Monday, December 30, 2013

Cardston, Alberta’s first Christmas

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Cardston Alberta Temple in Winter
What were the Christmas stockings made from that first Christmas that the Saints settled in Cardston?

a.      Gunny sack material

b.      Wool

c.       Buffalo hair

d.      Mosquito netting

Yesterday’s answer:

b.   Santa Clauses

The following from the life of David Henry Leonard, 1879:   By mid-December, some of the original settlers were out of flour. They had harvested scanty crops that first summer, not enough to carry them through such a winter. With Snow lying deep over the mountain, they were afraid to try going for provisions. They came to David Henry.

“Do you have enough flour to spare until we can get through the snow for supplies?” They inquired.

“I brought enough for my family, to see us through the winter, but what I have, I’ll share with all of you, until it’s gone. Then, we’ll just have to trust in the Lord.”

Christmas was near, and there were no trinkets, no candy, no gifts for the children. It is amazing what Christian men will do for the sake of a child—what grown men will do to make a child happy at Christmas.

Some of the men in the valley from different settlements, those interested in the mercantile business and those young and hardy, decided to go over the mountain regardless of the hazards and perils, to obtain supplies and to get Christmas candy and gifts for the children. They took wagons as far up Salina Canyon as the road would permit. Leaving the wagons there, they put on their snowshoes, and leading the horses to be used as pack animals, they headed out on foot to complete their journey.

They arrived in Manti after bucking eight- and ten-foot drifts, purchased their supplies—sugar, kerosene for their lamps, lard for cooking, candy and trinkets for Christmas, and the needed flour.

On the way back home they did not fare so well. One pack mule slipped off the trail and went rolling with all its pack down the steep mountainside to the bottom of the canyon. Fortunately the snow softened its fall. Both it and much of its pack were recovered. That night, tired by climbing and pulling and pushing the animal back up to the trail, the company of six to eight exhausted men gathered up the supplies and kept moving all night to keep from freezing.

After that incident, they proceeded on their way without too much difficulty and arrived at the settlements on December 23. The men from Huntington had a longer journey than the men living in the southern settlements, for they had ten more miles to go. By now it was December 24, and they feared they might not arrive in time for Christmas.

In the meantime, the settlers had collected at the Leonard dugout, where David Henry and Alice Wimmer provided the music, and a Christmas party was attempted while waiting the return of their Santa Clauses. Though the adults forced themselves to appear happy, they feared the men would not arrive in time for Christmas. Some of them feared the men would not arrive at all.

The mothers with babies laid them on the one bed in the Leonard home. Benches were provided for sitting. A few tried to dance in the cramped area. Some step-danced. Around ten or eleven o’clock the door burst open and in walked the three Santa Clauses—Joseph E. and Milas Johnson, and Johnny Wakefield, grizzly with bearded icicles and crusted with snow.

What a jubilee! Children received their gifts. Candy was passed. Songs were sung. Children jumped for joy; women wiped away their tears of happiness; and a prayer of thanksgiving was offered.

Chronicles of Courage, comp. by Lesson Committee (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1992), 3:253-54.

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