gone by. The history comes alive as you visit bygone homes of families long ago. A life very different to our own but also appealing in its sense of simplicity and location. Standing outside the old church/school, looking out to the breathtaking mountains, you can imagine this once thriving family town, with its daily life of hard graft, music and dancing.
The church was the main building in the town. It doubled as the school where all children were educated together by a teacher who was close in age to the oldest children. Lessons often involved hiking the local landscape.
The church is also where the people gathered for dances and social events.
The other buildings you can look around are the family homes of Alonzo Russell and Louisa Russell.
The Alonzo Russell home is a two story building with a cellar and a large veranda that you can just imagine sitting out on in the evenings.
The home of Louisa Russell is a smaller wooden construction with an out house at the back. Here you can sit on the swing hanging from the big tree in the garden and imagine growing up in the town.
Visiting the cemetery you realise how hard life may have been years ago. The many unmarked graves of children who died young from disease and the toll on their parents from living in Grafton. The joint grave of two young girls, Loretta Russell and Elizabeth Woodbury who died in a tragic accident, their lives still ahead of them. The graves of a family killed by the arrows of Indians that tells of the conflicts between the old settlers and the new. There are even three graves of native americans who shared the area with the settlers. One of these is the grave of teenage Willey and the headstone remains. The other two, which have had their headstones stolen are of his parents Chief Poinkum and his wife, Blind Mary.
Grafton isn’t big but what is left of it is well preserved and it is worth a visit, especially if you are heading to Zion State Park as it only involves a small detour off highway 9. I can’t even put into words how breathtaking the surrounding scenery is and for that alone it is worth the drive to see for yourself!
Taking a child with an ASD to Grafton?
Grafton is at the end of a very quiet road and the area where the buildings are is not accessible to cars so is safe to wander round.
Although many people visit Grafton each year it is not a crowded place and is very peaceful, especially in the mornings.
You can stay for as long as you like and look at what you like.
There is space to run around.
There are no restrooms or anywhere to buy food and drink so make sure you have supplies.
There is a swing!
Close supervision would be necessary when exploring the old houses.
Grafton is found off Hwy. 9 in Rockville, Utah. Turn south on Bridge Road. Bare right after crossing the iron bridge over Virgin River. At the stop sign turn right. The road from here is unpaved but fine to drive down. Grafton’s cemetery is on the left at a turn 0.3 mile before the town site, which is at the end of the road. It is easier to spot the cemetery on the way back out of Grafton.