Circleville, Utah is a charming little town in Piute County with a checkered past. Abandoned buildings along Main Street serve as weathered reminders of its beginnings as a frontier settlement, the site of the infamous Circleville Massacre and hometown of the notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy.
Southern Utah is abundant with beautiful abandoned buildings from the frontier era. As I made my way eastward, I couldn’t resist stopping to check them out. After snapping a few pictures of old mining structures in Antimony and Junction, Utah, I made a quick detour in Circleville to grab lunch and take in the town’s beauty.
The increasing number of settlements in the area led to heightened tensions between settlers and natives, culminating in the The Black Hawk War, which lasted from 1865 to 1872. Atrocities were committed by both sides, and the Circleville Massacre was among the worst.
Circleville had existed for less than a year when members of the Ute tribe raided the town, seizing cattle and killing several men who attempted to resist. Several months later, after hearing reports of a violent confrontation at a nearby fort, the residents of Circleville grew ever more worried about their safety. They became so suspicious of natives that they decided to arrest and imprison a local camp of friendly Paiute people with whom they had previously traded, even though the Paiutes were enemies of the Utes that had previously raided the town.
One young tribesman resisted and was killed. The rest were led to town at gun point and tied up in the meeting house. Two men attempted to escape their bindings and were killed by the guards. The surviving members of the tribe, including women and children, were then locked up in a cellar. The townspeople held a meeting and decided that, in order to protect themselves, they would execute the prisoners. One by one, they released the imprisoned members of the Paiute tribe and slit their throats.
A terrified mother ordered her daughter and two sons to run for their lives. They managed to escape the cellar and find shelter in a cave, where they were discovered the next day. The daughter and one of the boys were killed. The other boy was taken to a nearby town and sold in exchange for a horse. He is the only survivor of the massacre, in which an estimated 26 people were killed.
The old Circle Valley Cafe and Motel building was apparently being used as a storage space, or maybe the owner was preparing for renovations.
Veterans Memorial, Circleville, Utah
Though it could be mistaken for a ghost town due to the neat abandoned buildings along its main thoroughfare, Circleville is very much alive, with a population that has hovered around 500 for much of its existence.
Circleville was abandoned in 1866 due to the ongoing dangers of Black Hawk War, but was reestablished in 1874 by Charles Wakeman Dalton, a Mormon settler, and his two wives.
You’ve probably heard of Circleville’s most famous resident, Robert Leroy Parker, who is better known by his alias, Butch Cassidy. The notorious bank robber, train robber, and leader of the Wild Bunch outlaw gang, grew up a mile outside of Circleville in the 1870s and 80s.
The stunning photos were taken by Jim Sullivan. Jim Sullivan is a traveler, who shares his stories with followers If you’d like to see more abandoned places, then check out our articles on the Soviet Ships Graveyard in Perm, Russia and the Creepy Photos of Train Graveyard near Moscow