Thelma Cox LeBaron in the News, 1949

After divorcing Ross Wesley LeBaron in 1948, Thelma Elena Cox LeBaron made some headlines looking for a new husband. “Mrs. LeBaron would like to get a new husband to help support the home and her children so she can find some time to paint”, stated a front page report in the Salt Lake Telegram, in April, 1949. Her main concern was the scarcity of money and food. “Attractive Divorcee Seeks S[alt] L[ake] Husband” was the title.

Salt Lake Telegram, 12 Apr 1949, Tue, p. 21.

According to a news article from the United Press, published a few days later in an Austin newspaper, plural marriage, money and conflict of personalities were pointed by Thelma Cox and her ex-husband as causes for the separation.

Thelma Elena Cox, as a young woman. Date unknown. | Photo courtesy of Mary Taylor.

Before their separation, the LeBarons had had a baby boy the previous December.

Elena LeBaron, as she is referred to by the article, is again praised by her looks — “pretty” is the very first word of the article, and four paragraphs later she is described as a “shapely brunette”. The photograph of the divorced mother and her eight children occupies a larger part of the page than the text itself.

This time, the name of Ross LeBaron is mentioned. He is portraited as a “prophet for polygamy” and “self-styled ‘prophet”’ convicted during the 1944 trials of polygamist Mormons and a former inmate during the year of 1941, convicted of marrying a 14-year-old as his plural wife.

The Austin American (Austin, Texas) · 14 Apr 1949, Thu, p. 20.

Less than ten days after the initial piece in the Salt Lake Telegram, another report shows a suitor who flew from Hawaii to Utah to meet Thelma. In the best tabloid style, artist Cedric Younger Von Rolleston is described as a “frightened little man with sad eyes”. (Interestingly, the painter used an alias and lied about being Dutch).

Salt Lake Telegram, 21 Apr 1949, Thu, p. 21.

Despite Thelma Elena Cox’s mention of polygamy as a cause for divorcing LeBaron, the following July she would married another man involved with the Fundamentalist movement.

Salt Lake Telegram, 16 Jul 1949, Sat , p. 9.
The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) , 14 Jul 1949, Thu ·, p. 4.

Robert Leslie Shrewsbury was one of the men charged of “conspiracy” during the federal and multi-state operation against Mormon polygamists in 1944, along with Thelma’s ex-husband. The coincidence was not detected by the journalists at the time.

Shrewsbury was also a divorcee, and father of four. In 1948, his wife Margaret had filed for divorce on the grounds of “mental cruelty”.

Salt Lake Telegram , 13 Mar 1948, Sat , p. 13.

According to an autobiographical account of the only child born of the he union of Thelma Elena and Robert Shrewsbury, the new couple was also blessed in a Native American ceremony:

Although we lived in a normal rural western society of the time, my mother and father used to talk of well known and respected Kaweah Medicine Chief, Chief Tahachee, who married my father and her in a traditional Kaweah ceremony after they were first married by a Justice of the Peace in Evanston, Wyoming in 1949. [1]

The marriage between Thelma Elena and Robert Shrewsbury only lasted for about four months. “Husbands are an overrated institution”, she was reported saying in an article syndicated by a New York newspaper. Shrewsbury, allegedly, had “failed to provide the financial security” she needed.

Daily News, 23 Oct 1949, Sun , p. 10.

After that, Ross and Thelma reunited one more time. They would separate again around 1950.

The couple had first met in 1936-37, when Ross LeBaron went to Short Creek, in the Arizona Strip, to work with John Y. Barlow. Thelma then lived with her parents in Cane Beds, a few miles east of the polygamous community.


Robert “Three Eagles” Shrewsbury. The Search for Knowledge and Unsolved Mysteries. Self-published, 1999, p. 1.

The Kaweah Indian Nation was denied federal recognition as a Native American tribe in 1985. They take their name after the (federally recognized) Cahullia tribes from Southern California.

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