Iosepa, Utah – Hawaiian Ghost Town
Skull Valley, Utah is the site of the West’s only Hawaiian ghost town. Iosepa was established in 1889 by Mormons and largely populated by Pacific Islanders Mormon converts (Hawaiians). Mormon missionaries had been sent to Hawaii and Polynesia in the 1850s, and the Mormon converts wanted to be able to participate in sacred rituals (the Salt Lake Temple was being built). The name of the town, Iosepa, is a variation of “Joseph” in honor of Joseph Smith. By the way, it wasn’t necessarily easy for the Hawaiians to leave, but sometime in the 1870s emigration restrictions were lifted so the converts could make their way to Utah.
Rather than just re-locate to Salt Lake City after their conversion, the group wanted to live together in their own settlement. They became ranchers and farmers, trying to adapt to the harsh and challenging environment (even an outbreak of leprosy), until in 1917 when almost all residents returned to Hawaii, probably because the Mormon church was building its first temple in Hawaii.
Years later an archaeological study was done of the area and clues were found about how the Hawaiians were able to cope with a place so different than they were accustomed to. For example, petroglyphs of various indigenous Hawaiian creatures and objects were found carved into rocks (sea turtle, shark, boats).
The Iosepa Cemetery is included in the National Register of Historic Places. I think I’ll put this cemetery on my list of possible Tombstone Tuesday articles.
To read more about Iosepa and its history, check out these links:
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2013.