10 things about MarJean 1. When she was a child, before her parents moved them to Mexico, MarJean did acrobats and was extra stretchy. Her parents had been training her for the Olympics. 2. She… More
Sylvias oldest daughter called me with the news and my heart broke for all the kids and my heart was heavy. I had lost a friend/ a sister. My mind went to the fond memories we had with each other. We were truly there for each other and she was a great strength.
When we were living polygamy often it was just me and Sylvia left to survive. Sylvia made sure we were taken care of. We were a team more so than with our husband.
I admired her willpower to stand up to Homer. When he didn’t have money for us she would firmly stand her ground that the family needed to be cared for and she was going to go to work and do that. My job was to watch the kids and she would go provide for us. I am so thankful that she did this as I didn’t have the courage to go out and work and I would have much rather been taking care of the children.
We complimented each other with the children. I was great with the babies and she was great with the teenage kids.
Sylvia was an excellent cook and when she made up her mind about something she went after it with a full force of energy and power.
She would work really hard and then come home for what she called a “power nap.” Then we would go clean houses together or load all the children up and go to the park for a getaway.
One time she took us to Vallarta where a cruise ship had docked. It looked like we had a little nursery school so she did her brilliant talk and convinced the worker to let us all on to explore the ship. Other times we would go watch as the airplanes came in and giggle at the type of clothes that the people would wear.
Another time we went to Tapeak for school clothes. Mexico is not known for the safety of lone women traveling so when the car had a flat we needed to get out of sight. Sylvia skillfully guided the car off the highway and the 50 foot drop so we could camp for the night until daylight when she would walk to get a tire. We laid blankets on the ground and in the back of the car. We both grabbed a hammer and a wrench to keep by our heads as we slept. We heard men walk by and one man came up and asked if we needed any help and offered to take us to his house. We were smarter than that and turned him down. A few minutes later the man came back with his pregnant wife. We decided it was safe enough, so we stayed in their small house made out of small sticks, mud, and straw with dirt floors but we felt safe for the night. In the morning this humble man and his wife fed us, probably everything they had left in the house. We offered to pay them but they said no, they were just excited because they were sure to be the talk of the town because they had taken in some American people and what a treat that was.
When we left polygamy and moved to the states Sylvia used her talents to open up a furniture store where she painted and designed custom furniture and she started painting.
Here are a few of her many talents
It was a lovely service, but such a shame that the family doesn’t get together more often for pleasant activities. It was beautiful to hear her life story and a few of the grandchildren sing. There is now about 82 total at my last count.
Sylvia will be missed. Farewell my friend, my sister. I will remember and cherish the memories we had.
May 3, 2017
Anna LeBaron is the author of The Polygamist’s Daughter, a memoir about growing up as the daughter of the infamous Ervil LeBaron. In her memoir, Anna writes about growing up in a polygamist family, her father’s criminal activity, and constantly being on the run from authorities. Anna’s story really hits home for me because, not only did I grow up in polygamy myself, but I actually knew Anna’s mother, Anna Mae, and Annas father Ervil. My family had also been one of those on the run from her father. Ervil started having people killed who were leaving the church or followers of his brother Joel.
Anna LeBaron’s mother, Anna Mae, was first married to Nephi Marston and they lived across the street from the first house my Daddy and I built in Colonia LeBaron. Anna Mae and my mother became friends and at times I was sent to babysit Anna Mae’s children before Anna was born.
Ervil, Anna’s dad, eventually was successful in getting Anna Mae to leave her first husband for him. Something I never understood as Nephi was such a great man.
At one point, Ervil had told my mother he had had a dream that she was to leave Daddy to marry him, too. I was so glad that mother didn’t fall for that. Since he couldn’t marry my mother, Ervil told me he wanted to marry me. I was thirteen at the time, and he said he was going to ask my mother to save me for him until I was fourteen and could be married. I remember crying about this to my mother, who told me he was only teasing. Even if she really believed it, I was terrified!
I was spared but my poor sister Claudeen wasn’t as lucky! Mother allowed Ervils brother, Joel to marry her at fourteen instead!
Because I left polygamy and Colonia LeBaron years and years ago, I worried about meeting people from there again. When we left we had fled for our lives and had been trying to lay low and not bring any attention to where we were. We had been put on the LeBaron’s hit list and had received threats in the mail which were quickly turned over to the FBI. For years we weren’t sure who we could trust. Good people were turning on each other and it was hard to say whose side people were on.
But after reading Anna’s book, I could tell she is a genuinely loving person, so unlike her father, and I really wanted to meet her.
I had the great privilege of meeting Anna for dinner while she was on her book tour. I was nervous, but honestly, talking to her felt like I had met another one of my many sisters for the first time. I knew she was Ervil’s child and was a victim like I had been. Although my memories of Ervil and his family were tainted with fear, I reminded myself that her father’s actions were just that: her father’s. It would be horrible to judge anyone from the sins of their fathers.
Meeting Anna was wonderful. It was a great honor to have dinner with her. Anna is just the opposite of her father; while he was cunning and evil, she radiated love and knowledge. After speaking to her for a few minutes, it became clear to me that she embodies the love and hope of a Heavenly Father much more than the sentiments of her own father, Ervil LeBaron. I believe wholeheartedly that Anna can, and will, make a difference for good in this world.
I hope that others who grew up in a similar situation will find hope in her words. I have been encouraging family members to read her story as they can relate to and maybe even learn to let go of some things of this past painful life.
In The Polygamist’s Daughter, Anna takes the reader on a journey through pain and healing, and reminds us all that, after all, is said and done, “Forgiveness is freedom.”
Check out Anna’s Book
To learn more about Anna visit Annas Author site here.
Right before our trip to LeBaron, we had contacted Irene Spencer to stop by and visit her. We were so looking forward to the visit but she passed before we got there. Thank goodness a few years before Irene contacted me and told me she and her daughters were coming from a wedding in Colonial Lebaron and passing through Arizona. Irene, Donna, and Barbara would like to meet up with us and wanted to know the closest hotel to us so we could meet for breakfast the next morning. So very grateful they did!
We met at Kneaders and chatted for hours we took over Kneaders with our stories and laughing. People may have heard polygamy word dropped here and there and who knows what they thought. I don’t care it was so much fun!
I loved Aunt Irene just like a 2nd mom and always loved her humor and positive attitude.
Irene was one of the few that could tolerate my mother because Irene could take anybody on. Plus Irene had been so excited for another American woman in Colonia Lebaron to chat with so she just adored mom.
When Irene would come to visit her kids would all come follow her over. One day mom told her she was welcome to come visit but she had to leave her kids at home. Mom was just that way. Kids were not to be underfoot or heard. So Irene started coming over alone but eventually one by one her kids would come over and Donna would run over to gather them and try to shuffle them back together. So fun!
I loved my time growing up with Irene and her family. I will always have fond memories of going out in the orchards to pick chilies and tomatoes for Irene and once we picked what she need she said we could eat what we wanted. So we would bring our salt shaker and eat as we picked.
I don’t know that we could have made it in the colonies without Irene. I will truly miss my good friend, Aunt Irene. I hope to find more reasons to meet up with the girls though. It’s important to do that now so we never regret not taking the time while we are all alive.
To read Irene Spencers book check out her website here.