To motorists racing by on U-211, the ghost town just off the road remains an unnamed curiosity. There are no historical markers. No interpretive exhibits. Not even a sign to give the town a name.
A mining town gone bust? A ranching community pillaged by drought? The ghostly, graying buildings offer no answer.The answer lies hidden in old newspapers and in the recollections of a handful of San Juan County residents who still remember Marie Ogden - an eastern socialite who led a band of religious pilgrims to the arid deserts northwest of Monticello in 1933.
Ogden claimed to talk with Jesus Christ, who told her the world was going to be destroyed with the exception of a small piece of land in San Juan County just east of present-day Canyonlands National Park, and that Jesus would return to earth appearing over a particular rock formation.
Many believed her. In 1933, after months of preaching, writing and raising funds, Ogden and 30 of her followers from Chicago, Idaho and New Jersey packed their bags for Utah to build "The Home of Truth."
"The colonists pledged to give up all their worldly goods and to give complete obedience to the word that Marie preached," said Ingrid Adams, a Sterling Scholar whose research about Ogden earned her national honors.
"Marie controlled and directed the community with the aid of messages she claimed came from the spirit world and from Jesus Christ. The messages came to her upon a hill near her house, and she would take them down on her divine typewriter. The messages were sent directly to her divine typewriter, so all she would have to do was sit down and start typing."
Ogden claimed to have received a number of revelations concerning the Second Coming, the management of the Home of Truth and even gold in the nearby mountains. Even though most of the believers were city folk and knew nothing about gold mining, they set out with religious passion to recover the gold.
When that venture failed to produce the anticipated wealth, the remaining believers returned to their Home of Truth in Dry Valley. They built cabins and barns, planted farms and sent out religious pamphlets.
Some of Ogden's preachings - such as reincarnation - aroused curiosity, if not downright suspicion, among the local Mormons. Ogden believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary; and Ben Jackson, a devotee, claimed to be a reincarnated Brigham Young.
Ogden's belief in earthly resurrection became a public scandal in 1935 with the death of Edith Peshak. Peshak had joined the Home of Truth with the hope that Ogden could miraculously heal her of cancer.
She died Feb. 11 after repeated prayers and oriental cures failed. "Marie would not bury the body, insisting that Edith was not really dead," said Adams. "She kept telling everyone that if they all had enough faith and conditions were right, Edith would come back to life."
Ogden told her followers she could sense "vibrations" from the dead woman, and even received messages from Edith. The body was kept free from deterioration by washing it three times a day in a salt solution.
"Rumors began to circulate in Monticello about the dawn rites and obscene ceremonies that were being used to keep the body ready for the resurrection," Adams said. When a Board of Health examiner went to investigate, he was met by armed guards.
Two years later, Ogden boldly announced that Edith would soon return to life, that the "vibrations" were stronger and the "messages" more frequent. However, a former member of the Home of Faith responded to those claims by admitting that had helped Ogden cremate the remains two years before.
Ogden's preachings continually fostered rumors and speculation about goings on at the communal settlement. Rumors of free love, bizarre rituals and obscene ceremonies fanned the flames of suspicion.
Ogden's followers continued to dwindle away. "Marie's Christ never came to her Home of Truth," said Adams, "yet she continued to believe he would until the time of her death (in 1975 in a Blanding nursing home). Marie was always a mystery to the people of Monticello and Blanding. No one really knew why she came, what she believed in and what she did at her homestead."