Polygamy raid in ’53 remembered

Deseret Morning News, July 27, 2003
By Nancy Perkins, Deseret Morning News

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Residents of this polygamous community on Saturday shed tears, sang patriotic songs and bowed their heads in prayer as they remembered one of the darkest days in their town’s history.

“The memories are still bright in our hearts,” said Colorado City Mayor Dan Barlow, who was 21 years old and one of the men arrested by Arizona police officers during the 1953 raid of Short Creek, a community now known as Colorado City.

“Our minds will never forget the importance of standing firm in the beliefs that we have. We stand for America and all the things that make this country great and good,” he said.

In a solemn ceremony Saturday, several hundred people of all ages gathered at the old schoolhouse to dedicate a monument and museum in memory of that event 50 years ago.

Colorado City is home to more than 7,000 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Polygamy is taught as a central tenet of the church.

Barlow, 71, narrated a re-enactment of what happened that night when families were ripped apart by order of Arizona’s then-governor Howard Pyle.

“A dynamite blast warned the people and they gathered at the schoolhouse, gray-faced and composed,” said Barlow, standing before the restored schoolhouse that now houses artifacts, personal items from those who homesteaded the town, and dozens of photographs and articles about the raid.

“We were told to be ready and use Brigham’s weapons — the songs of Zion,” he said. “Every heart was filled with apprehension. At 4 a.m., sirens flashing red lights and dozens of police cars in a line came upon our community. Children were told to huddle close and not cry, to be brave.”

As recorded music of “God Bless America” filled the air Saturday, those in attendance also began singing. One or two of the older women stood up, a few men placed their hats over their hearts, and children were still.

The American flag was raised, just as it was when Arizona law officers came to arrest every man in town while social workers interviewed the women and children.

“Many of the faces of those ladies who were stuck with their children on buses and taken away that day are here,” said Barlow. Louis Barlow, who was 29 when the raid occurred, said he held no rancor toward those involved in the event.

“I know we could talk for hours about the incident of the raid and the position we stand in today,” he said. “But the most important thing we can do is to encourage each other to stand firm in the correct principles of life. Let us not flinch if we are discriminated against or if the finger of scorn is pointed at us. So be it.”

Although the word “polygamy” was never spoken during the ceremony, copies of stories headlining the government raid are featured inside the schoolhouse. The people of Short Creek were called “religious fanatics” and their community a “cult.” Gov. Pyle was quoted as saying the people in Short Creek were guilty of “the foulest of conspiracies.” He later paid dearly for ordering the raid as voters refused to give him another term in office.

Both Barlow men said the raid targeted good people who were simply living their religious convictions that include plural marriage.

“We are not lawbreakers. We are law defenders and supporters,” said Louis Barlow, who is also a veteran. “We are thankful to be different.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday July 27, 2003.
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