An Abbreviated History of Polygamous Communities
1920s -- Short Creek, Arizona, was founded by a group of Mormon polygamists calling themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Polygamy had been disavowed by the Mormon Church in 1890 as a condition for Utah's admission as a state. Today the isolated polygamist community, the largest in the U.S., now includes two towns -- Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, just across the state line.
1942 -- The United Effort Plan (UEP), a religious charitable trust, was formed at Short Creek by the FLDS. The trust, which still operates today, owned all real estate in the area and assigned men tracts of land to live on. In exchange, the men gave 10 percent of their earnings to the UEP. Families could build houses on the property but the buildings remained the property of the UEP.
1944 -- Dozens of people were arrested and 15 men jailed in raids by Arizona, Utah and federal authorities on Short Creek. Hundreds of people were excommunicated by the Mormon Church for practicing polygamy and refusing to sign loyalty oaths.
1953 -- Then-Arizona governor Howard Pyle cracked down on polygamy in Short Creek. He sent in state police officers who arrested all married men, jailing them on charges of bigamy, adultery and rape. Women and children were taken into state custody and sent to Phoenix, where they remained for two years. News reports at the time showed babies being wrenched from their fathers' arms. Political fallout was blamed for Pyle's defeat in a reelection bid and for today's politicians' reluctance to deal directly with allegations of abuse and fraud.
1960 -- Short Creek was renamed Colorado City. Women and children were gradually reunited with their husbands, and households were rebuilt under the leadership of FLDS president Leroy Johnson, who would remain the community's spiritual leader for three decades and set up its tightly controlled financial and real estate empire.
1986 -- Leroy Johnson died, passing leadership of the church to the Jeffs family. Patriarch Rulon Jeffs, a retired tax accountant, and later, his son Warren, rose to leadership of the polygamist community, presiding over the religious and moral tenants followed by the FLDS.
1998 -- Two Utah men were prosecuted and sentenced to prison for severely beating a 15-year-old girl who had run away from an arranged marriage to her uncle. Both were members of the Kingston clan, one of three main polygamist families. David Ortell Kingston was given a 10-year term for incest and unlawful sexual conduct with his niece. The girl's father, John Daniel Kingston, was found guilty of child abuse. Utah hired a full-time polygamy investigator after influential state legislators, outraged by the case, pushed for the new position.
2000 -- The U.S. Census put the population of Colorado City at roughly 3,332, spread among only 444 households. The average size household was highest in the state at 7.51 people per household; statewide the average size household was 2.64 people.
Summer 2000 -- Rulon Jeffs ordered all FLDS families to pull their children out of public school. The town's elementary school was forced to close.
September 2000 -- Members of FLDS reportedly prepared for the "lifting up," a mass ascension into heaven. Sect members said they were cutting ties with nonbelievers and preparing for the apocalypse, which church leaders told them was near. When the members remained earthbound, FLDS leaders said they had merely been suggesting that members take more responsibility for themselves.
May 2001 -- Utah polygamist Tom Green was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to five years in prison in that state's first successful prosecution of plural marriage. Green had five wives. His trial and conviction drew national media attention to the far-flung community. As attention turned to the Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City in 2002, the media, particularly the Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, continued to write about the practice of polygamy, allegations of abuse and sexual slavery, lack of action by authorities and retribution against dissident community members known as "apostates."
June 2001 -- The Arizona Attorney General's Office sent investigators to Colorado City to look into complaints of sexual abuse and child abuse raised by dissident community members who helped a young girl flee an arranged marriage.
April 2002 -- Dan Barlow Jr., the son of longtime Colorado City mayor Dan Barlow Sr., was charged with molesting five of his daughters. He pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse and was given a suspended sentence. He must register as a sex offender. Barlow was investigated by Colorado City police after his wife and daughter detailed a pattern of sexual abuse that had gone on for years.
September 8, 2002 -- Rulon Jeffs dies at the age of 92, leaving son Warren to lead the 6,000-member FLDS flock. Rulon Jeffs was believed to have as many as 75 wives and more than 60 children. His house, part of the Jeffs' family compound, had 23 bedrooms, two kitchens and 10 bathrooms.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.