This summer my sister Emily and I had the rare timing of being available at the exact same time. We had been wanting to make the drive from Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah for years. The opportunity presented itself, and a decision was made. The next morning my car was pulling out of the driveway and a sisters genealogy road trip commenced. This trip will always warm my heart and bring a smile to my face as we dealt with some of the most disastrous, yet hilarious chain of events during this trip.
Part of the plan in this trip was not only to spend as much time as we could gathering hoards of genealogical information from the family history library, but to find the grave site of our 4th great grandparents Foster Gordon and Frances Hogg, who were murdered in Skull Valley in 1865.
I’d studied the information on the web from Erma (Gordon) Anderson’s research and spent countless hours studying google earth, the roads, terrain and likely spot that might match up to the photos and descriptions.
We arrived in Skull Valley on a Sunday morning and easily found the location of the Hatch Ranch. No one was home. So we drove down the road and every access point was fenced. What looked like roads on google earth, now looked like dusty truck trails into the hills. Great. So we decided to come back later in hopes someone would be home by the afternoon. As we were leaving, we noticed a truck bumping down the fields coming towards Hatch Ranch, so we turned back in hopes this was the property owner.
These 2 young men were not the property owner, but had come in from the back roads and had been out exploring back trails. I explained what we were looking for and showed them my research packet of papers and their interest peaked. Once I mentioned the apple orchard, they knew exactly where I was talking about as they had just come from there and found it odd to find an apple orchard in the middle of nowhere like that. It became clear pretty quickly though that my car would not make it up into the area as the roads are only passable with a truck. They were out looking for adventure that day, found interest in our hunt and offered to take us up to the orchard.
So we piled into this tiny truck and bounded across bumpy roads through the ranch. We quickly found the orchard.
Together we analyzed the clues in Emma’s story, the photos and scoured a wide radius of the area trying to find the location of the grave. No sign of it. We lined up photos to the landscape, hill lines and tried to create perspective. No luck. We drove around, we walked looking for clues. It was 104 degrees out that day and we quickly went through the limited water we had on hand. We never imaged when we headed out there it would take that long! But the guys with us didn’t want to give up either, they were really into figuring this out just as much as we were. We finally had to call it a day out of H2O necessity and headed back to where I parked the car. We parted ways and exchanged cell phone numbers.
As we were pulling away disappointed, I noticed a new car was parked at the ranch, so I went back to the house and knocked on the door. The owner was stunned, but polite as I explained who I was and what I was looking for. He kindly pointed to the location of the grave and homestead, a full half mile from where we had been searching! He gave us directions on how to get out there. So I called back our new friends and they came back to give it one last look.
We bumped our way out there and quickly found the burial location of Foster Gordon & Frances Hogg. We discovered that someone had been out there recently and had placed a plastic sealed container out there with the same printouts of research and a print out of their Find A Grave memorials: Foster, Frances. My sister and I added our own note to the box and took photos.
We spent some time out there looking around and did discover the likely location of the old small home, about 50 yards north of the grave site. This area was different from the rest of the land in that it had some piled rocks, creating a wall of some sort. There were no other obvious signs of a home’s foundation or existence.
Foster & Frances may have met an untimely end, but as I looked over the virtually untouched land, I realized I was looking at the same view that they looked out over every morning and it was stunning.
Several accounts have been made piecing together what happened. This account appeared online two years ago providing more insight into the mysterious events, “Who Killed the Gordon’s in Skull Valley”. Only God knows what happened that day, as all have passed on. As I surveyed the area I wondered about what life may have been like, what circumstances led them to this place in 1863 and to this area. Foster was a stone mason, so why here in this remote land and not closer to Salt Lake and the temple under construction?
If you are related please let me know. How I am related to them is through their daughter Frances Jane Gordon Parks (1833-1909), who married Alexander Parks (1830-1907.) Their daughter Mary Jane Parks (1861-1936) married John Calvert (1856-1921.) Their youngest daughter Ruth Elizabeth Calvert (1898-1968) married Robert Glen Darnes (1891-1947.) Their eldest daughter Claire Jean Darnes (1920-2015), was my grandmother.
If you find yourself wanting to visit the grave of Foster and Frances, I am providing the directions here so you don’t end up dusty and dehydrated searching hours on end for the burial location.
GPS its location is GPS 40°18’36.9″N 112°36’43.4″W (40.310250, -112.612056)
From Tooele, Utah take Hwy 36 south about 15 miles. Turn right (West) onto Hwy 199 and follow for about 14 miles. This road will take you up into the hills and drop you down onto the other side into Terra, Utah, a very small community. Just past the town about 1 mile there is a road to your left called Hatch Ranch Rd/Old Lincoln Hwy. Turn left and follow the road about 1 miles until you encounter the ranch on your left. Just past the house there is a turn out to an old access road that is gated on the left, according to google maps this is called Park Spring Rd. This is more like a farm road. It crosses through the field and you go through another gate, keep following the road and you go through a 2nd gate. About a mile in from hatch ranch and not to far past the second gate there is a road that cuts back at an angle to your left. Follow this road (North) about 1/4 of a mile. You will entered into a clearing and there is a truck path to the right, the follows up into the clearing. There is a little hill and some small tree’s and the grave site it right there covered in rocks. About 50 yards north of the grave site is the location of the old home.
The location of the old Apple orchard and cool spring that Emma Gordon Anderson talks about is about half a mile away. If you continued on Park Spring Rd another half mile instead of turning off towards the grave, you will encounter the old apple orchard just off the road on your right. When we were there in July there were small green apples growing on the trees.
We followed our ancestors through the dust and dirt of Utah, took photos, brought home memories (and a few green apples.) If you ever have the opportunity to locate where your ancestor lived or is buried, it is well worth the trek to catch a glimpse of history and lay footprints across the same land.