Monday, January 18, 2021

Grafton Ghost Town

For our last day in Springdale, we decided to check out Grafton Ghost Town.

It’s a short drive from Springdale (about 6.5 miles from where we were staying), But the last part is a dirt road. Not a problem in a jeep, but I wouldn’t drive my sports car there.

According to the Grafton Heritage Partnership Project’s Website, the town was first settled in 1859, at a site just downriver from the current ghost town.

Nathan Tenney led a group of five families from the town of Virgin to a new site on the Virgin River. 

The families worked together to plant crops, build irrigation ditches as well and build homes.

Grafton farm land

The community flourished when cotton became scarce at the start of the US Civil War. They planted so much cotton, they didn’t have the land to plant enough corn and other crops to feed their families. In the following years they scaled back cotton production and planted more foodstuffs.

The Virgin River also caused the settlers some problems.

A January 1862 flood destroyed much of the settlement and washed away several homes. The residents of Grafton rebuilt on a second site, which is where the ghost town now sits.

The river also washed out the irrigation dams and clogged the irrigation ditches with sand. This required constant maintenance.

In 1866, Grafton became a ghost town for the first time when the Mormon Church instructed members to form into larger towns of at least 159 to ward off attacks from the Native American tribes in the area.

Things settled down over the next couple of years and Grafton was resettled in 1868.

The schoolhouse was built in 1886 using lumber hauled for Mount Trumbull, a mere 75 miles away. The adobe building still stands in the center of the town.

The Old Schoolhouse

In 1906 the men of Grafton helped build the Hurricane Canal, which brought water from the Virgin River to the flat wide Hurricane bench area. Many of the families packed up everything, some including their houses, and moved to the more hospitable new town of Hurricane.

In the 1940’s the remaining settlers either passed or moved on leaving the ghost town of Grafton behind.

One of the remaining homes in Grafton

The town has been the set of several movies starting in 1929. They include:

In Old Arizona, 1929 (First talkie filmed outdoors) and nominated for five Academy Awards including best Picture. Starring Warner Baxter (who won the Academy Award for this role as The Cisco Kid), Raoul Walsh, Edmund Lowe, and Dorothy Burgess.

The Arizona Kid, 1930. Warner Baxter and Carole Lombard.

Ramrod, 1947. Starring Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Preston Foster, Charles Ruggles, Donald Crisp and Lloyd Bridges.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross (won four Academy Awards)

Child Bride of Short Creek, 1981. Diane Lane, Helen Hunt, Christopher Atkins, Conrad Bain.

The Red Fury, 1984. Wendy Lynne, Calvin Bartlett, Katherine Cannon, Juan Gonzales.

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