Henry Beckstead selected land immediately west of the first meetinghouse in South Jordan for use as a “burying ground.” The land was donated by James Oliver, an early settler in South Jordan, and is the site of the South Jordan cemetery at 1055 West 10750 South.
Two month old John A. Bills, son of William A. Bills, died on September 9, 1863, and Mr Beckstead selected the burial site the same day. The Bills family held the funeral September 10, 1863, making the burial of John A. the first in the town cemetery of South Jordan.
Henry Byram Beckstead became the first sexton of the South Jordan Cemetery and served for sixty-seven years, until his death in 1930. Wallace Beckstead, Pete Winward, Tom Sheppick, Alma Holt and Alden Winters served successively as sextons.
People originally used large, white, wooden markers on the graves. The names and other data were painted in black. Moroni Olivery made the wooden grave markers in his cabinet shop. Berha Holt grew gladiolas and Harriet Christiansen arranged sprays for funeral services.
The rural South Jordan Cemetery was five acres in size. It was the only Cemetery south of the West Jordan Cemetery and west of the Jordan River at the time it was designed. The South Jordan Ward maintained the cemetery until ownership was turned over to the City on October 1, 1945. In 1960, Royal Beckstead sold two and a half acres of land to the City to extend the cemetery northward.
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Margaret Brough said:
I was 5 years old when this happened. My father had purchased a radio for my mother to listen to. The radio was turned on first thing in the morning and it was the last thing we turned off before we we went to bed. When the announcement of the tragedy came over the radio, my mother began to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she said “There has been a Jordan school bus hit by a train and I am afraid that Kenneth was on it.” (Kenneth was my only brother with a family of 7 children.) In my attempt to comfort my mother, I ran to the window which had a view of the lane my brother would be coming down. Excitedly, I saw the school bus stop at the end of the lane and Kenneth got off and began walking toward our house! I screamed to my mother: “Kenneth is all right, I can see him coming down the lane now!” How happy my mother was. The date was December 1, 1938 and thoughts of Christmas was already occupying most of the news of each day.
That Christmas was a solemn one. I remember the funerals, and all the news in the Desert News paper each night. . . reporting of funerals, interviews with families of lost ones. A few years later, one of my first cousin’s married Reed Webb. (He had a brother and a sister killed in the accident.) He said his father spent the night of this tragedy, walking down the rail road tracks, looking for parts and/or possessions of his two children. Needless to say that this tragedy took it’s tole on the family. Can a parent ever get over something like this?