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Utah Pioneer Cemeteries: Grafton, Rockville & Silver Reef

P. Marlin April 2018


At the October General Conference in 1861, Mormon President Brigham Young called 309 heads of families to establish the Cotton Mission in Washington County, Utah. Two of these settlements were named Grafton and Rockville. These old pioneer cemetery photos are of Grafton, Rockville and the Catholic Cemetery in the old mining town of Silver Reef.


Grafton Cemetery 1862-1924

Grafton, a ghost town located just south of Zion National Park, was first settled in 1859 as part of a southern Utah cotton-growing project ordered by Brigham Young. While the occupancy declined after 1907 when some people departed for the larger, more accessible settlement of Rockville, the last inhabitants did not leave until 1944. The original residents grew cotton, wheat and alfalfa, though despite the good soils and the scenic surroundings, life here was difficult, due to floods, attacks by Indians, and the sometimes harsh winter weather.

In the four years after Grafton's founding in 1862, death came in its usual manner, taking the young, the sick, and the old. Mary Lavina Andrus died at one year of age; Mary Jane York, 28, died of tuberculosis, and Byron Lee Bybee, 65, died of "poor health." Then there were accidents, Joseph Field, 9, was dragged to death by a horse. When the year 1866 hit, however, thirteen people died in rapid succession, taken by epidemics, accidents, and the friction caused when new folks rubbed against the old (killed by Indians). Many headstones are missing, it is believed that 74- 84 graves exist. The cemetery also includese South Paiute people who worked and lived alongside settlers.


Rockville Cemetery

The name Rockville was selected at a meeting held in Grafton on December 13, 1860. The name was appropriate because of the large number of boulders on the hills behind the townsite. Rockville was actually settled in 1862 when Mr. Edward Huber built a home and became the first settler there.


Silver Reef Catholic Cemetery

Established after a Nevada prospector discovered silver, Silver Reef is the only place in North America where miners found silver within sandstone. In 1871 claims were staked and by 1876 miners flocked in. Silver Reef followed the path of many mining boomtowns in the western United States. The largest town in Southern Utah during the nearby mines’ peak production, its population vanished once the mines failed in 1884.