Cardston and other peaceful prairie towns in scenic southern Alberta boast a rich heritage of faith and a legacy of Church leadership.
In 1886, Charles Ora Card was encouraged by Church President John Taylor to explore settlement possibilities in western Canada. Card left his home in Logan, Utah, with two other men on Sept. 14, 1886, and traveled north to Spokane, then into British Columbia. There they were advised to investigate southern Alberta, where they would find "buffalo plains covered with grass and miles of fertile soil," according to The Alberta Temple: Centre and Symbol of Faith, by former Alberta Temple president Vi A. Wood.The three traveled east into Alberta and found conditions favorable for settlement. They returned, and Card submitted a favorable report to President Taylor. He then spent the next several months preparing to lead a party of settlers to the area.
Initially, 40 families committed to go with Card, but by the time he was ready to leave in March 1887, only 10 remained interested. On April 6, Card and six other men crossed the border into Canada. They found that the site they had previously selected for settlement was leased to a large ranch and not available. They were directed by someone at the ranch to the Lee's Creek area, which was subsequently settled and later became Cardston. Charles O. Card was the temporal and spiritual leader of the community, serving as president of the Northern Mission and, beginning in 1895, as president of the Alberta Stake.
Many other Mormon settlements sprang up in southern Alberta during the next 23 years. Aetna was established in 1890, followed by Mountain View, Beazer, Leavitt, Kimball, Magrath, Caldwell, Stirling, Taylorville, Woolford, Orton, Raymond, Welling, Barnwell, Frankburg, Taber, Glenwood and, finally, Hillspring in 1910.
By 1912, communities were well-established, and 7,000 members lived in two stakes with several wards and branches. Most of the people made their living from the soil or other agricultural-related industries and businesses.
At the semi-annual general conference of the Church in October 1912, President Joseph F. Smith proposed that a temple be built in western Canada. Unanimous support was given by those in attendance. A site was not announced at that time, but it became apparent that either Cardston or Raymond, situated east of Cardston, would be the site of the first Latter-day temple built outside the continental United States.
The stakes in each town both submitted photographs of their proposed sites to the Presiding Bishop's office. Later President Edward J. Wood of the Cardston Stake received a letter from Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve on Feb. 9, 1913, telling him in confidence that the Brethren had decided to build the temple in Cardston. That news was announced several weeks later, and subsequently accepted by members in Alberta and throughout the Church as the will of the Lord.
Construction of the temple began in 1913 and was completed 10 years later, after much sacrifice and some delay because of World War I, lack of sufficient funds and the remote location of Cardston.
Nevertheless, the work was completed. The beautiful edifice was dedicated
Continued on page 11