Home where the buffalo roam: Half-mile hike to Antelope Island's Frary family homestead

By Robert Williamson, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:31 p.m.


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SYRACUSE — If you have an interest in history or want to go on an easy hike while visiting Antelope Island, the Frary Homestead Interpretive trail will satisfy curiosity and stretch the legs and lungs a bit.

The history

On a somewhat barren hillside on the east-facing side of Antelope Island, a pink rock cemented into the landscape is the marker for the burial spot of Alice Frary.

Alice and her husband, George, built a home on Antelope Island and began raising a family there in 1891. The Frarys had six children. Alice, with some school teaching experience, taught her children at the home site.

After the birth of her last child, late in the summer of 1897, Alice became ill. Her husband George sailed to the Wasatch Front to find medicine for his sick wife in Ogden.

As is true with the inexact science of history, there are conflicting stories of what happened next. One report is that George was sailing back with medicine when the wind on Great Salt Lake became strong and overturned his boat. He fought for his life by hanging onto the boat all night and was found exhausted on the Island’s shore without the medicine in the morning. Another story indicates that he found a doctor and when they sailed back to the island and arrived at the home, they found that Alice had already died. Regardless of which account is right, Alice died in September of 1897. She was only 38. Her request before she died is that she be buried on the Island.

The trail and exploration

The Frary Homestead trail begins at a trailhead approximately 8.5 miles from the marina as you enter the island from the causeway. Follow the signage as if going to Garr Ranch on the east side of the island. At around 8 miles, look for a small sign on the right side of the road indicating a turn-off to the Homestead Trail. A short dirt road heading west will bring you to the trailhead parking.

The trail is a half-mile long, easy, slightly uphill with no shade. Take time to look around and notice the landscape: Frary Peak to the west and the Wasatch Front across the lake to the east.

An interpretive sign at the Frary homestead on Antelope Island. Alice Frary and her husband, George, built a home and began raising a family there in 1891. (Photo: Robert Williamson)

There is not much to see at the homestead as time, weather and possibly people have removed the house, spring-house, and other remnants.

Archeologists have worked the site in the past and found fragments of glass, ceramic and metal items associated with homestead living in the late 1800s. Alice played the organ and pump organ reeds have been discovered on the site.

Interpretive signs around the homestead site tell a brief history of the Frary family, their home, spring-house and daily life. The area believed to be Alice’s burial plot is fenced and contains the grave marker and a historical marker. As you read the signs try to visualize the house, spring-house, children playing in the yard, Alice playing her organ and George working his fields.

The best time to hike to the Frary Homestead site on Antelope Island is in the evening when the sun has dropped below the mountain ridge with the peak that bears the Frary name. If the timing is right, there will be shadows and a slight breeze. As one of the interpretive signs suggests: Listen closely, and you might just hear the sound of an organ playing.

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Robert Williamson

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