Polygamist Towns Close Ranks, Mourn Loss of

The Salt Lake Tribune, Thursday, August 15, 2002

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Three weeks ago, Gregory Holm drove across Short Creek in this polygamous enclave to meet with his estranged older brother, Milton.

The Holm siblings had not spoken in two years — since religious leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) called on followers to sever ties with “apostates” and the community at large began withdrawing children from public schools.

Milton Holm and his wife, Lenore, were shunned because they refused to endorse an arranged marriage between their 16-year-old daughter and an older man. So, when Gregory Holm visited his brother, it was in the middle of the night.

“He didn’t want to be seen,” Milton Holm said Wednesday. “But he came in. He put his arm around me. He was friendly and we talked.”

A week ago, Gregory Holm, 38, died in a plane crash with three other members of the FLDS Church. The four men were “married” to at least six women and had fathered more than 50 children, according to close family members.

On Wednesday, Milton Holm drove across Short Creek — the dry river the town once took its name from — to attend a memorial service for his brother and the other victims of the crash: brothers John O. Barlow, 39; Ronald O. Barlow, 49; and Michael D. Barlow, 44.

Thousands of people from Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, as well as hundreds of extended family members from across Arizona and Utah, journeyed to the twin border towns for two days of services and a funeral at the FLDS Church’s sprawling chapel.

The sudden loss of four fathers in a community that is at once suspicious of outsiders and extraordinarily dependent on the company of one another, is uniquely painful, said Marianne Watson, a plural wife from Salt Lake County and cousin who attended the funeral.

Soon after taking off for their return trip, their single-engine plane crashed into the 12,200-foot summit of Delano Peak in the Tushar Mountains of Piute County. The accident is under investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board.

One of Louis’ brothers is Sam Barlow, a former deputy town marshal who fought a five-year legal battle with the state of Arizona, which tried to revoke his law enforcement certification because he had three wives. Sam Barlow’s certification was upheld in 1992. At the time, he had 36 children.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed multiple marriages under pressure from the federal government in 1890.

With the full support of the LDS Church, Arizona authorities raided the town in 1953 and tried to break up the hundreds of illegal marriages. But widespread public scorn over the raid helped force Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle from office, and since then the practice of polygamy has remained largely unchallenged in the towns.

In recent years, the towns’ combined population has swelled to more than 6,000.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday August 16, 2002.
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