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Posted on April 17, 2012 at 10:04 am

April 16, 2012
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Tom Wharton

Wharton: Finding redemption on Antelope Island

I love Utah history, which is why I was eager to see a new local independent movie called “Redemption,” filmed mostly on Antelope Island and now showing in Utah theaters.

The movie tells the true story of grave digger Jean Baptiste, who worked at the Salt Lake City cemetery in 1862. Salt Lake City police Officer Henry Heath, whose daughter was buried in the cemetery, discovered that Baptiste had robbed several hundred graves. Many of the burial garments were discovered in the small home the grave digger shared with his wife.

Officials tattooed words on Baptiste’s forehead to mark him as a grave robber. One report, which the filmmakers used, said the tattoo read “For robbing the dead.” Another said the words “grave robber” were used.

Baptiste was banished first to Antelope Island, but the Great Salt Lake waters were shallow enough for him to escape. He didn’t know how to swim. He eventually ended up at smaller Fremont Island, surrounded by much deeper water.

I knew the story to this point because my late wife, Gayen, researched it for a chapter in our 1998 book It Happened in Utah. According to her research, when two brothers who grazed cattle on the island went looking for Baptiste, they saw that a wooden shed had been taken apart and a cow slaughtered and skinned. The grave digger mysteriously disappeared and was never found. Most figured he drowned but a few people claimed to have seen him in other states.

Read more on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

Watch the REDEMPTION trailer.


Categories: Out Takes Blog