The town of Widtsoe, Utah was first settled in the early 1900s by Jedediah Adair. He was successful as a ‘dry’ farmer and this soon attracted other settlers to the area. The town was originally known as Adairville, but was later renamed multiple times using names of local prominent leaders such as John Houston and John R. Winder. Ultimately it retained the name of one-time University of Utah president John A. Widtsoe.
By 1912 the growing community of Winder had two hotels, four stores, a post office, sawmills, a confectionary plant, a church meetinghouse that was also used as a school. In 1915 water was piped from a local spring to the town. The town was finally renamed in 1917 to Widtsoe in recognition of his agricultural expertise. With the relocation of the US Forest Service’s district office to Widtsoe, and by 1919 the community had an estimate population of approximately 1,100 residents.
A severe drought in 1920 began to drive dry farmers out of the Widtsoe town area, and this was despite efforts by developer W.F. Holt to build more homes and to construct a water irrigation system from nearby Pine Lake.
Widtsoe’s population slowly declined until there were just a few dozen families remaining. In 1936 the Federal Resettlement Administration purchased land from the remaining landowners, and tore down most of the buildings. The last residents departed Widtsoe in 1938 thus creating a ghost town.
Today the church/school building, a few homes, and a cemetery are all that remain in this ghost town. Visitors are reminded not to remove debris or relics from the town site.
Where is Widtsoe? Located in John’s Valley, about 16 miles northeast of Bryce Canyon National Park near the East Fork of the Sevier River on highway 22. View this map below for more details.