Grafton, Utah

In April 2018, me and a good friend of mine flew into Vegas. Over a 10 day period, we visited 6 national parks, drove 2800 miles and discovered many cemeteries along the way.

One of our stops was Zion National Park. We arrived during a rainy spell and for the next hour, bared witness to the rarely seen waterfalls in the park. Since the day was cold and dreary, we decided to explore the area.

It was in Rockville, where we spied a tiny sign with an arrow that said “Grafton”… Of course, our only option was to follow the signs, which lead us down a residential road and across an old bridge onto another barren dirt road.

As we made our way down the road, there were many postings warning of flash floods and be aware of the weather.

THE HISTORY LESSON: Located along the Virgin River, Grafton was a cotton growing community established in 1859. The area is prone to flooding which is documented by the numerous flash flood signs as you head to the townsite. Because of the difficulties with farming, Graphton also developed cattle ranching as a principal industry for the area.

This town has been abandoned twice. Once in 1866 and finally in 1945.

The cemetery was used between 1862 and 1924 and has an estimated 74 to 84 graves. Many with headstones are missing. The cemetery also includes the graves of southern piaute who were friends of the Grafton settlement.

In 1886 Diphtheria and scarlet fever were rampant in Grafton and took many lives.

Joseph Berry
Joseph Berry
Cedar Pete
Cedar Pete Paiute First Nation
Puss Paiute First Nation

2/15/1866 Loretta A. Russel and Elizabeth H. Woodbury died when their swing broke. This is discussed at the cemetery as well as at the townsite. They even have a broken swing at one of the houses. *unsettling*

Photo By: D. Cowles


Notable Facts:

The townsite is now protected and maintained by the Grafton Heritage partnership project.

Old Arizona was filmed here. This was the first talking outdoor movie ever filmed.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed here.

Stones of Respect


Have you ever been in a cemetery and noticed stones or pebbles set on top of headstones? Yeah me too.

Headstones of Mr. and Mrs. Fritts  at Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery May 2018

I always assumed they were small tokens left behind by loved ones, but after some research, there is more to it. On closer look, most of the stones you see in cemeteries are placed upon Jewish headstones.

Headstone of David James Lee Sharp from Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery May 2018
Headstone of George W Cravey at Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery May 2018

The Jewish religion uses pebbles or stones as they say prayers at the gravesite and leave them on the headstone as they depart. Traditionally, the stones are placed on the grave using their left hand. Pebble in Hebrew is tz’ror which means “bond”.

Headstone of Dorothy Wakefield Murray at Camano Lutheran Cemetery October 2017

This is a form of respect and is symbolic of the deceased being commemorated and still in the thoughts and memories of the living. A forever bond between the living and the deceased. 

Fun Fact: Jewish tradition forbids placing flowers on a grave because it imitates non-Jewish (gentile) practices.

Post by: M

McMillin Mausoleum at Roche Harbor, WA

Our friends met up on San Jaun Island in late September to celebrate birthdays. One of our stops, besides the search for foxes at American Camp, was Roche Harbor Cemetery and the McMillin Mausoleum.


Parking is on the edge of the Roche Harbor airport. The entrance has you wind your way on narrow paths through a small pioneer cemetery before coming to the gates of “Afterglow Vista”.

The McMillin family incorporated this name as their final resting place in relation to the beautiful summer sunsets in the harbor.John Stafford McMillin was born on October 28th 1855 in Indiana. He is a 32° Mason – Knight Templar – Noble of Mystic Shrine Sigma Chi – Methodist – Republican.

The tomb has a replica of the McMillians dining room table. The table is made of limestone to reflect the business the family ran in Roche Harbor along with fellow investors.

The 6 seats are actual crypts for the McMillin family ashes.The mausoleum was designed to have an intentional broken pillar that allows the sun light to shine during the vernal equinox (1st day of spring) which I assume is sybolic for “born again”.

The placement of the chairs was also symbolic and in June the sun shines specifically on the crypts of McMillin and his wife.Buried in the cemetery is over 27 employees and thier children from the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company.

Post by: M

Pioneer Cemetery at the South Rim

This pioneer cemetery is one of a select few in the United States that resides in a national park. Managed by the 128 American Legion, there are 400 souls buried here.

Pioneer Cemetery Entrance

Many of the people laid to rest were pioneers in the development of Grand Canyon National Park and have many trails named after them. What’s interesting about this cemetery is the headstones. Most of them are made of the local rock with placards mounted to them.

Headstone of Mark A Tral

Many of the headstones also have an inscription as to who the person was and their role in the development of the park. I find this odd since other cemeteries do not have these types of inscriptions. I wonder if at some point, the cemetery was abandoned with broken or missing headstones?

Grave of Otto J Tak covered in ponderosa pine cones

From what I’ve found on the American Legion website, in the 1950s there were very few headstone markers and more mounds of ponderosa pinecones and needles that made up the grave sites.

Renovations to the grounds also resulted in new markers on some of the headstones.

Headstones and Footstones

Another uniqueness to these graves is that there is a headstone and a footstone.

The cemetery also had a few wooden headstones, which handle the dry/hot weather compared to other sites in the pacific northwest where they decompose quicker.

Shrine of the Ages

The Pioneer Cemetery is located near the Shrine of the Ages Church. As of July 2017, this pioneer cemetery is closed to new burials due to lack of space.

Before this closure, you would have had to lived at the canyon for at least three years, be a family member of someone already interred or have made a “significant contribution” to the Canyon in some way to be buried in this cemetery.

Notable Facts:

Captain James Hance

John Hance – Was the first non-indigenous resident of the Grand Canyon and also the first person buried in the cemetery.

Headstones of William Wallace Bass and Ada Lenore Diefendorf Bass

There is a headstone for William Wallace Bass who helped develop the stage line in the area. Further research has identified this headstone as a monument because in 1933 Bass was cremated in Phoenix AZ and then his ashes were scattered by plane over Holy Grail Temple in the Grand Canyon.

Headstone of Pete D. Berry

Pete Berry – One of the only miners that had a few paying copper mines in the Grand Canyon. His most successful copper mine was called Grandview or Last Chance mine. After 1907, the mine was acquired by William Randolph Hearst who sold it to the national park service in 1940. In 2009 the mines were gated.

Twenty-nine unidentified victims were interred in four coffins here from the June 30th, 1956 United/TWA Grand Canyon crash. At the time this event, it was sited as the worst disaster on record and prompted the formation of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).