The Founding of Cardston

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When Charles Ora Card and his party of settlers arrived in the area in the spring of 1887, they were ready to begin building a new community. Unfortunately, the site they had chosen for their new home was not going to work. The Cochrane Ranching Company, who owned the land, refused to allow settlers there. As a result, on April 26, 1887, the decision was made to try a new townsite that would be the future location of Cardston. This decision was made thanks to the help of H.A. Donovan and E.N. Barker, who lived at Lee’s Creek, which is where the golf course is today.
On April 30, with the arrival of Andrew Allen and his son and their horses and plough, the first furrow in the ground was made that day and everyone took turns to clear the land. After three hours, half an acre was cleared. Several of the men decided to head back to meet with their families, including Charles Card.
On June 3, 1887, Cardston was technically founded by The Card Company, which consisted of Charles Card, John Woolf, J.A. Hammer, E.R. Miles and George Farrell. This was the date the men arrived back and stayed on the flat side of Lee Creek. The men cleared the land for tents, their supplies and livestock. Bedding down for the night, they woke up to five inches of snow and their horses having wandered away. It would take three days to find them and this resulted in the first cooperative project in Cardston’s history, a community corral.
That same day, June 3, the first church meeting was held in the tent of Josiah Hammer. By that fall, a church and Sunday School was organized.
On June 6, three days of rain fell, and a boat was made to allow everyone on the west side of the creek to get across the river to the other side. For the remainder of the week, the four ploughs and three harrows were kept busy as each man worked his grain plot.
A council meeting was also held during the week to decide to sink a well on the east bench. Since it was 28 feet to water, the decision was made to relocate to the west side of the creek where the water was at a 12-foot level.
The surveyor, E.R. Miles, along with Hammer, Woolf and Card, proceeded to lay out 12 city blocks for the town site. On June 18, a vein of coal was opened, and a road was built to the supply of timber.
On July 1, Dominion Day as it was called at the time, 16 ranchers in the area and the local NWMP were invited out for a celebration. The women cooked, and the men hosted songs, speeches and pony races.
In the fall, threshing was done by flail and horses, and Card would be able to bring in 100 bushes of oats from his one and a half acres.
The first homes were all built in a similar manner, with gable ends with beam and floor joists, and roofs covered in sod placed closely together.
In September, the families of Layne and Daines arrived, followed by the families of Monson, Ricks and Roberts on Dec. 10.
The population of the community had now reached 90 people and businesses began to pop up. Card opened a butcher shop, and mail began to arrive but on an irregular basis unfortunately.
On Dec. 17, the first babies in the community were born, with the help of Zina Card, who served as midwife. The first baby was Zina Alberta, daughter of J.A. Woolf and his wife Mary, and Les Ora, the son of Samual and Sena Matkin.
From here, the community of Cardston began to grow and prosper.
Suggestions for columns or questions? E-mail Craig at Listen to his podcast by searching for “Canadian History Ehx” on your podcast platform. Find his show on YouTube by searching for “Canadian History Ehx”.
Information for this column comes from Chief Mountain Country: A History Of Cardston And District
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