Older brother of former Colorado City mayor Dan Barlow was excommunicated from FLDS church along with 20 others
ST. GEORGE — Louis Barlow, the eldest brother in Colorado City’s power family, died Sunday night in St. George, where he had lived since the polygamist church founded by his father excommunicated him four months ago.
The cause was not disclosed to the public on Monday. A manager at St. George’s Spilsbury Mortuary, which will conduct Barlow’s funeral services, said the family requested that no information, including the location of the services, be released Monday.
Several people having ties to the Barlow clan, which has about 4,000 members in the border towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, said in recent years Barlow had suffered a heart attack. Barlow, in his early 80s, reportedly had seven wives, more than 60 children and at least 400 grandchildren.
“He was kind of the patriarch of the family,” said Benjamin Bistline, a polygamy historian who lived most of his life in Colorado City. “His brothers are going to miss him.”
Barlow, three of his brothers — Joe, Dan and Nephi — and his son, Thomas, were among 21 men excommunicated on Jan. 10 by Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamist enclave in North America.
A letter prophesying Barlow would be the new prophet soon emerged. But the men quietly moved away to St. George, giving no signs of pursuing the power struggle between Jeffs and the clan descended from Colorado City’s founder, John Y. Barlow.
Since then, at least six of Barlow’s wives have been “reassigned” to other men. Jeffs, 48, also told his followers that the excommunicated brothers were “not worthy,” said Ross Chatwin, who was also kicked out of the church last November. Family members were forbidden to visit them in St. George, he said, and some “didn’t even consider him the father any more.”
“What Warren is doing here is legally murdering people,” said Chatwin, who called Jeffs a “Hitler-like dictator” in a January news conference held at his home in Colorado City. “This is the kind of power Warren is having on people here. It’s big. It’s really big.”
In January, Con Holm, another FLDS member who was excommunicated by Jeffs, died of “a broken heart,” as his obituary put it. Holm, 52, “was abandoned and rejected by his community and many whom he loved most,” the obituary read.
Doug Cooke, whose wife of 21 years was taken away by the church, said that when a man loses his family, he loses the chance to build a “celestial family,” and “your whole life was wasted up to that point.”
“I wanted to die,” Cooke recalled when his wife was “remarried” to Fred Jessop, the FLDS church’s longtime bishop who recently disappeared. “I wanted God to take me home.”
Cooke said he met Barlow a week ago at the Village Inn restaurant. But Barlow refused to shake his hand, Cooke said, saying, “We have nothing in common.”
“I know damn well that he has to be a broken-hearted man,” Cooke said. “Basically, Warren killed him.”
But Rod Parker, a longtime attorney for the FLDS church, dismissed those claims fueled by “the political tug of war.” During a meeting in January, he said, Barlow told him he was “at peace.” When he last saw Barlow three weeks ago, “he sounded normal and upbeat.” Barlow’s death, he said, is nothing but a personal family loss.
“Nobody knows why he died,” Parker said. “I just don’t believe that (Jeffs killed him). I think it does a disservice to his memory.”
Chatwin, who won the court battle against the FLDS church’s eviction last week, said he recently went to talk to Barlow in St. George, but was told, “I have nothing to talk about.” He did shake Chatwin’s hand, though.
“It was all about the pride,” Chatwin said. “They can’t get over the pride of having made a mistake.”
The Barlows have always championed the one-man rule, a principle that divided the FLDS church in the early 1980s. And when Jeffs said his father, Rulon Jeffs, chose him to become the prophet, Chatwin said, he wasn’t challenged, because “the prophet can’t make a mistake.”
The reclusive leader, however, has become more secretive, excommunicating members, collecting more money and building walls around his compound in Hildale.
“(Barlow) lost his will to live, his desire to live,” Chatwin said. “I think Joe (Barlow) is in the same boat right now.”
Bistline, who estimated Barlow was either 82 or 83 years old, said he didn’t believe the Barlows left town “passively.”
“Louis went along with what he said just to keep the peace,” Bistline said. “Warren Jeffs is going to lose the control. Warren Jeffs is going to fail. Somebody else will have to come back and take control.”