Winter 1994, Volume 11.1
Book Review

 

Reviewed by Robert Thacker, Canadian Studies Program, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York

The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Canadian Years, 1886-1903 edited by Donald G. Godfrey and Brigham Y. Card. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1993, 668 pp., $45.00 (cloth).

A substantial work of scholarship, this volume makes available the Canadian diaries of Charles Ora Card (1839-1906), son-in-law of Brigham Young and a leading figure among the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cache Valley, Utah, from the late 1850s to the mid 1880s. Then, as American authorities pressed the Mormons over the practice of polygamy, Card-who had himself been arrested for polygamy-led an 1886 reconnaissance trip from Utah into the Canadian west to ascertain the feasibility of a group of Mormons migrating there. Along with others, he traveled through eastern British Columbia and over the mountains to the Northwest Territories (the area later became the province of Alberta). The next year, Card led a group of Mormons there and established Cardston; named for him, he was its first mayor, and the town is now the site of Alberta's Mormon temple. As the latter fact suggests, Cardston was only the first of several settlements in southern Alberta-by the turn of the century the Mormon population in the area was estimated by the Canadian authorities at 1700, most of whom had traveled north from Utah.

Two contextual issues are important here. First, with the completion of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) the year before Card's reconnaissance trip, its route cleared by the Northwest Mounted Police since 1874, the Canadian west was ready to receive the thousands of emigrants who would arrive there over the next three decades. The government actively encouraged settlement. Second, and the railway notwithstanding, many of those who settled the Canadian Northwest came north from the United States, some seeking land to homestead while others, the Mormons primary among them, came (like the Puritans to Massachusetts) seeking religious freedom. Harassed by U.S. marshals for their beliefs, Card and his colleagues sought safety in Canada, just as other Mormons fled the same harassment by settling in Mexico. Exiled, each group wanted to be left alone.

Card was a committed diarist, so the volume records his activities in considerable detail. And, while largely concerned with the day-to-day activities of a man of affairs looking after those affairs-there is much coming and going, the recording of daily thoughts, responses to his situations, and his relations with others-many entries in The Dairies of Charles Ora Card regularly rise to moments of sustained analysis and thought. For example, after the colony is established in the Northwest, Card and other church leaders travel by the C.P.R. to Ottawa to meet with Canadian officials to discuss the terms under which the Mormons were allowed to buy up lands in Canada. While there, they met with both Edgar Dewdney, the Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories, and Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister. Polygamy was a particular issue since Card and the other Mormon leaders sought permission to continue their practices and, as well, they sought refuge for their "brethren who were in bondage" in the U.S. (69); that is, those who had been arrested and jailed. Although Card and his delegation were successful in obtaining land for a town site, and were welcomed by the Canadian authorities as individual homesteaders (rather than being received as a group), the arguments concerning polygamy were fruitless. And in April of 1890, the Canadian law was amended to increase the penalty for polygamy. Thus, even if married to more than one woman, these men could not acknowledge this fact publicly in Canada. They were, however, largely left alone.

Given this laissez faire attitude by the Canadian government, Cardston and the other Mormon settlements flourished in the decade following their founding, and Card records that growth in detail-he prospered with Cardston and played a key role in its development. Indeed, at one point he writes that he is "thanking God that" he is "worthy to be cast out by a proud boasting nation [the U.S.] for observing God's most High laws" (70). At the same time, his proximity to Utah allowed him to keep in touch with those he left behind there-including his other two wives-even after he had established himself in Canada. These connections between the Mormon communities are deep and frequent, and that is where this volume's greatest utility lies: it provides a detailed accounting of a myriad of issues, personalities, and problems which beset the Mormon communities in western North America in the latter decades of the nineteenth century-and from the point of view of a person deeply involved in these affairs. As such, it defines the connections between the Mormons of Utah and their Canadian brethren-they headed north seeking exile from one nation and stayed to become part of another, leaving their mark on each

The editors have done excellent work in editing The Diaries of Charles Ora Card and in providing suitable scholarly apparatus for the collection's understanding and appreciation. Without question, this volume will be a valuable resource for all those interested in the Mormon presence in Canada.