Hornet Hill Monument – Captain Maurice Francis Graham
The disappearance of a Western Air Services Boeing 95 mail plane during an intense snow storm thrust Cedar City, Utah, into the sharp focus of world attention. It was not because such accidents were uncommon, for air crashes were quite common in early aviation. But the pilot of this airplane was a very uncommon person—internationally renowned for his courage and flying ability.
Captain Maurice (Maury) Francis Graham was a hero of WWI, credited with saving the lives hundreds of American servicemen of the Lost Battalion when their unit was overrun by German ground forces in a dense fog. He was a recipient of both the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the French Legion of Honor (LOH), and Maury was considered by many to be the world’s foremost weather‐capable pilot. He pioneered a viable airmail route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City for Western Air Services, of which he was also a co‐founder; he was at home in the air and on the mail route.
Maury Graham departed from Los Angeles on January 10, 1930 with a scheduled refueling stop at Las Vegas, NV. Finding he was pacing a fast‐moving snow storm Maury elected to continue ahead of the storm to deliver the mail on time. Smoke pots and flares were lighted and waiting at Cedar City but his intended landing was thwarted by heavy snow. Maury was last reported over the Cedar City airport flying to the northwest. He was never heard from again.
The search for Maury eventually involved resources of the US Postal Service, air lines, Iron County residents and the entire Army Air Corps, the largest and longest aerial search in history, all to no avail. It was not until late spring that the mail plane was eventually discovered by Parowan residents Elburn Orton and Ward Mortensen, 2 miles east of Hornet Hill on Kanarra Mountain.
In an extraordinary feat of airmanship Maury Graham had managed to land safely in the dark of night, in a howling snow storm, on top of a 9,500 ft mountain, in the dead of winter, and with no beacon or visual reference to guide him! Maury had only a turn & bank indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter and a compass in the airplane; no radio, no attitude gyro and no means of communication.
The mail bin was found to be sealed and there was fuel in the wing tanks, the engine and airframe were both intact and returned to service. Messages left for rescuers indicated Maury was proceeding eastward. Some 500 Iron County residents searched for weeks for the missing mail pilot, with ample rewards to encourage them in their quest. His remains were eventually discovered in late July by his friends and wingmen in Spanish Hollow, Crystal Creek Canyon. The securities mail bag was in his arms. He had given his life to see the mail go through.
This historic marker is S.U.P. Marker #158 (see other SUP markers here) and it is located at N 37.48960 W 113.01945.