Colorado City, Arizona | Hilldale, Utah | 2016

While staying outside of Zion National Park just north Kanab, Utah I met a group of sister wives. We were staying at the Zion Mountain Ranch, an amazing place with very well built, comfortable cabins in the middle of nowhere about eight miles outside of the park on the eastern edge. A late 90’s model Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up the cabin next to ours and five women, identical in dress except for the hue, hopped out and started to get ready to clean the cabin next to ours. After a brief conversation, I was told that they were from Colorado City, Arizona, that they would drive about an hour and a half to get here, and sometimes stay in employee housing. It took about 20 minutes to clean a cabin, and with four cleaning(the fifth being the driver), it went faster than it would with just one. Hence the teamwork.

Since our next destination was the Phoenix, Arizona area, looking at a map I saw that Colorado City was about an hour out of our way. I decided that I wanted to go there. I was aware of the FLDS, the concept of Polygamist Mormons, the crimes of Warren Jeffs, but I was unaware that this mostly took place in Colorado City/Hilldale – Twin cities on the Arizona and Utah border. I was also unaware of the very unique situation this small town is going through at the moment. Much of what I learned is after the fact, as a good internet connection was hard to come by, and we decided on this excursion the night before we were to leave.

One of the Jessops getting Gas

Driving through Kanab, Utah we pulled over at a gas station and carwash combo. At the pump in front of us was a sister wife. Looking at the license plate, which simply said “Jessop”, I was a little dumbstruck. Both Nicole and I took pictures from inside our car with our cell phones, not wanting to be obvious.

Short Creek

Driving through the area I felt this house on the corner had some importance. The house is larger than many, with the surrounding wall taking up an entire block. As well it is the only house that we saw that had any kind of completed grading, rather than just dirt surrounding it, and generally the quality of the finished house seemed better than most. Generally being uncomfortable openly taking pictures, I used the creek to take pictures and pivot around the neighborhood. It was only upon later research that I realized that this is where 16 FLDS member has been killed during a flash flood early in 2016, and that the large house was their house.

Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah
Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah

The Twin Cities of Colorado City and Hilldale

Driving through the twin cities I was drawn to the amount of large, empty or unfinished houses alongside large finished compounds obviously meant to house large groups of people. Aesthetically there is a conscious disconnect from the size of the house in that the design does not dictate “mansion” but rather multi-family dwelling.

Colorodo City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah
Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah
Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah
Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah
Colorado City | Arizona | Hilldale | Utah

The Merry Wives Cafe

The Merry Wives Cafe in Colorado City
The Merry Wives Cafe in Colorado City