There are few landmarks more interesting than ghost towns. Exploring these long-abandoned settlements can be both captivating and educational. Visitors comes to these unique sites to learn about the lives of settlers and pioneers and the rich history of southern Utah. Every ghost town is full of history, mystery, and incredible things to discover.
Named after one of its original settlers, Chapman Duncan, Duncan’s Retreat was settled in 1861 and is located about four miles east of Virgin. The settlers intended to use the area for farming, but in 1862 a flood washed away the best farmland. The original settlers sold their plots to a new group and Duncan’s Retreat was formed. Over the years the town grew and more structures, like a school, post office, and religious meetinghouse were built. Despite the initial growth of the town, by 1891 Duncan’s Retreat was completely abandoned. Today, only the foundations of a few structures and some trees remain.
In 1859, settler Nathan Tenney led five families to a piece of land just outside of Virgin. The families began building their lives in this area, planting crops and constructing homes. After a flood in 1862, the people of Grafton were forced to move a mile away to ground unaffected by the flood waters, which is where Grafton stands today. By 1945, Grafton was no longer able to support a growing population. Good farmland was scarce, and the town lacked basic modern utilities. The last residents left the town, officially making Grafton another ghost town of southern Utah. Today, Grafton’s remains include a church, a few houses, and a cemetery.
Right off I-15 lies the ghost town of Harrisburg. Harrisburg came to be when Harrisville was destroyed by the 1862 flood and the residents were forced to find another location to settle. Though the resilient settlers did their best to call Harrisburg home, constant grasshopper plagues, flooding, and Navajo Indian raids from 1869 to 1895 caused most of the residents to leave the area. By 1895, the last of the residents of Harrisburg left, leaving behind the ghost town. Many of their structures were built with stone, so stone ruins are left behind for guests to explore.
To find a better place for their livestock to graze, John and William Pulsipher traveled to what would later be known as Hebron. Over the years Hebron grew to boast a school house, church, hotel, stores, and many homes for the families living there. The land was divided, and residents farmed the land to sustain their families. After the arrival of LDS Apostle Erastus Snow, Hebron was organized into an LDS ward, which further increased the town’s population. The town grew immensely over the years, but its growth was cut short when a large earthquake destroyed most of the rock buildings. Shortly after, the residents agreed that moving to a new location would be better than rebuilding, so most of the residents left the area. Today, rubble from the destroyed buildings that was not repurposed is all that remains of Hebron.
About 20 miles outside of Cedar City lies the ghost town of Old Iron Town. The town began as a failed mining operation and was soon after settled by Mormon pioneers. The city grew to almost 100 residents and featured a variety of buildings, including a foundry and a schoolhouse. This growth was no match for the money scare of 1874, which limited transportation and presented a considerable financial burden on the town. The operation shut down in 1877 and the residents relocated. Today, a charcoal kiln and some old furnace structures are all that remain of the town.
This lovely area along popular pioneer trails was a resting and camping point for many travelers. The town was established by Rufus C. Allen in 1856 as an LDS Southern Indian Mission. Their move from Fort Harmony, Utah had pushed them to this area. The settlement was small and all that remains of the town is a small home and an old wagon.Silver Reef
In 1876, thanks to William T. Barbee and his extensive mining operation, the town of Silver Reef was formed. The town grew quickly, with over 2,000 residents, hotels, banks, stores, saloons, and more. By 1891, the last mine ceased operation and the town slowly began to decline in population. This ghost town is unlike other ghost towns, as it features a gift shop in the old bank and the Wells Fargo building has been turned into a museum.Sources