During the 1880's political opposition to the practice of plural marriage by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the United States intensified. The passage of the Edmunds Act in 1882 provided for fines and jail terms for persons convicted of practicing polygamy. Consequently many members of the Church went into hiding or sought places of refuge outside of the United States.
Charles Ora Card was among those who intended to go to Mexico in order to escape the mounting antipolygamy prosecution, but he was advised by President John Taylor to make an exploratory trip into Canada to seek a place of "asylum and justice". In accordance with these instructions President Card (then president of the Cache Stake) departed for Canada on September 4, 1886 accompanied by James W. Hendricks and Isaac E. D. Zundell. They travelled through the central portion of British Columbia as far north as Kamloops and concluded that sufficient land was not available in that area of Canada. They then crossed the mountains to explore the land Iying between Calgary and the International Boundary to the south.
They were particularly impressed with the land Iying between the Kootenai (Waterton) and Belly Rivers, adjacent to the Blood Indian Reserve. After prayerful consideration they concluded that this area would be an ideal place for a settlement. On October 24, 1886 they dedicated the land "for the benefit of Israel, both red and white", and then departed for their homes in the United States.
Charles Ora Card reported to President Taylor who confirmed the decision to locate a settlement in Southern Alberta (then known as the Northwest territories) and authorized President Card to select families from the Cache and Box Elder Stakes to settle in the new country the following spring. Although President Card had persuaded 41 families to accompany him back to Canada, as the spring of 1887 approached, many changed their minds and only ten families decided to make the trip.
A vangard group consisting of Charles Ora Card, Thomas T. Smith, Niels Monson and Thomas Ricks travelled back to southern Alberta in the spring of 1887, arriving in Canada on April 16. Unable to secure land between the Kootenai and Belly Rivers as they had originally hoped, the group turned their attention to the Lee's Creek area south of the Blood Reserve. Acting on the advice of two local ranchers, Barker and Donovan, President Card decided to locate the settlement on Lee's Creek, about two miles upstream from where it entered the St. Mary's River.
The first of the main body of settlers arrived at the Lee's Creek settlement May 1. Over the next several weeks others came to swell the ranks of the new colony. At this time many of the settlers felt that their stay in Canada would be temporary and that they would return to their homes in the United States when the political climate had improved. In fact, one of the settlers knowingly built a house on a surveyed roadway.
The first sacrament meeting in the Lee's Creek settlement was held on Sunday, June 5, 1887. The 14 by 16 foot tent of Josiah Hammer served as the meeting place. The pulpit was a packing case, with boxes, kegs and bags of oats serving as seats for the congregation. During the ensuing week a bowery was built of boughs from willow and poplar trees under which future meetings were held. On June 12, President Card organized a Sunday School with J. E. Layne as superintendent and John A. Woolf and E. R. Miles as assistants. Sterling Williams was selected as secretary.
John A. Woolf was called to act as president of the Lee's Creek Branch of the Cache Stake. The bowery, and later various cabins, served as a meeting place until a chapel could be erected. Early in November 1887, President Card called a special meeting to discuss the building of a meeting house. Approval was given to his proposal and the men of the community went to work building a 20 foot square log structure. The first meeting was held in this building January 29, 1888 and it was dedicated February 2. This building served as a chapel, school house and a place for community entertainment.
Although the saints were faced with the urgency of providing adequate food and shelter for the coming winter, President Card wasted little time in seeing that the various church auxiliary programs were organized and functioning in the new branch. The Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA) was organized October 16, 1887 with LeGrand Robinson as president and J. W. Woolf and O. E. Bates as first and second assistants. On November 20 of the following month both the Primary Association and the Relief Society were organized. Sarah Daines with counsellors Sena Matkin and Mary Elizabeth Farrell were called to lead the Primary Association. Annie Daines was called to act as secretary. Mary L. Woolf was chosen to be the Relief Society President. Her counsellors were Anna M. Layne and Mary A. Roberts. The first Relief Society meeting was held in the Woolf cabin on December 1. The Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA) was organized November 22 with Zina Y. Card as president and Annie Cheney and Barbara Ammussen as assistants. The secretary was Jane E. Woolf.
Apostles Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor visited the Lee's Creek settlement during the fall of 1888. A conference was held and the Lee's Creek Branch was organized as the Card Ward of the Cache Stake. John A. Woolf was ordained as the bishop. A new log chapel was erected during the following winter in order to accommodate the growing congregation.
During November 1889 the First Presidency of the Church; Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith and George Q. Cannon, accompanied by Brigham Young Jr., president of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited the Card Ward and held a special conference with the saints. It was at this conference that the name of the ward and the settlement was changed to "Cardston".
The Cardston Ward continued to function as a unit of the Cache Stake until August 3, 1890 at which time a Canadian Mission was organized and Cardston became the headquarters of this mission. President Card was released as president of the Cache Stake and appointed as President of the new mission.
The general authorities visited the area regularly and the ward continued to grow as more settlers arrived to take up homesteads. This growth necessitated the formation of two additional wards in 1893. On December 11 of that year the Aetna Ward was organized and on December 24 the Mountain View Ward was formed. By the fall of 1894 the population of the three wards totalled 674 persons, 258 of whom were children under eight years of age.
On April 10, 1895 the Alberta Stake was organized. Charles Ora Card was sustained as the president with John A. Woolf and Sterling Williams as counsellors. The High Council consisted of James May, Johannes Anderson, Johnathan Layne, Simeon F. Allen, Niels Hansen, Ephraim Harker, Oliver C. Robinson, Samuel Matkin, Mark E. Beazer, Hyrum W. Taylor, James Quinton and Robert Leishman.
By this time the influence of the church was being felt in the economic development of the whole of southern Alberta. A cooperative had been established in Cardston in 1888 with stockholders from among the church members. This company grew to include a store, sawmill, cheese factory, flour mill, butcher shop, farm implement business, an ice business and a glove and shoe factory. As the incoming settlers homesteaded more of the land in the outlying areas around Cardston several small hamlets and villages were established. Several small-scale irrigation projects were started throughout the district and in 1898 the Church undertook a contract to build an irrigation canal from the St. Mary's River south of Cardston to the site of the present town of Stirling, Alberta. This project, directed by President Card, provided much needed land and money for the ever increasing influx of Mormon settlers and led to the establishment of the towns of Magrath, Raymond and Stirling.
President Card served as Stake President until August 31, 1902 at which time Heber S. Allen was called to the position. A division of the Alberta Stake in 1903 created the Taylor Stake. Pres. Allen was called to preside over the new stake and Edward J. Wood was called to lead the Alberta Stake.
Serving in this position for 39 years, President Wood gained the love and respect of members and nonmembers alike. His concern was not only for the spiritual welfare of the saints, but for their temporal welfare as well. He advised his people on what and when to plant and led the Stake in special fasts when adverse weather conditions threatened the crops. Acting for the Church he arranged the purchase in 1906 of the 66,500 acre Cochran Ranch and encouraged Latter-Day Saint settlers to locate on the new purchase. This resulted in the establishment of the Glenwood, Hillspring and Hartley Wards. He encouraged and supported the development of irrigation projects throughout the stake and assisted in the establishment of several businesses so that more people could earn a living. Under his capable leadership the stake continued to grow, a temple was erected and the Alberta Stake weathered a trying period of economic depression and drought.
President Wood was released as Stake President in 1942 and Willard L. Smith was called to serve in his stead. In 1948 President Smith was called to serve as president of the Alberta Temple and Gordon Brewerton became president of the Alberta Stake.
The continued increase in church membership throughout the stake over the years required the formation of additional wards and branches. The Leavitt Ward was organized in 1896 and in 1898 the Mountain View Ward was divided forming the Caldwell Ward. In 1900 the Beazer, Kimball and Taylorville Wards were organized. The Woolford Branch was formed in 1906 and became a ward in 1913. In order to serve the needs of church members who had settled on the land purchased from the Cochrane Ranch, the Glenwood Ward was organized in 1909 and the Hillspring Ward in 1910. In 1914 the original Cardston Ward was divided, forming the Cardston First and Second Wards. The western half of town was designated as the First Ward and the eastern half (the original settlement area) as the Second Ward. The Del Bonita Branch was organized as a dependent branch of the Taylorville Ward in 1916 and became an independent branch in 1922. The Hartley Branch was organized in 1928 and became a Ward in 1937. In 1933 the Pershing Branch was organized but became part of the Jefferson Branch when that unit was organized in 1948. The Cardston Third and Fourth Wards were created in 1946 from divisions of the First and Second Wards. The Caldwell Ward was discontinued in 1910 and the Kimball Ward in 1948.
Those who have served as bishops or branch presidents of the various units, and the year of their appointments, are as follows:
Cardston First Ward-John A. Woolf 1887, Josiah Hammer 1895, Dennison E. Harris 1908,JamesThomas Brown 1911, Charles W. Burt 1918, Gustave Nielson 1928, N. Eldon Tanner 1933, William W. Burt 1935, Heber J. Matkin 1939, J. Forest Wood 1942.
Cardston Second Ward-Thomas W. Duce 1914, Walter E. Pitcher 1924, Joseph Y. Card 1932, Lyman Rasmussen 1936, Lloyd Cahoon 19, Earl Peterson 19.
Cardston Third Ward-Almo O. Wiley 1946.
Aetna Ward - Richard A . Pilling 1893, Niels Hansen 1899, Nathan W. Tanner 1918, Andrew O. Jensen 1920, Ben H. May 1933, Christian Jensen 1934, Willis Pitcher 1946, Ora L. Jensen 1950.
Beazer Ward- Mark E. Beazer 1900, George A. Duce 1916, George E. Peterson 1919, Royal M. Beazer 1930, Glen D. Broadhead 1948, W. Roy Pilling 1949.
Caldwell Ward-David H. Caldwell Sr.1898, David H. Caldwell Jr. 1900, Isaac W. Allred 1904. The ward was discontinued in 1910.
Del Bonita Branch - Andrew M. Spence 1916, Eugene Robinson 1922, Harry J. Orcutt 1925, Harry C. Orcutt 1939, Elmer Carter 1940.
Glenwood Ward-Vincent 1. Stewart 1909, Edward Leavitt 1911, Sylvester Williams 1926, Glen Wood 1927, Clarence J. Wight 1933, Eldon A. Quinton 1941, Owen L. Leavitt 1943, Edwin K. Greene 1946.
Hartley Ward-William O. Bigelow 1928, Melvin Fullmer 1930, Ervin Loose 1937, H. Vibert Woodruff 1940, Chase H. Smith 1950.
Hillspring Ward - Franklin Pierce Fisher 1910. Franklin R. Smith 1925, Heber L. Harker 1928, Wallace Hurd 1934, Glen G. Fisher 1940, Max Wynder 1947.
Jefferson Branch-Orene Hansen. 1948.
Kimball Ward-John M. Dunn 1900, William R. Sloan 1903, David R. Thompson 1908, Thomas S. Gregson 1909, James E. Nielson 1913, Thomas S. Low 1918, John H. Bennett 1923, James R. Frodsham 1927, John C. Peterson 1928, Gerald Low 1939, John Sugden 1941, Edward L. Wolsey 1942, Maurice L. Bennett 1944. This ward was discontinued in 1948.
Leavitt Ward - Frank Leavitt 1896, Willard G. Smith 1908, George Edward Cahoon 1921, Owen L. Archibald 1935, LerVae A. Cahoon 1950.
Mountain View Ward-Vincent 1. Stewart 1893, James S. Parker 1907, Ernest Parrish 1918, Seymour Smith 1930, Melvin Pilling 1937, William Payne Jr. 1944.
Pershing Branch-Lester Lee 1933, Heber Sheffield 1939. Lester Lee 1945. This branch became part of the Jefferson Branch in 1948.
Taylorville Ward-George A. Nelson 1900, James Rampton 1903, Robert A. Nelson 1908, Marcellus A. Lowery 1917, Rulon W. Lowery 1936, E. Fay Little 1937, Alma Sommerfeldt 1938, DeVerle Lowery 1940, Merlin Steed 1945.
Woolford Ward-William T. Ainscough 1906, Leo Harris 1913, William T. Ainscough 1915, Arthur W. Pitcher 1918, John A. Johanson 1924, Joseph E. Steed 1928, W. W. Roberts 1933, Marion W. Barrus 1938 LeRoy Pitcher 1948.
As each unit of the stake was organized meeting houses were built to serve the needs of the new congregation. These buildings were designed so that they could be used not only as chapels but for recreational purposes as well since the social life of most communities centered around these buildings. In time many of these buildings were remodelled or replaced by larger structures. One of the buildings in use for the longest time in the stake was the Leavitt Chapel. Built in 1896 it was still in use in 1950.
As the church membership grew the leaders felt a need to have a building large enough to accommodate the conferences and other meetings of the stake. A decision was made to build a tabernacle and construction began in 1908. The building was completed and dedicated in 1914. Located on the temple block, this building served the needs of the stake until it was dismantled in 1954.
By 1893 the population had outgrown the log school and church building. A new frame structure was built. After 1900 when the three room school moved into their new eight room unit this building was remodeled and enlarged to become the long famous old Stake Assembly Hall. During the 1916 February quarterly conference it was destroyed by fire and in 1917 the $20,000 Second Ward Chapel was built on the same site. An addition to this chapel, the Social Center, was built between 1938 and 1943 and served not only as a ward chapel but as a cultural and recreational center for the whole stake.
From the time of their arrival in southern Alberta the church members looked foreward to the day when a temple could be erected in their midst. On June 19, 1887, during the first Sunday School meeting held in the settlement, Elder John E. Layne predicted that a temple would yet be built in their new home. A year later, on October 8, 1888, Apostle John W. Taylor prophesied the exact spot on which a Canadian temple would be built. In 1912 the First Presidency of the Church announced that a temple would be built on Canadian soil and Cardston was chosen as the site.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place November 5, 1913 and on September 19, 1915 David O. McKay of the Council of the Twelve Apostles was present at the laying of the cornerstone. The rain and sleet which accompanied this occasion could not dampen the joy and gratitude of the assembled congregation of 2000 persons.
The saints donated generously of their time and means to aid in the building of this edifice. The structure built in the shape of a Maltese Cross, was made of white granite hauled from quarries near Nelson, British Columbia. The interior was graced with marble and beautiful hardwoods from many parts of the world. Prior to its dedication over 50,000 persons, both members and non-members, toured the grounds and interior of the temple.
In August of 1923 a large contingent of General Authorities, led by President Heber J. Grant, arrived in Cardston to preside at the dedication of the temple. John A. Widstoe wrote that "it was the first time in the history of the Church that so many of the General Authorities of the Church had been assembled at one time outside the boundaries of the United States". The building was dedicated August 26, 1923.
President E. J. Wood was called to be the president of this new temple and the first endowment session was held on the evening of August 29, 1923. George F. Richards and Joseph Fielding Smith directed this session. President Wood served as the temple president until 1948, when, at the age of 82 and feeling the weight of this responsibility, he asked to be released. Willard L. Smith was called to replace him.
The temple has been a source of inspiration for faithful Latter-Day Saints and it stands as a symbol of the faith and dedication of the people who colonized the Cardston area.
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