Zip Code:


Latitude / Longitude:

40°32’31″N 112°44’02″W


4,400 ft (1,341 m)

Time Zone:

Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)


Iosepa (/jo”‘s”p”/ or /jo”‘si”p”/, with the I like an English Y) is a ghost town in Utah’s Skull Valley, located approximately 75 miles (120 km) southwest of Salt Lake City in Tooele County. Once home to over 200 Polynesian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Iosepa was inhabited during the period 1889–1917. Today it is the site of an annual Memorial Day gathering that draws islanders and others from all over the Western United States.


Mormon missionaries were sent to Polynesia starting in the 1850s. Many of their converts wanted to emigrate or “gather” to Utah with the main body of the Church, but were restricted by law, particularly in Hawaii. In the 1870s the Hawaiian government began to allow emigration, and by 1889 some 75 Native Hawaiians had gathered in the northern Salt Lake City neighborhood near Warm Springs Park. Despite their common faith, the immigrants experienced significant culture shock, as well as mistreatment by the white majority. The Polynesians were barred from staying in white-owned hotels and were refused service at restaurants in Salt Lake City. Church leaders began searching for a location to set aside as a Hawaiian enclave, but 40 years of settlement had occupied most of the desirable land in the Salt Lake area.





Current Status:

In 1915, Joseph F. Smith, then President of the LDS Church, announced plans for the construction of a temple at La’ie, Hawai’i. The first such temple to be built outside of continental North America, the Laie Hawaii Temple brought Iosepa to an end. Although Mormon leaders did not advise the Iosepans to emigrate to Hawaii, the Church did offer to pay the passage of any who could not afford it. Most of Iosepa’s residents chose to return to Hawaii. By January 1917 Iosepa was a ghost town, and the land was sold to the Deseret Livestock Company.


The settlement was well-planned, but is considered an unsuccessful attempt at colonization. Iosepa never managed to become self-sufficient; Latter-day Saint leaders had to allocate church funds to pay the town’s expenses. The harsh environment was hard on Iosepans’ health. Infectious disease took a heavy toll, including deaths from pneumonia, smallpox, and diphtheria. In 1896 there were even three cases of leprosy, and a pest house was built outside of town to isolate the lepers. Sensationalized newspaper reports of the outbreak alienated Iosepa even further from mainstream Utah society. Times became harder after several crop failures, and many of the men sought work as miners in the nearby gold and silver mines. Iosepa continued to grow despite all these challenges. The population increased from around 80 in 1901 to 228 at its peak in 1915. Most residents were Hawaiians, but there were also Samoans, Maori, Portuguese, Scots, and English