Periodizing Mormon settlement in Canada between 1887 and 1917


Periodizing or periodization is the act of breaking down the past into distinct named periods of time. It is a tool historians use to simplify describing and to aid in studying history. I have gone through this exercise several times over the years as I have examined the history of Mormon settlement in Canada and have mostly settled on periods that work for me and make it easier for me to study and categorize historical activities in the region. Because history does not happen in convenient packages, periodization is imperfect. In spite of that, it is still helpful in contextualizing and simplifying the discussion of historical events. There are no right and wrong ways about this and others may see different periods in their study of the history of this region.

In 1886, Charles Ora Card led a small group of Mormons from the United States to Canada to explore the idea of creating a settlement.1 Mormon leaders who practiced polygamy, including Card, were being prosecuted under the United State’s Edmunds Act of 1882 and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.2 These acts made polygamy illegal and allowed the government to both prosecute individuals and to seize church property.3 Though Card’s primary object in exploring Canada was to escape this prosecution and find a place where Mormons could continue their religious practice of polygamy, that only explains the initial wave of Mormon settlers.4 Over the next three decades, approximately twenty Mormon communities were established in Canada. Between 1887 and 1917. I see four chronological periods of Mormon settlement in Canada. 

These periods included:

The polygamy period (1887-1890)

This time includes the founding of Cardston and the region immediately around it.5

The interim years (1890-1898)

This time includes a few more settlements around Cardston including Mountain View, Caldwell, Kimball and Leavitt among others.6

The irrigation period (1898-1901)

This time is focused on the settlement of Stirling and Magrath.7

The economic opportunity period (1901-1917)

The Knight Sugar Factory and the founding of Raymond open this period.6


Over the coming weeks, I’ll share posts going into more detail about each period and the main drivers and activities during that time. When the posts go out, I will update this post with links to them. Do you see different periods or smaller periods in your study of the history of Mormon settlement in Canada?


These articles are adapted from a single paper written for an Alberta History course taken as part of my studies at the University of Lethbridge.

  1. John R. Hicken, “Events Leading to the Settlement of Cardson, Magrath, Stirling and Raymond, Alberta” (Utah State University, 1968), 15. []
  2. Brooke Brassard, “Thirsty Land into Springs of Water: Negotiating a Place in Canada as Latter-Day Saints, 1887-1947” (University of Waterloo, 2018), 248. []
  3. Ibid., 223. []
  4. Arlend James Hudson, Charles Ora Card: Pioneer and Colonizer (Cardston, Alberta, 1963), 83-84. []
  5. Image Source: https://www.geni.com/photo/view/6000000003937590654?album_type=photos_of_me&photo_id=6000000014753768031 []
  6. Image source: http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcards/PC004685.html [] []
  7. Image source: http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcards/PC004235.html []
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