Saturday, February 9, 2013

Grandpa George and his Great-Grand-Pappy Bybee

George Ellis Vaughn (1910-1997) with his Great-Granddaughter, my first born.
(1988 by GLV)
With roots in Utah's Dixie, I wanted to make some comment on the excellent guest piece by Amy over at disputing an article in the SL Trib that Utah's Dixie was full of rabble-rousing rebel slave-holders from the states of the southern confederacy. Trying to add something unique, I thought of my Grandfather who lived out his retirement years in St. George and is buried in the Santa Clara Cemetery. He once took us to the beautifully located ghost town of Grafton, Utah, and showed us the grave of one of his (and my) ancestors. He then proceeded to gleefully jump on the grave for no apparent reason than that he seemed proud to be jumping on the grave of his great-grandpappy. He was boisterous in that way. He was also a life-long Democrat, so he has that going for him (and some few of his descendants).

It appears that I never took a picture of him doing that grave jumping although I understand he made the same performance for other members of the family so maybe somebody has a picture. But when I was looking to see if I had one, I came across the wonderful picture above. That is Grandpa George with my first-born daughter. It is no surprise that Grandpa was in our basement TV room watching baseball. It is unusual to find him in such a tender moment with a child. He wasn't a mean grandpa so much as a boisterous, grave-stomping type.

So all I have left of the story of the grave are some pictures from other sources. Grafton is most famous for being one of the locations for the filming of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." You know, the bicycle scene and B.J. Thomas singing "Raindrops?" For the younger generation you can see that here. I'll spare most the imbed vid. And it's pretty cool to have an ancestor buried in a world-famous Ghost Town!

Grafton, Utah at the Mouth of Zion Canyon. Historical Scenery just doesn't get any better than this!
(thanks to Triberocker who graciously shares with the public domain!)

The cemetery is pretty cool too. As per usual in a southwestern desert ghost town, it is dry and not covered with green grass or shade trees. But it is still well maintained as the resting place of Utah Pioneers, some with numerous descendants.

The Bybee Grave at Grafton Cemetery  (from
There is quite an extensive history about the Bybees on I can't vouch for it because I haven't done any independent research but it looks pretty good. There is apparently a dispute that has sprung up referenced on the site as to whether he ever actually had the middle name "Lee." Maybe it was assumed somehow as he died during the Civil War and was from Kentucky. But as the history points out, the family had always been fairly poor so it was unlikely they had ever been slave owners. Besides they moved to the free-state of Indiana where they joined the Mormon Church and then moved on to Nauvoo, Illinois.

There is a large Bybee Book in the LDS Family History Library with extensive genealogies linking us back to Odin or Woden (the god for whom they named "Wednesday"). I'm not sure about all that. But it does look like I'm a distant cousin of Judge Jay Bybee of the infamous torture memos of the most recent Republican presidential administration. I met him once at a brown-bag lunch in D.C. with U.S. Solicitor General Rex Lee. But that's all a story for another time and place.

There's even an odd little poetic tribute to Grandpa Bybee on Youtube that you can see here. To each his own form of ancestral worship. Grandpa George's jumping on the grave didn't bother me. I don't think Great Grandpappy Bybee felt it much or would be too bothered by it now whatever work he's doing on the other side. Maybe he's having a good chat with Grandpa George. They both may be getting ready for a little talk with Judge Bybee - or maybe me.

Addendum Feb. 10, 2013
And Judge Bybee is still in the news at the Atlantic (caution: graphic descriptions of "torture" or "enhanced interrogation" practices)

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