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Polygamous town scraps monument

Museum also is closed a month after its opening

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A crowd examines a monument at its July dedication in Colorado City. It has since been removed and an adjacent museum has been closed.

A crowd examines a monument at its July dedication in Colorado City. It has since been removed and an adjacent museum has been closed.

Nancy Perkins, Deseret Morning News

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Barely a month after its dedication on what leaders said was "sacred ground" in Heritage Park, a stone monument commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1953 police raid on this polygamous community no longer exists.

Colorado City Mayor Dan Barlow, who was 21 at the time of the raid and was arrested along with dozens of other men, would say little Wednesday about the monument's disappearance or the closure of a museum.

"It's gone. We just talked it over and came to the conclusion that we should back off, let things settle down," Barlow, 71, said. "There's just too much publicity right now."

Barlow would not confirm rumors that Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ordered the monument hauled away and pulverized, or rumors that Jeffs has left town.

"I don't know about Warren Jeffs," said Barlow. "I haven't been involved with him for some time now."

The reclusive Jeffs, who recently ordered FLDS church services suspended because of what he called his congregation's "iniquities," is said by many in town to be feuding with the Barlow family and angry about recent media attention.

Among the high-profile stories keeping Colorado City in the news is the conviction of former police officer Rodney Holm on felony charges of bigamy and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor 16 or 17 years old. Other news reports have focused on allegations of welfare fraud by polygamist families and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's recent polygamy summit.

Employees at the city offices have also reported numerous vulgar, crank phone calls because of the stories.

"Sometimes it's just better to wait, to let things go," Barlow said, adding that the city repaid Spilsbury Mortuary for its contribution to the monument.

The old Short Creek Schoolhouse Museum and Heritage Park, renovated with volunteer help and restored with $20,000 in grant money obtained 13 years ago, was to have been a place where residents and schoolchildren could learn more about their past.

"We closed the museum and gave those things back to the people," the mayor said with some sadness. "Someday they'll be on display again. We'll use that building for something else."

Several hundred residents of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City attended the July 26 ceremony, which included a patriotic tribute, songs and a dramatization of the raid that changed the lives of many residents.

The opening of the museum, featuring artifacts, news stories and photos of the raid, was celebrated that day. Children and parents walked through the small building to see the items their relatives donated and to look over the various news accounts of an event that tore their town apart.

Among the items once available for public view were dozens of photographs and stories about the raid gathered from news outlets around the country and personal artifacts donated by those who lived through that event.

Jeffs, 46, who became president of the FLDS Church last year upon the death of his father and past church president Rulon Jeffs, leads a membership of several thousand people who believe plural marriage is essential to their salvation. Women in the church are routinely married by the time they are in their early 20s, with many of them becoming plural wives to older men.

E-mail: nperkins@infowest.com