Researchers dig up Hawaiian Mormons’ ghost town

Lost in the vast desert of Skull Valley, 65 miles west of Salt Lake City, is a small cemetery where headstones from the turn of the 20th century bear Hawaiian names.

The view from the western foothills of the Stansbury Mountains over a sea of sagebrush and cheat grass offers scant evidence beyond the 88 well-tended graves that a town called Iosepa (pronounced yo-SEP-ah) once stood here.

But according to lore, the spirits of its settlers linger still.

Downslope from the headstones under a white canopy, Benjamin Pykles, an archaeologist from the State University of New York at Potsdam, and 10 students dig in sandy soils in the 90-plus degree heat. They are excavating the stone foundation of a house built shortly after 46 Hawaiian converts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in this desert wilderness on Aug. 28, 1889.

With the help of trowels, buckets and sifting screens, they find tiny relics — parts of hair combs, buttons, shards of dinnerware and bottle fragments, including a whiskey bottle, and even pieces of porcelain dolls — that the researchers hope will eventually create a clearer picture of how these Polynesian pioneers lived in their desert Zion.

Read the rest of this story at
Comments and feedback can be sent to