Three years ago this week, Eldoradoans awoke to find their town overrun with reporters and the courthouse square surrounded by satellite TV trucks. The headline on that week’s edition of The Eldorado Success asked the question that was on everyone’s mind, “Corporate Retreat, or Prophet’s Refuge?”
Since that day, locals have learned that the 1,756 acre ranch, now known worldwide as the YFZ Ranch, was never intended as a corporate hunting retreat, but instead was meant to house the most faithful of Prophet Warren Jeffs’ polygamous flock as they sought to flee the increasing glare of public scrutiny shined on them by a ravenous national media and anti-polygamy activists like Flora Jessop.
In fact, it was a phone call from Jessop, a woman who escaped from the polygamous lifestyle within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), that sounded the alarm that Jeffs and his followers were on the move. She explained to Success publisher Randy Mankin on the evening of March 15, 2004, that the man who fronted the purchase of the YFZ Ranch, David Steed Allred, was actually a cousin and close lieutenant of Warren Jeffs. And, it was Jessop who came to Eldorado, with several TV news crews in tow, to bring the first national attention to the YFZ Ranch.