Have you ever wondered how the most photographed ghost town in the West came to be? Grafton, Utah, is a small town located in Washington County, Utah, just 9 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park. The town was founded in 1859 by a group of Mormon pioneers who were sent to the area by Brigham Young to cultivate a cotton growing operation in the area.
Initially, the town was established as a farming community, and the pioneers built homes, a schoolhouse, a cemetery, and a chapel. Originally named Wheeler, the settlement was constantly ravaged by annual flooding which wiped out their crops and oftentimes, damaged their housing. In addition, the town was also prone to attacks by the local Native American tribes, which made life even more difficult for the settlers.
In 1862, ‘The Great Flood’ destroyed the town completely. After much discussion, the settlers opted to relocate one mile upriver, and renamed the town after Grafton, Massachusetts, the hometown of several of the original settlers. This move didn’t completely alleviate their issues with flooding, in fact, continuous flooding discouraged resettlement as the years progressed.
By the 1860s, Grafton had become an important stop on the road from Salt Lake City to California. The town was also home to several successful orchards, which produced a variety of fruits, including peaches, apricots, and apples. However, the town's luck ran out in 1862 when the nearby town of Rockville was established. Rockville had a more favorable location, and many of Grafton's residents began to move there. Additionally, in 1866 with the outbreak of the Black Hawk War, the townsfolk completely evacuated to Rockville. By 1890 only 4 families remained in Grafton.
By the early 1900s, Grafton was largely abandoned, and in 1921 the local Church of Latter-Day Saints was discontinued. The last of the Grafton residents left in 1944.
Today, Grafton is a popular tourist destination and is known for its well-preserved ghost town buildings. The town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors can explore the remains of the old schoolhouse, cemetery, and chapel. In June of 1997 the Grafton Heritage Partnership was formed. Structural enhancements were made, plus over 150 acres of farmland were purchased. The area remains under 24-hour surveillance and the Partnership is actively looking for a permanent, live-in caretaker to oversee the preservation of the townsite. Perhaps you see a move in your future?What is the best way to visit Grafton? You may self-drive when you are visiting the area around Zion National Park, but the best way to get a fully immersive experience would be to book a tour with Zion River’s Edge Adventures. Tours depart daily from their facility in Springdale, just 15 minutes from Grafton. You may choose from one of their tours that provide exclusive access to Zion Lava Ridge Mesa, West Temple, and includes a tour of Grafton ghost town. For pricing and availability, visit https://zionjeeptouradventures.com/