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Townshipper Collection Edit


WASH 030


  • 1975 – 1998 (Creation)


  • .63 Linear Feet (Whole)



  • Abstract

    Papers related to a group of politically conservative southern Utah individuals in the St. George, Utah and Littleton, Arizona communities. The collection consists primarily of papers (articles and legal court proceedings related to the "Townshipper" movement) that were compiled by Ted W. Shumway (1929-2001), former St. George, Utah city attorney and Robert F. Owens, a retired Fifth District Court Judge covering Beaver, Iron and Washington counties.

  • Biographical / Historical

    The "Townshipper" Movement in Washington County, Utah and the Arizona Strip began in the late 1970s. It was an outgrowth of the influence the John Birch Society had in southern Utah. By the 1980s the psychology that originally motivated this movement evolved into various groups in Washington County. They were generally anti-government. Richard Donald Cooper (1931-2014), was a leader in the "Townshipper" or Constitutionist movement that put him in conflict with local laws and their enforcement. Much of the conflict involved controversies over zoning and licensing laws. After several conflicts, Cooper moved across the border to Moccasin County, Arizona. By the end of the 1990s the activity of the movement declined.

  • Scope and Contents

    The collection consists of two boxes comprising 24 folders. The first two folders contain information about the "Townshipper" Movement in general. The remaining folders relate to "Townshipper" legal proceedings from 1977-1998. The nature of the legal proceedings in files 3 to 24 are described below.

    Richard D. Cooper (“Cooper”) and Walter Mann brought legal actions in the late 1970s and early 1980s against Judge Robert F. Owens in St. George, Utah, complaining that the judge was biased and that he violated technical rules of law. Cooper also filed an appearance in 1986 challenging the jurisdiction of the court because he was a “freeman” in Utah over which there was “no remedy at law against him.” A later proceeding involved a challenge to unlawful speeding claiming that the United States and Arizona constitutions did not authorize the state to pass or enforce traffic laws.

    Other cases in the 1980s and 1990s involved Walter Mann, Arthur Barlow, Donald Hare, Harold Blackmore, Steve Baily, Don Hurst as well as Cooper. In 1989, Cooper and others created the Desert Springs Township near Littleton, Arizona by issuing a Contact and Declaration of Trust” and a “Covenant and Use Agreement.” These documents and the formation became a basis for later challenges in the Moccasin Justice Court in the 1990s. In 1991, Cooper issued a “Notice of Judgment by Default and Order” against the United States, the State of Arizona, the City of Mesquite, Nevada, and the counties of Clark and Mohave, Nevada. The judgement commanded those governmental authorities to “desist and refrain” from enforcing laws against Juan Perez, a citizen of the Desert Springs Township. Cooper filed a proceeding in 1993 challenging the compliance and enforcement of zoning, sanitation and permit laws of the State of Arizona and Moccasin County. The basis was that residents of the township were not subject to higher authority laws beyond the township laws.

    In 1997, the legal proceedings came to a head when Ted Shumway brought cases against Cooper seeking to enforce traffic citations, an assault of a private citizen involving a fence dispute, simulating legal process and filing meritless cases in state and federal courts. Cooper was convicted and was sentenced to jail for 120 days and with probation. Cooper appealed the convictions which appeal was denied in 1998.

  • Arrangement

    The arrangement of the collection is chronological with general information housed first. Folder 1 consists of general information about the "Townshipper" movement in southern Utah. Folder 2 consists of writings by Richard D. Cooper. Folders 3 to 24 consist of various "Townshipper" legal proceedings from 1977 to 1998 that are arranged chronologically by case, most of which are in the Moccasin Justice Court, Moccasin County, Arizona.

  • Preferred Citation

    Item description & date, WASH 030 Townshipper Collection, Dixie State University Special Collections & Archives.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open and freely available to researchers during Special Collection's hours or by appointment.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    Reproduction and use of the materials in this collection are subject to copyright law. Dixie State University Library Special Collections and Archives holds the copyright to unpublished material in the collection that is not in the public domain. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be obtained from the Special Collections Librarian and Archivist and a correct citation provided. A user may be asked to submit a "Request for one-time use of photocopies or reproductions" form in order to obtain reproductions.