Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day Trip to Iosepa

Iosepa Cemetery Greets You

Would you leave your home and venture to a completely different climate and culture, then settle in a remote area to start over?  Hawaiians did just that in 1889.  LDS church members left their native Islands and came to the Utah desert, settling in a place called Iosepa (yo-seppa) in what is now Tooele County. The group remained in this colony until 1917, although the cemetery has been in use more recently.  While in Utah, these settlers grappled with Hansen's disease, planted orchards, farmed, and built homes.  I had never heard of this colony until a few years ago when my child did a report on it for school.  I was long overdue to visit this piece of Utah history, so I piled everyone in the car and off we went!

Today at Iosepa you will find a small cemetery that is tended regularly, a pavilion, a restroom, and a tiny playground.  The restroom is kept locked.  Once a year (Memorial Day) the Iosepa pavilion comes alive with a large gathering to commemorate these hardy souls.  But on the day we visited, Iosepa was quiet and empty.
View of the cemetery

One of the graves at Iosepa

I like cemeteries...I like the stillness.  I like epitaphs, and the different cultural manifestations on headstones and graves, and the different traditions like rocks placed on a headstone.  This little cemetery is memorable for its Hawaiian touches.  I took a few minutes to walk through and read headstones and take photos.  I did not go looking for the remnants of foundations that I understand remain nearby, but confined my visit to the cemetery itself.  If you take a few minutes, you can imagine a place filled with orchards and houses not so long ago.

Iosepa is about 75 miles from Salt Lake City, and is easily accessible by car.  Travel west on I-80 from Salt Lake, and exit south onto U-196.  There are signs to help you locate the turnoff to the cemetery.  Once you leave U-196, there is a well-maintained gravel road leading up to the cemetery.  Take a minute to sign the guest book.  If you would like, leave a donation to help maintain the cemetery.

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