The so-called Dixie region of Utah was settled by Mormons at the direction of Brigham Young, who thought the region would yield a profitable cotton crop. The town of Grafton was settled a few miles south of Zion National Park on the Virgin River in 1859 by five Mormon families, but they soon had to scale back cotton production in favor of food crops. Then in 1862, the Virgin River flooded and washed away the entire town, but the tenacious settlers reestablished Grafton about a mile upstream.
In 1866, conflicts with the Black Hawk and other native peoples led Brigham Young to call on all settlements to combine into towns of at least 150 people. Grafton was abandoned, but farmers still came to tend their crops. Two years later, settlers returned and built the adobe schoolhouse, which still stands today. The population of the Grafton shrank as young people moved away in search of new farmland or other livelihoods until it was completely abandoned again in the 20th century.
Today Grafton is a ghost town, and one that has enjoyed a few moments in the spotlight. Several movies were shot in this abandoned frontier settlement, including several scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the 1929 film In Old Arizona, the first talkie filmed outdoors. Descendants of the people who lived here still gather for an annual reunion to keep the spirit of this frontier village alive though only four buildings and the cemetery remain. The graveyard is a picturesque reminder of the hard lives of the Old West settlers below the grand sandstone spires and blue skies of southern Utah.
Know Before You Go
Turn onto Bridge Road from UT-9 in Rockville. Signs point the way from there. Be prepared to travel on a clay road for about 1.5 miles (out and back), which may be impassable during/after periods of heavy rain.