Charles Ora Card –First trip to Canada
W. Jack Stone, of Raymond, Alberta, was the Church Educational System Director for Canada for ten years. He writes about the coming of Latter-day Saints into southern Alberta from Utah in 1887 in his article, “Charles Ora Card—First Trip to Canada,” where he tells of the trip Card made to Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to get permission for the Saints from Utah to settle in Alberta.
“Hundreds of pages could be written about the beginning of Cardston, and the establishment of many surrounding communities. Southern Alberta is rich with so many sources of information about the remarkable saints in the beginning years. However, there are two events that are rarely talked about, but they are so significant that they must be told:
#1. Apostle John W. Taylor prophecy
In October, 1888, just over a year after Card established his settlement on Lees Creek, two Apostles, Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor came to visit the saints. A conference was held and “the little colony of pioneers was organized as the Card Ward of the Cache Stake. John A. Woolf was ordained Bishop.”1 Card was still serving as President of the Cache Valley Stake, in Logan Utah at that time, and the Card Ward became part of that stake. Apostle John W. Taylor spoke and he “predicted that Southern Alberta would be a fruitful land and it would yet be a haven of rest for those of our people who desired to serve the Lord.” And then he made another remarkable prophecy: He told of the exact spot on which the Canadian Temple would be built! 2 This prophecy was astounding! Cardston had only about 125 people living there at that time, and yet Elder Taylor felt impressed to declare that the saints would grow and flourish so much that a temple would be built, and he identified the very site where it would be located. That temple was dedicated only 35 years later.
#2. Card and two Apostles travel to Ottawa to meet with the Canadian Prime Minister.
Soon after the conference just described, on Tuesday, October 30, 1888,
Card wrote in his diary:
“This morning at 7:10 we bade our good people adieu and commenced
forth on our mission to visit the Canadian Authorities at Ottawa
having before us 4,000 miles. In this journey and mission I
accompany Apostle Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor.”3
This truly reflects the depth of mission felt by Card and the leaders of
the Church in coming to Canada. He wanted to be sure that this nation
would be a place of safety and peace for the saints. He also wanted to be
loyal to the government of a new nation and to build a relationship of trust and strength so that more saints could come here. He went to the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald to seek approval and direction for the pioneers.
They travelled from Lethbridge on the newly built railroad to Medicine Hat, then to Winnipeg, and across the country to Ottawa. Card wrote on Thursday, November 8, 1888: “We arrived in Ottawa the Capitol of the Dominion of Canada at 4:30 A. M. and put up at the Grand Union Hotel where I got a few hours rest and the first good bed since I left Lees Creek Alta which I enjoyed much.”4
The next day, Friday, November 9, 1886, Card and Apostles Taylor and Lyman met with Hon. Mr. Edgar Dewdney who was the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories. They requested for government permission for the saints to purchase land and settle in Canada. They also asked for permission to purchase coal lands, and to use timber and rock for domestic purposes. They discussed the use of water for milling manufacturing, irrigation and other purposes. Another request they had was for transportation to be established by railway across the Canada/US border. They also addressed the use of tithing by the Church and asked permission to carry out this principle.
The next day, Saturday, November 10, they met with Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, and reviewed many of the items that had been presented to Dewdney the day before.
“ Then Bro. Lyman appealed to Him in behalf of those who had Entered in to the covenant of Eternity of Marriage whom at this date were suffering in prisons of the U.S. besides being heavily fined and not allowed to mingle with their families with the repetition of fines and imprisonment and it had become very Grievous to bear. He then asked Sir John if he did not think that this Government would give them a resting place upon their Soil for they were the choicest of men and had many sons and ample means to sustain themselves and would bring wealth into the Dominion. Then Bro. John W. Taylor Explained further the great principle of plurality of wives as viewed by the sts and as practiced in its purity for the purpose of observing God’s Laws in multiplying and replenishing the Earth. I Related to Sir John that we had now about 125 souls in our present colony although only about 60 last spring. We had doubled during the last 6 months. He then asked what our increase would be next spring. I stated I could not tell, but thought it would be a healthy one as we had several visits from different members of our people during the past season. … We spent about one hour and Apostles Lyman and Taylor enjoyed the Spirit of the mission and I prayed for them & that God would soften the heart of Sir John and Hon. E. Dewdney that they might be magnanimous enough to give those in bondage relief. … After thanking him for the kind interview we gave them the parting hand in kindness and retired. ….”5
After supper that evening, the three brethren wrote a petition to the government listing their requests. The following week, they again met with different government officials, and learned that most of their petitions, except the performing of plural marriages, were acceptable. On Friday, November 16, at midnight they got on the train and began traveling back west. One of the entries of Card’s journal as he travelled on the train for home is most touching as it reflects his faith and vision of Canada:
‘I have read the Pearl of Great Price, reflected and written of my God given family. Thanking God that I am worthy to be cast out by a proud boasting nation (The U.S.) for observing God’s most High Laws. Whether at home or abroad I pray for God to give me strength to do my duty that in the end I may be numbered among the valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and be able to claim My own and receive them as a reward of my diligence in the Father’s Kingdom. I bless my wives and children (although absent from them all) I do it by virtue of my Priesthood and in the name of the Only Begotten of the Savior. I pray for the Saints in this Land and pray that they may be as a germ of pure wheat cast upon fertile soul bring forth an hundredfold.
O God Bless this Nation and soften the Political Leaders thereof and cause that they may nurture thine little ones and make them under thy divine guidance a mighty phalanx.
Bless O God the remnant of this land and bring them speedily to a knowledge of the truth Ere they are all corrupted by the wicked and filthy. I ask all with thy blessing upon all of thy chosen ones and faithful in Jesus Name Everso Amen and Amen.
I arrived at Dunsmore [near Medicine Hat] at 4:45 P.M. & directly took train for Lethbridge where I landed at 12:30.’6
Words simply cannot embrace the prices paid by Charles Ora Card, his family, and the families of the early pioneers who came with him. Their example of faith and determination to plant the seeds for generations to come must never be forgotten.”
1 The Mormon Church in Canada, p. 47-48.
2 The Mormon Church in Canada p. 47
3 Card Diaries, p. 64
4 Card Diaries, p. 65
5 Card Diaries, p. 66-67
6 Card Diaries, p. 70-71