MARY'S GENEALOGY TREASURES
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The Early United Church
at Del Bonita

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts,
Page 112
by Anna Farries

During the first few years there were no church services, except for an occasional worship conducted by the Reverend Wood from Magrath. He came out during the summer months. Sometimes during the summer a date was set for the parents to bring their children for baptism. It was the condition of the roads in the winter, or perhaps the lack of roads that made it difficult to continue with the services.

For a few years the Cardston church held summer services at Del Bonita on a two week schedule. In 1928 we received word that Lloyd Hale was coming to Del Bonita as a student minister. We were to see that he had a place to board. He stayed at various homes till he found a house where he could batch. He wondered where he could find a horse. Arol Farries provided him with one on loan for the summer. However, Lloyd didn't think that was the right thing to do, so he bought a horse, saddle and bridle from George Hoyt Sr. It went lame shortly after he got it home. He asked Jack Farries what he should do. Jack and George Hoyt were old hands at trading. I don't know what happened at that meeting but Lloyd came back with a different horse. This new horse was quite sound but he had a habit of bucking. By the end of Lloyd's stay he had mastered him, not without being thrown many times.

Lloyd was a very friendly person and a good organizer. He held regular servces at Lens, Del Bonita, and Twin River schools. He organized a Young People's Group. There were regular meetings during that summer and dances were run under strict supervision. The season ended with a picnic at the river. He took the boys' club to Waterton where they had a wonderful time for a whole week.

Vernon W. Hayes [Buck] was appointed to collect for the church before Lloyd left for his home in Ontario. He came over to our house after IO P.M. on the last Friday and said he hadn't been able to do it, and turned it over to me. Lloyd was leaving right after the service on Sunday.

Grant and Arof had a Model T Ford truck and Mother said we should get Mrs. Newton to go along. We did, and covered a lot of ground. We arrived at the Graveland home just before dinner, and we were happy to join them at the dinner table. After Mr. Graveland asked the blessing and during the course of the dinner he asked us how we got there. There was a bad mud hole at the foot of the hill and no one had been able to get through since the storm. The Model T was hard to beat on bad roads. Mrs. Newton spoke up and said, "Anna just stepped on the gas and went through."

Lloyd wanted to come back to Del Bonita, but circumstances beyond his control prevented him from coming. He was a student at Queens University.

In 1929 Bill Frazer came from the Maritimes. He was a young man and could preach a very good sermon. He was an excellent visitor and made his rounds regularly.

He rode horseback and didn't make the mistake of buying a saddle horse and equipment. He accepted the offer of a saddle, bridle, and saddle horse from Arol Farries.

Bill was a student at Mount Allison University. In his own quiet pleasant way he was a good spiritual leader.

Mr. Snow, a lay minister, was an excellent speaker. There were never any complaints about his sermons or his work in the community. He spent several months at the Cardston Church filling in until they could find an ordained minister. He would have come to Del Bonita permanently, if possible.

Mr. R. Gresham, Customs agent at Del Bonita conducted a church service occasionally. I used to think he had missed his vocation. He had a lovely wife and two nice boys.

Mr. W. 0. Miller [Daddy] conducted an Easter service at Lens School. It was well attended and many expressed the opinion that they would appreciate more sermons by Mr. Miller. He had been a Methodist lay minister down in the States,. Before he started his sermon he said he had something to tell us, "When I took my Bible down from the shelf and opened it, I found a cheque for a large sum of money, and it was over a year old. That is something for me to think about."

Then he proceeded to deliver an Easter sermon that would have been accepted by any congregation. Several years later the Miller family returned to the United States, and he resumed his preaching. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were well liked and respected in the neighborhood and everyone in that part of the district called them Mamma and Daddy.

A few years later their son, Lloyd, returned to Del Bonita on a visit. He was happy and proud to tell me about his father's success. We had always enjoyed a visit with the Millers at their little store on the farm at Richfield [Rinard].

A student minister who was serving at Owendale came over to the Lens School. He delivered a very fine sermon on the text "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." After the sermon he said there were times when we needed somthing more than a sermon. He sat down at the piano and proceeded to give us a lovely program of sacred music. Usually the people went home early but the music had relaxed them. Although I've forgotten his name and the date, that sermon has stayed in my memory for many years. He rode over on horseback and instead of going around by one of the bridges, he came straight across the country. He had to get home before dark to ford the Milk River.

Then the Cardston church started holding summer services at Del Bonita on a two week schedule. The Reverend Davidge and his services were well attended. After Reverend Davidge, the Reverend Habgood, then Reverend James McKelvie. Reverend Tom Haythorne came next and Reverend Bert King followed. After his first service I was asked what I thought of the minister. I said there was one thing I was sure of, that he would leave his mark on the community. Mr. King could see the need for a student minister for the summer months and we were very fortunate in securing the services of Archie McCurdy from Nova Scotia. July 9, 1960 saw the dedication of the United Church at Del Bonita.

Iwould be remiss if I didn't mention the leaders in the Cardston United Church. These men were the ones who often provided transportation for the minister who was coming out to Del Bonita. People appreciated the friendly assistance they provided to folks who had lost a loved member of their family through death.

The Del Bonita United Church

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts,
Pages 112 - 116
by Powell Foggin and Ed Newton

Prior to 1949 an active United Church Sunday School had been organized.

In 1949 Rev. A. E. King of Cardston United Church travelled to Del Bonita to conduct occasional worship services in the school. He encouraged the people of the community to organize a mission field of the United Church in Del Bonita and Twin River.

Archie McCurdy was the first student minister. He conducted church services in the school at Del Bonita, and in the Twin River school building during 1949.

In the summer of 1949 a branch of the United Church of Canada was organized at Del Bonita. A board of stewards and a committee of elders were elected. The Home Mission Board was contacted and arrangements were made to purchased the Foggin dance hall to be renovated for a church. The old Shanks Lake school house acquired by the Sunday School was sold to W. S. Clifton. The Board of Home Missions gave a grant and a loan, and several families in the community donated money to help get the church started. Carpenters were hired to line the building, put in a ceiling, and partition off an area for a manse. Local people did the painting and varnishing. On July 9, 1950 the Del Bonita United Church was dedicated with Reverend R. W. K. Elliot from the Home Mission Board as guest minister. The building was packed with people of all denominations.

From 1949 until the fall of 1957 student ministers, under the supervision of the Cardston United Church minister, served the Del Bonita Twin River mission field. These young men served the community well. They participated in sports, visited and helped farmers, led young peoples' groups, organized vacation Bible schools, taught communicants' classes, and led in spiritual worship at Sunday services held at the two preaching points, Del Bonita and Twin River.

Archie McCurdy was the student minister during the summers of 1949 and 1950. He was a conscientious person, and did much to lay the ground work for the church activity in the community. He helped organize the young peoples' group and gave valuable leadership in the area. The dedication of the church was the highlight of his 1950 summer.

In 1951 Gerry Feltham from Newfoundland was student minister. He helped to organize the first vacation Bible school. Many local people helped with this week long school which wound up with a display of work and a picnic. It was Gerry Feltham who urged the men to turn out for Father's Day worship, as he didn't want to preach a Father's Day sermon to a group of mothers.

Don Parr came in 1952. He soon became part of the community, and did much to increase church membership. He held very successful communicants' classes and was pleased when some twenty-five adults and young people became church members before he left in September.

Henry McDougall was student minister in 1953. He was from Ontario, and continued the church activities that were already under way.

Doug Betts from the Maritimes was 1954 student minister. He was very young, but was a sincere Christian leader.

In 1955 Ed Ruddell from Toronto was student minister. Due to a heavy May snow storm he was confined to the manse and church for several days, so he began painting the basement. He set up the talent fund as an extra source of support for the temporal needs of the church. During 1955-56 he sent out a weekly letter to every family.

In 1956 Jim Hodge came from New Brunswick. He became so much a part of the community that he broke down and wept when it came time for him to leave.

Mac Stienburg from Ontario was the 1957 student. He was very sports minded and played on the ball teams. He was a capable spiritual leader and did much to strengthen the church in the community. Membership increased and young peoples' group was quite active under his guidance.

These students stayed in the manse and batched. Members of the Ladies' Aid did their washing, and helped to keep the manse tidy. Johnny Althen loaned them a motor bike for use during their missions here. Sometimes other people in the community loaned cars. Families took turns taking them to Twin River to conduct services there each Sunday. Two or three times during the summer a combined service was held, and the ordained minister from Cardston came to perform baptisms or induct new members into the church. Several marriages were performed in the church. Ordained ministers from Cardston came to officiate at these weddings. Although each student was only in the area from May I to August 31, he soon became part of the community and was sadly missed when his term was over.

Between September and the end of April the minister from Cardston led worship services for special occasions such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sometimes local people planned and conducted special services. Ed Ruddell prepared and sent out Christmas and Easter worship services which were conducted by local people.

In the fall of 1957 the Del Bonita Twin River mission field became part of the Spring Coulee Magrath United Church charge, with the understanding that services be conducted in Twin River as well as Del Bonita.

Reverend Karl Seliger was the first minister to conduct worship services on a full time basis. He was from Germany, and although the English language was new to him, he was able to express his deep Christian faith very well. He was also an accomplished pianist. Reverend Seliger died suddenly in 1959.

For a short time Mr. Seliger's son as well as A.O.T.S. members from Lethbridge conducted the services. Then Bill Thomas, a layman from Lethbridge, was in charge of services at Magrath, Spring Coulee, and Del Bonita. He served the area until June 30, 1960. It was necessary during this time to discontinue the services at Twin River.

In September 1960 Reverend Jim Elliot and his young wife took up residence in the manse in Magrath. Reverend Elliot was inducted as full time minister for Magrath, Spring Coulee, and Del Bonita. He served the area until June 1962. He was instrumental in organizing the Milk River Ridge A.O.T.S. group for the men of the three churches. He also helped with Hi C and midweek Bible study groups.

Reverend Walter Murray and his wife Juanita came to Magrath in 1962. Walter was full time minister for the charge until June 1967. He was tall and slim. An extra base was put under the pulpit to raise it to a convenient height for him. Since his eyesight was poor he delivered his sermons without referring to notes, and always made them interesting and to the point. He had a keen sense of humor.

In 1967, Jake Thiesen, a layman, and his wife and family came to Magrath. He was in charge of services at all three points until June or July 1968. He encouraged Hi C and all church groups in their work.

In the fall of 1968 the charge was enlarged to include Cardston. Reverend Cecil Carnochan of Cardston United Church became the minister for the whole charge. At that time the co-operative parish plan made provisions for ministers and laymen from various parts of Southern Alberta to take turns conducting services at different churches in the whole area. Many interesting laymen, ministers and singing groups brought inspirational messages to the church. Reverend Carnochan conducted the communicants' classes and baptismal and communion services.

The Del Bonita United Church was officially closed as of December 31, 1972.

In 1958 the partition between the manse and the chapel was moved to make the south end of the building a church hall, and the north end a chapel. This church hall was used by the community as well as church groups. In 1965 it was decided to construct a sixteen by twenty foot entry on the east side of the building with separate doors to the chapel and the hall and a stairway to the basement. This was completed in 1966.

In 1949 the Del Bonita Ladies' Aid was organized with Grace Clifton as president. This group was very helpful with all church activities. The members met once a month for study and fellowship. They planned and served the annual fall supper, and spring bazaar and tea, as money raising endeavors. They assisted the church board by providing money, and working to help keep the church in repair. They helped friends and neighbors in times of trouble and disaster. In the early 1960's the womens' group became known as United Church Women or U. C. W. Two groups were formed and were well attended. As well as supporting local needs they reached out to support foster children in other countries and to help those suffering in the Winnipeg flood and the Nova Scotia mine disaster. Many ladies took their turn at executive positions in the Ladies' Aid and later the U.C.W. groups.

The men of the Del Bonita United Church helped to organize the Milk River Ridge A.O.T.S. group in 1960. A.O.T.S. means As One That Serves. The group included men from Magrath, Spring Coulee, and Del Bonita, and was later joined by the Cardston A.O.T.S. Once a month these men met for supper, devotional, and fellowship. They supported Canyon Church Camp and other youth programs in the area. The Milk River Ridge A.O.T.S. was active until 1972 when membership had declined and it was necessary to disband.

During the years that student ministers served the area, each one led a young peoples' group, which met frequently during the summer months. After 1957 a Hi C group was organized. Hi C stands for Christ centered high school age group. These young people met regularly and undertook study as well as recreation. The ministers and several local people served as councilors. Some of the local people who served as councilors were Ken and Verna Newton, Allan Train, and Ray and Betty Dalton.

In 1959 the Del Bonita United Church sponsored the Girl Guide Movement with Margaret Robinson as Captain and Iris Henry as Lieutenant. This group continued to meet in the church hall for several years.

In the days of student ministers a junior as well as a senior choir was organized under the capable direction of Mrs. Mabel Weiss. The senior choir continued until sometime in the 60's.

During the years several church furnishings were donated and dedicated. The Ryerson Christie family of Cardston presented a pulpit Bible, and the Cardston United Church gave a communion set at the dedication service in July 1950. The Nick Graveland family gave a baptismal font which was dedicated to the memory of Rosie Graveland. The church board presented offering plates in memory of Grace Clifton, and a pulpit lamp in memory of Sharpe Henry. The Seliger family gave a cross in memory of Reverend Seliger. The church board purchased oak hardwood and student minister Ed Ruddell and Leon Weiss constructed a beautiful communion table from it. The pulpit was a gift from a church which Ed Ruddell had attended in Toronto. Mrs. Robinson made a donation to help pay the freight on it. When the church closed some of these were returned to the families and some went into use in Magrath and Cardston churches.

Sunday School had been started before the church was organized and continued throughout the years. Some of the superintendents were Grace Clifton, Violet Hillmer, Doris Larson, Pearl Brenton, Pauline Secretan, and Margaret Robinson. Many other ladies, young people, and a few men served as teachers.

The student ministers and the ordained men conducted study groups and communicants' classes for those wishing to become members of the church. In 1958 there were sixty-seven members and adherents.

Those who have served as elders included: Leon Weiss, Isabelle Wagner, Powell Foggin, Ken Newton, Carl Jorgensen, Arvid Larson, Margaret Robinson, Hank Graveland, Ed Newton, and Pat Graveland. The committee of Stewards through the years included: Earl Jensen, Grace Clifton, Ed Newton, John Tangen, Arvid Larson, Merrill Farries, Hank Graveland, John Althen, Nolan Weiss, Pearl Brenton, Clare Simpson, Powell Foggin, Carl Jorgensen, Ella Woolf, Don Althen, Allan Train and Lena Henry. Helen Newton was secretary from 1949-1954 and Muriel Farries from 1954-1955, while Grace Clifton was treasurer from 1949 till her death in 1955. The office of secretary and treasurer was combined with Helen Newton serving as secretary treasurer from 1955-1966 and Norma Arnold as assistant from 1956-1966. From 1966-1972 Norma Arnold was secretary treasurer.

The committee of trustees to take care of disposition of the church included Ed Newton, Powell Foggin, Margaret Robinson, and Arvid Larson with Norma Arnold as secretary treasurer.

After the church was sold to the Del Bonita Country Association the money was held in trust for five years. Then it was divided among the Magrath, Milk River, and Cardston United Churches.

The Del Bonita United Church went through happy times and disappointing experiences. The inspirational messages, baptisms, increase in church membership, Christmas eve and Easter services, and annual picnics and outdoor worship are among the memorable experiences. The difficulty in financing the church, and the lack of attendance in the 1970's are among the disappointments. The community as a whole, and those who participated are richer for God's blessings through the influence of the Del Bonita United Church in the area from 1949 till 1972.

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CopyrightŠ2000
Mary Tollestrup