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Utah Cemetery, Atkinson County, Georgia





Nearing the end of 1901, the Satilla Branch − already known to all as 'Utah Church' − had been active and growing for one year, having organized in November of the previous year. During that time, the infant congregation had difficulty establishing a dependable schedule of worship. Meetings, services, and rites were held on an ad hoc basis, occurring in members' homes, public buildings, barns, and often outdoors. The need for a permanent place of worship and fellowship was becoming more urgent, and members began discussing plans for constructing a meetinghouse.

There was little (if any) debate over where to build a chapel for the Branch. It would almost certainly have to be on or near the Williams Farm, north of McDonald on the Satilla River. It was the most logical choice, not only because the six hundred-acre property was in a reasonably central area between the homes of other church members, but also because Calvin G. W. Williams was arguably the most enthusiastic and unwavering advocate for the Church's mission in the area. Elders throughout the region were by then familiar with Williams and his family, whose home was always open to them, as evidenced that year when, for several nights in a row, the family hosted so many young Utahans that the house was filled to capacity, forcing Williams to turn away a few late-arriving Elders. Not long after, Williams constructed an additional room onto the side of the house in order to accommodate more missionaries. The Williams children called it "the Elders' room." If a church was to be built, it may as well be near Calvin Williams — if built anywhere else, it was entirely plausible that he may have relocated the family to be near the church anyway. 

The decision on a specific location for a meetinghouse was solidified in November 1901, following the death of Allen Raymond Williams, father of Calvin Williams, and early convert to the faith. He was buried on a gently sloping ridge near the Williams homestead. Calvin Williams donated the two acres surrounding the gravesite to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the purposes of building a church and cemetery, both of which came to fruition. The chapel went up quickly, and underwent several transformations in the following years, with additions and enhancements made. The cemetery grew, as cemeteries do, slowly. By the time the tiny graveyard had grown to fill its acre decades later, the chapel was gone. The dynamic congregation of what began as the Satilla Sunday School had grown to become the McDonald Branch, then the Axson Ward [a fully organized congregation in the LDS Church], eventually outgrowing its home at Little Utah, necessitating a move to the county seat at Pearson, after which the old chapel was sold and relocated. 

Although the old meetinghouse is gone, in its place at the cemetery which still bears its name, Little Utah is memorialized on a granite monument, erected in 1995 by the descendants of its first members. Standing upright at about four feet, the simple, rectangular marker chronicles some of the early milestones of the congregation's history, and of the structures that once stood there. It honors some of the founding members and families, particularly the family of Elder Calvin G.W. Williams, who is interred just yards away, in the Williams Family Plot. 

Utah Cemetery remains the traditional burial site for local Latter-day Saints, as well as the descendants of Utah Church's founders, Mormon and 'gentile' [non-Mormon] alike. It is likely one of the largest Mormon cemeteries in the State of Georgia, and possibly in the Deep South. Just as it was at the turn of the Twentieth Century, the grounds are surrounded on all sides by farmland, much of which remains in possession of the same families that attended the old church, most of whom will one day be laid to rest in the historic cemetery, one of the last remaining vestiges of a unique religious community in the Wiregrass South. 



A full listing of burials at Utah Cemetery (and all other regional cemeteries) can be found at Find A Grave, the world's largest database of burial records.



Standing on the former site of the old Utah Church meetinghouse, a granite historical monument was erected by descendants of church founders to chronicle some of the history of the Little Utah community.

A transcription of the engraved text can be found Here.

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