Union Cemetery

Write-up by: Rachel Roach

Placed by: The Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1951

GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 40.609887° 36’ 35.6” N Longitude: -111.848845° 50’ 55.8” W

Historical Marker Text:


No. 155


“Rufus Forbush buried his wife, Polly Clark, at this spot on 22 August 1851. In 1852, after several victims of a black smallpox epidemic had been buried here, he contributed the land for use as a pioneer cemetery and many of the prominent early citizens of Union were buried here. All official records are lost but the restorers of the cemetery have been able to identify the graves of 48 adults, 72 children, and 20 persons of undetermined age.”

“Union Fort Camp, Salt Lake County”


Extended Research:

The Union Cemetery, located in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, was established by a man named Rufus Forbush. He came to the Salt Lake area on 24 July 1847, with Brigham Young and other pioneer families. He settled further southeast in what came to be Union, Utah. Forbush’s wife, Polly Clark Forbush, died on 22 August 1851, and Rufus buried her in “the highest spot of ground on his farm.”[2]The closest cemetery was in Salt Lake City, Utah, so Forbush decided to bury his wife closer to him. A few months later, in Sandy, Utah, there was an outbreak of Smallpox. Community leaders buried those who had died from the outbreak in Forbush’s cemetery. When he returned to his land in the spring he found the other graves that had been dug and marked. This was the beginning of the Union Cemetery.     

Use of The Union Cemetery was sporadic thereafter. Over the years, markers have been destroyed, irrigation flooded the area, and people moved elsewhere. As a result, there were sometimes long gaps between burials.[3]The Union First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located just east of the cemetery. Once the cemetery was surveyed, the ward was given a title and deed and became stewards of the cemetery. Ira Proctor played a significant role in making the cemetery look presentable again. He and a committee cleaned the grounds and put up a wire fence. The Central Camp Company of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers applied for the marker for this location, which was granted in the winter of 1950 and then the marker was dedicated in 1951.[4]

A very well-known pioneer, a man by the name of Green Flake, is buried at the Union Cemetery. He was an enslaved African-American pioneer who crossed the plains with Brigham Young and was one of the first men to enter the Salt Lake valley in advance of Young. Flake was born in January 1828 in Anson County, North Carolina where he was enslaved on the William Jordan Flake plantation. Green Flake lived in the Salt Lake Valley until the death of his wife, Martha Ann Morris Flake, who passed away in January 1885 and is also buried in the Union Cemetery. Flake moved to Idaho after his wife’s death. When he passed away in 1903, in Idaho Falls at the home of his son, Flake’s body was taken to the Union Cemetery to be laid next to his wife. They are buried together in the southwest corner of the cemetery, marked by the gravestone which Green carved for them to share.                       


Anyone who is buried at, or bought a plot at, the Union Cemetery had to sign in a certificate book. This picture shows that Olaf Johnson bought a burial plot on 15 August 1887. [6]

As far as researchers of the cemetery know, there are: 48 adults, 72 children, and 20 people who are of unidentifiable age in the cemetery. All people, who have been buried in the Union Cemetery are known and remembered because of the dedicated and thoughtful people who helped restore this land when it was in need.

[1] Rachel Roach. “Union Fort Cemetery,” 2019, taken at the Union Fort Cemetery.

[2]Lucy Elice Graham Green. “History of the Union Fort Cemetery” (n.p, n.d), (accessed: March 02, 2019).

[3]Green, ”History of the Union Fort Cemetery.” 

[4]Green, “History of the Union Fort Cemetery,” 3-4.

[5]Benjamin Kiser, “Green Flake” at http://centuryofblackmormons.org.

[6]Union Cemetery receipt book, 1887-1894, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, . 

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources: 

Union Cemetery receipt book, 1887-1894, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Secondary Sources:

Green, Lucy Elice Graham. “History of the Union Fort Cemetery told to Leila Brady Nix.” Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kiser, Benjamin. “Green Flake.” At http://centuryofblackmormons.org, University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Roach, Rachel. “Union Fort Cemetery.” Salt Lake City, Utah. 

6 thoughts on “Union Cemetery

  1. Renee Butler

    How do we find out where an ancestor is buried in this cemetery. According to her history Miriam Cunningham Mann age 29 was buried here.

    1. Chelsee

      There’s a plaque that shows the locations of those buried here, at least the ones that were identified. I took a picture of it and I can email it to you.

      1. Cindy Toone

        Is the plaque you referred to in your response to Renee Butler located at the cemetery?
        Can you tell me if these people are identified as buried in the Union Cemetery?
        Edith Ball infant b. 1897 d. 1897
        Zella Ball infant b. 1891 d. 1891
        Erastus Ball infant b. 1887 d. 1887 twin
        Or can you send me a picture of the plaque?
        Thank you, Cindy Toone

      2. Natalie Anderson

        Doing a little exploring today and found your question! My name is Natalie Mann Anderson, Miriam is my 2 times great grandmother. Did you find her grave?

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