After the church was organized in 1830 near Palmyra, New York, missionaries were sent to Ontario, Canada, and a few branches of the church were established in that area. Most of the new members left Ontario soon after joining the church. They gathered in the Eastern United States before the migration of the main body of saints from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. However, prior to 1886 no Mormons came to the western part of Canada with the intent of developing a permanent settlement.
In 1886 the anti-polygamy raid was at its highest in Utah and a number of the brethren chose to go to Mexico rather than be imprisoned. Charles Ora Card was the President of the Cache Stake in Logan, Utah in 1886 and was being sought by U.S. Marshalls for practicing polygamy. Early in September 1886 he packed his wagon and requested permission from President Taylor to go to Mexico.
President Taylor, who had lived in Canada prior to joining the church, stated that Mormons would receive justice and fair treatment in Canada. Also in 1886 there was very little arable land left in the Utah area suitable for agricultural settlement. Therefore, he advised President Card to go on an exploratory trip to western Canada to escape being imprisoned and to find a suitable area to establish a Mormon settlement
Selecting a Site for Settlement
On September 10, 1886 Charles Ora Card was set apart by Apostle Francis M. Lyman as a missionary to select a suitable area for settlement in western Canada. President Card was to be accompanied by Bishop Isaac E. D. Zundell and James H. Hendricks. These three left Logan, Utah September 14, 1886 and travelled north by train to Spokane, Washington Territory. They purchased 2 saddle horses and two pack horses and travelled north to the Osoyoos Lake area in British Columbia and then north to Kamloops, but did not find any large areas that were available for settlement. In Kamloops they sold their horses and on October 14, 1886 left by train for Calgary. In Calgary they purchased a team and wagon and started south. Eventually they reached the area between the Belly and Waterton Rivers (Standoff area) and were impressed that this was a suitable area for settlement. On October 24, 1886 they "kneeled down and dedicated the land to the Lord for the benefit of Israel both red and white." They then returned to Utah and President Card made a report that recommended this area for settlement. The report was submitted to and approved by President Taylor. C.O. Card then returned to his home in Logan and during the winter he was engaged, in gathering a party of settlers to go to Canada.
About 40 families agreed to migrate to Canada, but by the spring of 1887 many had changed their minds, and only a few were prepared to accept the challenge of colonizing the area selected in western Canada. Each of the familites that failed to follow the advice to leave Utah for the northern wilderness must have had their own reasons, and why they did it is not documented. We do know that many of the ones who did heed the and kept their commitment had already "started over" many times, or had a heritage of having done so. Zina Y. Card, the wife of C. O. Card, for example, was the daughter of Brigham Young, who had built, and abandoned to the enemies of the Church, five houses in his lifetime. John A. Woolf's roots go back to a loyal neighbour of Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York. Thomas R. Leavitt was born in Quebec and lived with the Saints in various places in the Eastern United States until 1847 when he moved west with the great trek of pioneers in 1847. Others like Johannes Anderson and Samuel Matkin had left Europe in their youth to come to Zion, made many moves during their lives, and obediently went wherever directed. Despite the fact that the church had been established for less than 60 years many of these pioneers were already 2nd and 3rd generation members.
On March 23, 1887 C. O. Card left the Cache Valley area to return to Canada. On April 17, 1887 he and Bishop Thos. X. Smith, Neils Monson and Thomas E. Ricks arrived at the Standoff site. They found that the land which had been previously selected between the Belly and Waterton Rivers was under lease to the Cochrane Ranch Company and was not therefore available for settlement. In searching for another area to settle they crossed the Blood Indian reserve and on April 24, 1887 the party stopped at the North West Mounted "Police Post" located about 10 miles southwest of the present town of Cardston. On April 25th they explored land along the Lees Creek and St. Mary River. On the evening of April 26 President Card stated: "they voted unanimously" that the Lees Creek area was the best location "to plant our colony". The next day the 27th of April they went to the "Police Post" and informed the Police that new settlers who were migrating from Utah should be directed to the Lees Creek site. C. O. Card then drove to Lethbridge and reported to the land office, bought supplies, and returned to the Lees Creek site.
New Settlement Established
When C. O. Card returned to the Lees Creek site on May 1st 1887 he found that Andrew L. Allen and Warner H. Allen had arrived at the Lees Creek site with four horses and a wagon. On Monday May 2, 1887, Andrew L. Allen "hitched three horses to C. O. Card's plow and commenced breaking ground". C. O. Card, Thomas Ricks, Thomas K. Smith, Neils Monson, Andrew L. Allen and Warner H. Allen each separately held the plough for the first six furrows. They continued breaking land until about one-half acre was ploughed. The following morning May 3, 1887 the first garden in the Lees Creek area was planted. Jane Woolf Bates stated that the garden was located one block east of the present Main Street.
Whle C. O. Card and his party went ahead to find the location for the settlement on Lees Creek, his family and several other families back in Utah were preparing for the long trek to Canada by team and wagon with their household goods, food supplies, farm equipment and livestock. The trip from Utah to the Lees Creek site would take about 2 months and they would travel approximately one-half the distance that many of the adults had travelled years before when they crossed the plains from Nauvoo to Utah. The 41 settlers who first arrived in the new settlement in 1887 came from several different locations in Utah and travelled in a number of different groups.
Samuel Matkin and his wife Sena, Robert Daines and Mark Preece arrived at the Lees Creek site with two four-horse teams on May 16, 1887 and on May 25th Thomas R. Leavitt, Johannes Anderson and their families with Johathan E. Layne arrived at the Lees Creek area.
C. O. Card had left the Lees Creek site on May 3 1887 to meet his family who were en route from Utah to Canada. It was indeed a very difficult journey for the pioneer families making the trek to Canada. They suffered sickness, cold wet weather, and many other difficulties. President Card, who had crossed the plains from Illinois to Utah as a youth had seen much of hardship and suffering, and on May 10, 1887 as he met Thomas R. Leavitt and Johannes Anderson and their families he made this simple note in his diary: "When I beheld these brethern it reminded me of another exodus, and I could have wept."
Two days later Card rejoiced as he met the main body of pioneer saints, which included his dear wife Zina. Jane Woolf Bates,as a young girl travelled with her parents in that group which left Utah early in April 1887. On the journey to Canada, Jane Woolf Bates wrote:"...there were no roads, only old trails with ruts, stones stumps and tree roots to keep us bumping. There were often stormy days with both snow and rain to add to the discomfort." They did not travel on Sunday but held a church service. They had milk cows and they made butter "by tying the jar containing the cream to the back of the wagon. By night the jolting of the wagon had produced a nice pat of fresh butter, and the buttermilk made a refreshing drink."
Jane Woolf Bates also said that all heads of families selected to colonize this new area were chosen "because of responsible positions held in the church for which they had constantly laboured both temporally and spiritually.....All of them had had previous pioneering experience. All were men of great integrity and honesty."
On June 1, 1887 as the C. O. Card party entered Canada, they stopped, formed a circle and shouted "Hurrah for Canada! Canada or Bust! Three Cheers for Canada!" Years later a cairn was erected south east of Cardston at the location where they entered Canada.
The next day the Card group camped by the St. Mary River which was in flood and they were unable to cross. This event was described years later in an unpublished manuscript by Mary Lula Woolf Ibey, an eyewitness: "I shall never forget the first time I saw a Mountie. We were forced to camp on account of heavy rains. In the early afternoon, two Northwest Mounted Police in their bright scarlet coats road into camp, talked for some time to President Card, then rode away. I shall never forget the seriousness of the situation. President Card said he was told the St. Mary's River was so high it would be impossible for us to cross it, and when the snows started to melt it would be weeks before we could cross. President Card called all members together. We knelt in solemn appeal as he asked our Father in Heaven to subdue the elements and make it possible to reach our destination. He asked the men to make a raft; all the boxes and wood were assembled, and they worked part of the night. The provisions were running low and some members were ill. The next morning the same Mounties rode into camp and said a miracle had happened -- the waters had gone down four or five feet during the night and if we would hurry we could cross the river before the snow melted. The sun was shining warm and bright. We crossed safely and did not use the raft. As soon as we were safe on the other side, the river started to rise, and it was weeks before anyone could cross."
They continued on their journey to the Lees Creek settlement and made camp on the east side of the creek. The next morning they awoke to see that 5 inches of snow had fallen.
In the tent of Josiah A. Hammer located on the east side of Lees Creek a sacrament meeting was held on Sunday June 6, 1887. Speaking at the meeting were Charles Ora Card, Robert Daines, George L. Farrell, Thomas R. Leavitt, Johannes Anderson, Johathan E. Layne and Andrew L. Allen. They had a good meeting and sacrament was administered and passed to the members of this new pioneer settlement of 41 souls.
On Tuesday June 7th the members of the colony working as one group began immediately to plough and plant gardens and field crops.
The members of the new settlement met on Sunday June 12, 1887 in a temporary bowery and C. O. Card organized a Sunday School with Jonathan E. Layne as superintendent, John A. Woolf, Edwin R. Miles as first and second assistants and Sterling Williams as secretary.
At the next Sunday meeting held June 19, 1887 Jonathan E. Layne one of the speakers recorded in his diary, "While I was speaking the spirit of prophecy rested upon me and under its influence I predicted that this country would produce for us all that our Cache Valley homes had produced and that temples would yet be built in this country. I could see it as plain as if it were already here."
In 1887 the only other settlements in this part of the North West Territories were Fort Macleod and Lethbridge. There were no roads or bridges covering the 40 to 50 miles between these two settlements and the new colony Lees Creek. Consequently the new pioneers were in relative isolation for the first few years after they arrived and therefore had to be mostly self sustaining. They struggled for several years under difficult circumstances to establish a stable community.
Charles Ora Card was to these pioneers what Brigham Young was to the early pioneer settlers in Utah. He was their spiritual and temporal leader. He was a gifted organizer, governor and facilitator. He travelled to Lethbridge, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Salt Lake City and anywhere help could be found for his fledgling community. He made alliances and friendships with government leaders, bureaucrats, business tycoons, Indian chiefs, railway builders, irrigation promoters and all manner of civic and private leaders. The Lord used his vision and boundless determintion to establish a permanent, stable Mormon community. A colony with a purpose.
Establishment of a Stable Community
For the first few years these loyal pioneers operated many small projects on a cooperative basis, including a store, a sawmill, a small coal mine, a cheese factory, a grist mill, and a small irrigation project. Not all of these enterprises were successful, but they certainly helped to fill the needs of the settlers during the early years of development.
The church officials in Salt Lake wished to see the settlement succeed. Consequently, they visited the area on many occasions and offered help in several ways, including financial assistance.
The new pioneers of Lees Creek invited all the neighbours, around their new settlement to join in a Dominion Day celebration on July 1, 1887. They had songs, speeches, lunches and sport activities. It was reported that 53 people from the community including the local ranchers attended the activities and all had a good time. Bro. Johathan E. Layne reported in his journal. "We enjoyed a feeling of satisfaction that we were where the Lord wanted us and we all felt well pleased with the country."
In July 1887 the Cardston townsite was selected and surveyed and soon afterwards several settlers began buiding log homes. Thomas R. Leavitt built the first home and Charles O. Card built the second home.
On August 14, 1887 the saints held Sunday meetings in the home of Thomas R. Leavitt and for several Sundays thereafter. As the new homes were finished Sunday services were held alternately in the homes of other settlers.
Sunday Nov 20, Mary L. Woolf was sustained as president of the Relief Society organization, Zina Y. Card was sustained president of the Young Ladies organization and Sarah Daines as president of the Primary organization.
On November 1, 1887 Simpson M. Woolf was the first person baptized in the new colony. At the fast meeting held December 1, 1887 the first baby blessed in the community was the infant Benjamin Charles Ricks who was blessed by his father Bro. Joseph Ricks. On Saturday Dec. 17th two children were born, one to Sis. Woolf, wife of John A. Woolf named Zina Alberta and a baby boy to Sena A. Matkin, wife of Samual Matkin. Sis. Zina Card acted as midwife for both occasions although she was not a regular midwife.
At a priesthood meeting held December 5, 1887 a building committee was appointed for the purpose of erecting a meeting house.
A Christmas Eve Party was held on December the 24th at the home of C. O. Card with a Christmas tree, Santa Claus for the children and a dance for old and young. The music was provided by Bros. Robinson, John W. Woolf and Henry Monson, all three playing mouth organs. Many socials were held during this first Christmas season by the new settlers at Lees Creek.
It would be impossible to document in this brief history all of the examples of God's care and love for his pioneers, and probably most of the instances were never recorded, however, an entry in C. O. Card's journal in the early winter of 1887 describes the resolution of a crisis, Card's own strong leadership, and the hand of the lord in the fate of this tiny isolated community. "When we first came upon the ground of Lees Creek several of the brethren became despondent for fear they could not obtain sustenance for their families. While speaking upon our situation in one of our meetings in June, I was prompted to predict if we would remain here and serve the Lord and not complain the way would be opened and they would be able to procure labor remunerative enough to give them food and raiment which has been Literally fulfilled. The brethren were employed building and haying for the Cochrane Ranching Co. and earned enough for their winters bread and also picked up enough odd jobs to occupy all of the spare time they had out side of making their families comfortable also preparing to stable horses and cows.
"By the time winter weather set in, Our families were comfortably housed and bread provided to eat. Truly I feel that we have a very faithful Band of Exiles here and those who are bound to make a mark in this land that will weigh on the Credit side of the saints.
During 1888 the settlers continued in their labours by finishing pioneer log houses, stables etc. They also completed a new school house which was dedicated for church activities, school and social purposes.
The first school was taught in the summer of 1888 by Jane Woolf. Later, after the school house was built, early in 1889, Heber S. Allen became the school teacher.
During a visit to Utah in September 1888 Zina Young Card wife of C. O. Card reported to the Deseret News that there were approximately 100 saints in the new settlement who were firmly established and the prospects for the new settlement were very good.
Card Ward Organized
At the first conference held in the new settlement on October 6 and 7, 1888, Apostles Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor were present and a ward was organized, known as the Card Ward, John Anthony Woolf was selected as Bishop, with Johannes Anderson and Thomas R. Leavitt as first and second counsellors. This new ward was included in the Cache Stake of Zion where C. O. Card, at that time, was still the Stake President.
Th following auxiliary organizations were established: Relief Society with Mary L. Woolf as President and Elizabeth Hammer and Anna Layne as counsellors, Sunday School - Jonathan E. Layne, President with Samuel Matkin and Noah L. Shurtliff as counsellors. Y.M.M.I.A. - Henry L. Hinman as President and Josiah A. Hammer and George M. Hudson as counsellors. Y.L.M.I.A. organization - Zina Card as President with Katie Brown and Annie Cheney as counsellors. Primary organization - Sarah S. Daines as President with Sena A. Matkin and Elizabeth Farrell as counsellors. Ward teachers were also sustained. The ward was fully organized with dedicated faithful leaders.
On the morning after the conference Apostle Francis M. Lyman said the area was to be dedicated for the habitation of the Saints. Apostles Lyman and J. W. Taylor and other members of the ward were escorted around the new townsite by Pres. Card. When they arrived at the "tabernacle block" where the Temple is now located, Francis W. Lyman asked John W. Taylor to offer a prayer dedicating the land for the habitation of the Latter Day Saints. Sister Taylor describes the events that followed: "The prayer, with my husband a mouthpiece, in behalf of the people of the Dominion of Canada, of England and her possessions, was indeed prophetic. Then there was a hush:"
"I now speak by the power of prophecy and say that upon this very spot shall be erected a temple to the name of Israel's God, and nations shall flow unto it and praise his high and holy name."
"I stood spellbound under the influence of the spirit and the stillness that had descended upon us."
A new log meeting house 21 x 40 feet was completed in 1888, also in December 1888 a cooperative store was started in C. O. Card's granary. Stock for the cooperative store sold at $5.00 a share and the stock could be paid for by labouring on the new meeting house.
C. O. card returned to Utah in 1889 and had an interview with President Wilford Woodruff, who called him to continue his labours in Canada.
In 1889 the church bought and leased a large tract of land in the Woolford area which was operated as a church cattle ranch for a short time, but was later sold to settlers.
There was great rejoicing in the colony in October 1889 on the arrival of President Wilford Woodruff and his wife and George Q. Cannon and wife, Joseph F. Smith and Brigham Young Jr. who came up from Salt Lake City to hold a conference in the Card Ward.
Elders Henry L. Hinman and Truman Leonard were appointed on Sunday November 24, 1889 as the first Home Missionaries to labour in the Cardston area. They were called to hold block meetings in the area during the winter months of 1889, 1890, and 1891.
In January 1890 the first dramatic performance was given by the young people of Cardston. Later a dramatic company was organized that operated successfully for several years.
From 1887 and to July 1888, the community was referred to as Lees Creek. From 1888 to May 1889 both "Card" and "Lees Creek" were used. The name Cardston was officially adopted in November 1889. Cardston was officially designated as a town in 1901, and C. O. Card was elected as the first mayor.
In December 1890 a cooperative cheese factory was built in Cardston which was later amalgamated with the co-op store. It was reported that the cheese factory produced from 28,000 to 53,000 lbs. annually for several years.
On August 3, 1890 C. O. Card was released as President of the Cache Stake of Zion in Logan, Utah and was called as President of the Canadian Mission which included the Mormon settlements in Southern Alberta and all the area presently included in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. During the time President Card was Mission President several missionaries from the Cardston area were called to serve in the mission mainly in the Winnipeg area. President Card visited the missionaries on several occasions. After President Card was released as Stake President and Mission President, the Manitoba area was included in the Northern States Mission.
The church statistical report for the Cardston Ward dated September 27, 1890 stated there were 50 families with a total population of 295 people.
In the summer of 1891 a saw mill and shingle mill was imported by C. O. Card and was located 20 miles south west of Cardston. Also in 1891 a cooperative owned grist mill was built. A threshing machine motor was used for a short time to operate the grist mill but later it was operated by water power.
In March 1892 it was agreed that a new meeting house should be constructed. The members also agreed to help build a bridge across the St. Mary River. The bridge located two and one half miles north east of Cardston was completed in 1893. The Government furnished the material for the bridge and the people of Cardston hauled the material for the bridge and helped in its construction.
In July a new cooperative store building was dedicated and a post office was opened with Heber S. Allen as the postmaster.
The statistical report for the Cardston Ward in 1892 stated there were 81 families, 215 males, 205 females and a total of 420 people in the ward. In a Sabbath meeting held on July 3, 1892, C. O. Card, John A. Woolf, Zina Card, Heber S. Allen and Oliver L. Robinson were sustained as members of the church school board. As the areas around Cardston were growing, priesthood brethren were appointed to labour from house to house with the Mormon settlers throughout the district. Later these outlying areas were organized into Branches.
In April 1893 Pres. Card wrote to Salt Lake requesting consideration be given to having the Cardston area added to the list of quarterly conferences to be held under the direction of the First Presidency. In the letter Pres. Card stated that in the Cardston area there was one ward and several branches and with the growth taking place he felt a stake organization could be considered in the near future.
The Canadian Mission held its first quarterly conference at Cardston under the direction of Apostle John W. Taylor on Sunday November 19 and Monday November 20, 1893. At the conference several Branches or districts were established. Richard Pilling was sustained as President of the Snake Creek Branch, Neils Hansen, President of the East Cardston Branch, Oliver L. Robinson for the West Cardston Branch, James W. Kearl for the Boundary Creek Branch and Jos. H. Gold for the Fish Creek Branch. It was also stated that monthly priesthood meetings were to be held the first Saturday of each month. It was evident that the population of the Cardston area was growing steadily.
On Friday December 8, 1893 Apostle John W. Taylor and Bishop John W. Woolf of Cardston with Richard Pilling selected the new townsite of Aetna. Later on December 17, 1893 the Aetna Ward was organized with Richard Pilling as Bishop and Neils Hansen and John Pilling as counsellors.
Henry L. Hinman was ordained as Patriarch of the Canadian Mission on Sunday December 24, 1893.
It should be noted that Apostle John W. Taylor spent considerable time in southern Alberta during the early years of the new settlement and he assisted and encouraged the new settlers to develop an active stable Mormon community.
Under the direction of Apostle John W. Taylor, a special conference was held at Cardston on Jan. 21, 1894 to organize the Mountain View ward. Vincent Stewart was set apart as Bishop with Jos. H. Gold and Samuel Taylor as counsellors.
At the quarterly conference of the Canadian Mission held in Cardston August 19 and 20 under the direction of Apostle John W. Taylor, mission organizations for the Sunday School, Relief Society, Y.M.M.I.A. and Y.L.M.I.A. were organized. A Primary organization was established in 1895.
In October 1894 Elder Andrew Jensen, Assistant Church Historian visited Cardston in the interest of Church History and gave a detailed and favorable report that was published in the Deseret News - October 20, 1894. He reported that there was a total of 674 members in the Cardston area. The church had an excellent Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary and all church meetings were well attended. He stated further the future prospects for immigration of saints were very good.
In 1894 irrigation was attempted on a small scale. A ditch was surveyed on the east side of Lees Creek and used mainly to irrigate garden lots. At fairs held in Fort Macleod and Lethbridge the Cardston settlers took many prizes and the Lethbridge paper reported that irrigation was the means of obtaining such results.
During 1893-1894 Apostle John W. Taylor encouraged the saints to develop different industries in the Cardston area.
Also in 1894 a telephone line was constructed from Lethbridge to Cardston and Aetna under the direction of the Lethbridge and Cardston Telephone Company. Building of the line cost over $3,000 with about one half of the sum being supplied by the Canadian Government.
The new bridge across the St. Mary River and the telephone line to Lethbridge were appreciated by the residents of the Cardston community and helped in the growth and stability of the area.
Alberta Stake Organized 1895
By the year 1895, only 8 years after the saints had arrived in the Cardston area they had developed a self sufficient productive community with 3 well organized wards. The community was growing steadily and the members gave their full support to the local church leaders and to the General Authorities in Utah. From 1887 to 1895 many favourable reports of the progress of the new settlement appeared in the Deseret News.
From the reports of the General Authorities in Utah who had often visited the new settlement and from the reports of C. O. Card and Apostle John W. Taylor, it became evident to the General Authorities in Utah that a stake should be organized in the Cardston area. It was the first stake to be organized outside of the United States and the 35th stake organized in this dispensation.
While attending the General Conference held in Salt Lake City in April 1895 C. O. Card was set apart by the First Presidency as President of the Alberta Stake of Zion with the instructions that the Stake organization was to be completed at the next quarterly conference which was to be held in Cardston on May 26 and 27.
The names of those selected for the Stake organization were approved at the quarterly conference but as none of the Apostles were present at that time, the ordinations were delayed until June 9, 1895 when a special conference was convened under the direction of Apostle John W. Taylor. Apostle Taylor read the letter of instructions from the First Presidency and then proceeded with the completion of the Stake organization.
At the conference Elder John W. Taylor stated "the organization of a Stake may seem strange to many of the saints, and those not of our faith. The greatest desire of those ordained should be to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; to set themselves and their houses in order; to keep themselves pure and unspotted before the Lord..."He also stated the reason we had the privilege of a Stake organization so soon was because the Alberta mission stood at the head of the list in the payment of tithing. He gave instructions to keep our homes and surroundings clean for our own health and benefit.
The first quarterly conference of the new stake was held August 25 and 26, 1895. President Card expressed gratitude for the favourable circumstances of the saints at that time. He instructed the youth to guard against "excessive frivolity" and reminded the saints of the necessity of strictly conforming to the law of tithing and continuing faithful in every good word and work.
At the quarterly conference held Sunday February 23 and 24, 1896 the Stake membership was reported as 780. The talks given at the conference again stressed diligence and faithfulness especially in the care of the children and guiding them from "the snares of the adversary" and of the necessity of strictly observing the law of tithing, observance of the word of wisdom and complying with the law of the land.
Succeeding quarterly conferences were held regularly and on many occasions representatives from the quorum of the twelve and other church officials from Salt Lake City were in attendance.
On Monday November 23, 1896 the second day of the quarterly conference the Leavitt branch was organized as a Ward, with Frank Leavitt as Bishop and Charles Quinton and Thomas R. Leavitt as counsellors.
By 1898 there were approximately 1200 members in the 4 wards and Branches in the Alberta Stake. In Cardston there was a cheese factory, grist mill, three stores, two blacksmith shops, two carpenter shops, a tin shop, shoe shop and a meat market. There was also a combined cheese factory and creamery in Aetna. In Mountain View there was a creamery, carpenter shop and a blacksmith shop.
Irrigation Project - More Settlers Arrive
In 1898 under the direction of Charles Ora Card the Mormon Church entered into an agreement with the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company to construct the main canal to supply water to irrigate large areas of land around the present towns of Magrath, Raymond and Stirling. Under the direction of the church officials in Salt Lake City, C. O. Card advertised in Utah and Idaho for men to come and work on the project. They would be paid for their labour on the canal one half in cash and the remaining one half would go to the payment for the land they wished to purchase.
In 1898 and succeeding years many new settlers from Utah and Idaho arrived in southern Alberta to work on the irrigation project. As a result 3 new wards were organized. On June 12, 1899 the Magrath and Stirling wards were organized. Levi Harker, of Cardston was called as Bishop with Ammon Mercer and Fred Grant as counsellors. Theodore Brandley was Bishop of the Stirling ward, Samuel Faucett and Franklin D. Grant as counsellors. In 1901 the Raymond was organized with Jesse William Knight as Bishop and Joseph Bevans and Ephraim Hicks as counsellors.
Along with the influx of new settlers in the Magrath, Stirling and Raymond areas new settlers were also arriving in the Cardston area. On September 1899 the Caldwell ward located in the Mountain View area was organized with David W. Caldwell Sr. as Bishop and Charles A. Terry Sr. and Isaac W. Allred as counsellors. On Dec. 8, 1900 the Beazer ward was organized with Mark E. Beazer as Bishop with James M. Broadhead and James B. Wright as counsellors. The Kimball ward was organized May 21, 1900 with John M. Dunn as Bishop and and Ernest Kimball and Thomas L. King as counsellors. The Taylorville ward was organized May 31, 1900 with George A. Nelson as Bishop and James Rampton and Fred Nielson as counsellors.
In the statistical report dated December 31, 1900 there were 2,736 members in the Alberta Stake.
By 1902 Pres. Charles Ora Card's health was deteriorating and he was released as Stake President and set apart as Patriach. In 1903 President Card left Cardston and returned to Logan, Utah where he died September 9, 1906.
Brigham Young Card, grandson of Charles Ora Card, stated: "C. O. Card and Zina Y. Card were unusual pioneers. The spiritual, economic and overall development of Cardston and southwestern Alberta today, is in no small measure, a product of their unique, dedicated, capable and unselfish leadership."
In the introduction section of Charles Ora Card's Diaries it states: "In the short space of sixteen years, Card's leadership, dedication and vision left a lasting imprint on the small corner of the Canadian Northwest through the settlements, industries, and irrigation agriculture he helped establish."
Charles Ora Card was a courageous and devoted pioneer, loyal to the leadership of the church in Utah. As the leader of the Cardston pioneers he encouraged and inspired the early Mormon settlers of southern Alberta to withstand the adversities and difficulties they encountered in establishing a permanent and stable Mormon community.
With the release of President Card in 1902 Heber S. Allen was called and set apart as the new Stake President with Theodore Brandley and Edward James Wood as counsellors. The church membership continued to increase after 1902, especially in the Magrath, Raymond and Stirling areas.
Alberta Stake Divided
When the Alberta Stake was first organized it took in most of the territory in Canada west of Ontario. This record will not deal with the significant efforts made to administer this enormous domain. The first two divisions of the Stake were the most important in terms of defining the eventual territory encompassed by the two Cardston Stakes. At the Stake conference held August 30, 1902 under the direction of Pres. Joseph F. Smith the Stake was divided. H. S. Allen was called to preside over the new Taylor stake with Theodore Brandley and J. William Knight as counsellors. Edward J. Wood was called to preside over the Alberta State with Thomas Duce and Sterling Williams as counsellors. The Stirling, Magrath and Raymond wards went to the Taylor Stake.
President Wood served as President of the Alberta Stake for 39 years (1903 - 1942) and he served as Temple President for 25 years (1923 - 1948). From 1923 to 1942 he served both as Temple President and Stake President. President Wood was a spiritual and temporal leader loved and respected by all who knew him. President Charles W. Nibley, a counsellor to President Grant in the First Presidency of the Church, stated: "I truly regard him (President Wood) as one of the great and noble men of the earth...everywhere you see President Wood he is going about among the people, teaching them and blessing them, labouring with them for their upbuilding and for their salvation. He loves the people of God and he loves to be among them.
During 1905 and 1906 the church negotiated the purchase of the Cochrane Ranch, a block of 66,500 acres, located between the Belly and Waterton Rivers. While most of this area was sold to settlers, part was retained and operated as a church ranch for several years. From this development the Glenwood ward was organized in 1909 and the Hillspring ward in 1910. A Hartley ward was also organized but the membership was later included in the Glenwood ward.
After 1900 wards and branches were organized in the central and northern part of Alberta and were included in the Alberta Stake until 1921 when the Lethbridge Stake was organized. Frankburg and Claresholm wards were organized in 1904, Orton Ward in 1905, Pine Cooley branch later Stavely Ward 1905, Gleichen Branch 1908, Starline Ward 1909, Calgary Branch 1913 and Rosemary Branch 1915.
The aforementioned wards and branches together with 4 wards from the Taylor Stake were included in the Lethbridge Stake which was organized November 10, 1921 with Hugh B. Brown as Stake President and George W. Green and Asael Palmer as counsellors.
When President Wood was released in 1942 he was followed by a succession of effective and beloved Stake Presidents.
The Alberta Temple
By 1912, there were approximately 7000 Mormons firmly established in the three Stakes in southern Alberta. Ordinances performed in temples are a vital and a essential part of the Plan of Salvation. In 1912 due to distance and cost of travel to Utah, temples were not readily accessible to the members of the church in southern Alberta. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise when President Joseph F. Smith announced in the October conference of 1912 that a temple would be constructed in southern Alberta.
Cardston was later chosen as the site for the temple. Construction commenced in 1913. The temple was dedicated in 1923. Having a temple in southern Alberta has contributed greatly to the spiritual strength and stability of the saints in Alberta.
Since the 1940's the urban population of Alberta has increased considerably especially in the cities of Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge. In the smaller urban centres such as Cardston, Raymond and Magrath there has been a slower yet steady growth in population. With the increase in size of farms, more hard surfaced roads, and more reliable motor vehicles, many of the smaller hamlets in Alberta have disappeared. Consequently many of the smaller rural wards and branches established prior to 1940 have been discontinued and the membership has been transferred to nearby remaining wards. For example the members in the Caldwell, Kimball, Taylorville and Beazer wards are now included in other nearby wards.
Cardston is an agricultural based community with no large industrial enterprises. The population of the town however, has remained steady and having the temple located here has drawn many senior citizens to locate in this community.
Since the 1930's many young people have had to leave the Cardston area and other agricultural based centres of Alberta to find occupations elsewhere. These young people have contributed much to the development of the larger urban centres of Alberta and other urban areas where they have gone. The sons and daughters of these stalwart Mormon pioneers in the Alberta stake and other stakes in southern Alberta have strengthened and often formed the nucleus of church organizations in urban centres of Alberta and other parts of Canada. Many have served and are serving in leadership positions, as General Authorities, and in the General Boards of Auxiliary organizations of the church. Many of these young people have established themselves in different professions and contributed to the welfare and development of the areas where they have located.
The Cardston ward was divided in 1914 into the Cardston 1st and 2nd wards. The population of the Alberta stake increased very slowly during the 1930's. The 3rd and 4th wards were not organized until 1946. The 5th ward was organized in 1964. In 1967 a Lamanite branch was organized. By 1983 there were 12 wards and one branch in the Alberta Stake and in November of 1983 the stake was divided into the Cardston Alberta Stake and Cardston Alberta West Stake.
The Cardston Alberta Stake included the Cardston 4th, 6th and 7th wards, also the Aetna, Glenwood and Hillspring wards and the Blood Branch. Keith Olsen was called as Stake President with Stan Johnson and E. Dahl Quinton as counsellors.
The Cardston Alberta West Stake included the Cardston 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th wards and the Leavitt and Mountain View wards. Brent L. Nielson was called as Stake President with Bryce Cahoon and Lorin L. Pitcher as counsellors. An 8th ward has since been organized in Cardston.
President Nathan E. Tanner, a native of Cardston, stated that in reviewing the history of the Latter-day Saints in Canada "the reader will learn of the contributions made by the 'Latter-day Saints' in virtually every field of endeavour: moral, spiritual, economical, political, education and cultural. From the beginning of their history in these latter days (1830), the Mormons have been known as great colonizers, and as creators of fertile farmlands from barren wastelands, as they pioneered in new methods of farming irrigation. Many of these people have achieved national prominence in their chosen pursuits as they contributed to the building of a great nation, and always with an eye single to the glory of God."
The pioneer founders of the Alberta Stake were poor by the standards of the world and deprived of many privileges which we accept as necessities, but they were valiant in their testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that testimony, as proven by obedient devotion to their Church, country and community, is the rich and valuable legacy of faith and sacrifice that has been passed on, not only to their posterity, but to all who share in the church community of Western Canada. They are now looking to us to carry on the work of the lord which they established under severe conditions. May we be equal to the challenge.
Our Legacy of Faith and Sacrifice, The Founding of the Alberta Stake, is published jointly by the Cardston Alberta Stake and the Cardston Alberta West Stake, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1995, Cardston, Alberta and was prepared by a Joint Stake Centennial Committee consisting of T. M. Matkin and K. J. Taylor, with the assistance of V. A. Wood.
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