Charles Ora Card was the son-in-law of Brigham Young, the founder of Salt Lake City and one of the great figures in the American Mormon Church. In 1886, Charles Card ventured north of Utah to scout out new territory where Mormons could settle.
According to historian Don Wetherall, the expedition was a success. So, in 1887, 41 Mormon settlers followed Charles Card and established the community of Cardston in southern Alberta.
Well the town was located immediately south of the Blood Reserve and it's likely that Card wanted to be close to the reserve because he thought the Aboriginal people there were prime candidates for conversion to Mormonism.
But there were other concerns too. The site he chose had good water and fertile soil, and, as well, it was close to the United States border, and that location was logical given the tight relation between Cardston and Salt Lake City and the supposition that the Canadian colony would only last until conditions in the United States had improved for Mormons.
At the time, feeling towards those of the Mormon faith was quite hostile in the United States, and they sought refuge from persecution for their beliefs.
Before 1890, the church also endorsed polygamy, and church members wanted a place where they could practice polygamy, which at that point was not against the law in Canada. So Cardston was a sponsored community that received both financial assistance and guidance from the parent community in Salt Lake City. And the church saw the Canadian settlement as a temporary refuge until conditions had improved in the United States.
Early on, the colony at Cardston began to prosper, and, even though hostility towards Mormons had abated somewhat by the turn of the century, the settlers decided to stay in Alberta.
And, by 1898, Cardston and the surrounding districts had about a thousand people, and Cardston was the service center for this farm district and it was also a religious center. And after the railway arrived in the district in 1907, further settlement took place.
The community around Cardston continued to prosper with the advent of irrigation and sugar beet farming. And in 1913, Cardston was chosen as the site for the first Mormon temple in Canada.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.