The restored Grafton Schoolhouse
A Bit of History. Okay, so Grafton is not really a "hike," but it is a cool place to check out near Zion. Located past the west end of present-day Rockville, Grafton was first settled in 1859. Floods and Indian attacks forced the pioneers to abandon the town. It's now a fun ghost town experience. Grafton is a famous backdrop for movies, including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".
Between 1847 and 1900, emigrating Mormons settled about 500 villages in West and Southwest Utah to claim territory and seek self-sufficiency. Cedar City, Parowan, Santa Clara (near St George), Rockville and Springdale began as such farming settlements.
Grafton was settled in 1859 by five families from nearby Virgin. The main crop grown in Grafton was cotton, which was sold to benefit the Mormon state. Southwest Utah, including Santa Clara and Washington City were known as the "Cotton Mission". Settlement planning and these missions were an organized plan from the head of the church in Salt Lake City to make the Deseret a prosperous new territory.
Over the next seven years, the settlement grew to be the second largest in the Virgin Valley (with about 168 residents, only Virgin was larger), but then the settlement encountered a litany of floods, diseases, and accidents. When Indian relations grew sour in Southern Utah, the small, scattered settlements of the Virgin Valley grouped together in nearby Rockville in 1866, but later resettled back in Grafton. The schoolhouse building you can visit today was built in 1886, when the town was thriving and had enough families to support a schoolhouse. Two decades later, however, Grafton would become ghost town due to loss of farmland and the building of the Hurricane Canal, which caused most families to pack up and move "down the hill" to the Hurricane bench fin 1906 in hopes of easier farming. (Historical information gleaned from the Grafton Heritage Partnership Project.)