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History of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In Spring Coulee, Alberta

Pinepound Reflections
a History of Spring Coulee - pages 35 - 38
by LaVaun Thompson

It was Sunday March 11, 1900, that Charles Ora Card and Robert Ibey drove 15 miles to Spring Coulee from Cardston to conduct the first meeting of the church in this area. Twenty six people were in attendance as Homer Manley Brown was named to be President of what was called "The Brown Branch", since it was located on a portion of the Brown Ranching Co. Lease.

Information regarding church activities between this time and the late forties is unknown at the time of this writing. It was then that Phil Proctor, an engineer at the St. Mary's dam, and his wite Darlene Sabey, who was teaching school in Spring Coulee, began holding "cottage meetings" with LDS members and friends in the area. The Magrath Second Ward was the "Parent Ward" for this project. When the Proctors moved, Magrath sent two Stake Missionaries to conduct services each Sunday, from March 1950 to September 1952.

On Sunday, Sept. 21 1952, the Spring Coulee Branch was officially organized, with Alma E. Bishop as President and Howard Wood and Marvin Marsden as counselors and Edward Bishop named Branch Clerk.

The first auxiliary to be organized was the Primary. In October of 1952, Isabel Bennett was called to serve as President, with Venna Caldwell, and Le Vaun Thompson as her counselors and Mary Nelson as secretary.

The Sunday School was organized in December of 1952 with Ray Bennett as superintendent. William Bennett was secretary, and Dorothy Wood was chorister in charge of music.

Eulalia Wood was called to be President when the Relief Society was organized on August first 1954, Isabel Bennett and Edna Bishop were her counselors and Dorothy Wood was secretary.

In April 1963 Alma Bishop and his counselors were released and Gerald F. Bennett was sustained Branch President with Warren Harris and Laurence J. Law as counselors and Jay Marsden as Branch Clerk.

VerDell Saxton served as Branch President from August 1975 to March 26, 1982, with Howard Wood and Donald Ripley as counselors. He was followed by Dan Baker as President with Donald Ripley and Duncan Thompson as his counselors, with Leonard Carlson as Clerk.

Then on April 26, 1992 Kelly Wood was set apart as Branch President, choosing Keith Still and Leonard Carlson for his counselors, and Barry Gorham as Executive Secretary.

1954 proved to be a memorable one for the branch at Spring Coulee, for this was the year that they moved from the school, where they had been holding meetings up to this time, to a building of their own. The former Spring Coulee Trading Co. building was purchased, to be renovated and improved to be suitable for use as a church. Humble though it was, it now belonged to the Saints to make the necessary changes as they saw fit. For the first meeting that was held, prior to any needed changes in the building itself, Harry Bishop and his sons built benches in time for the first meeting. Eulalia Wood, a widowed sister in the branch donated a piano, which added a special dimension to the meeting. That same piano is still used in the chapel today.

Renovations and construction on the old store were begun in the spring of 1955. The brethren shared some spiritual experiences during the construction work, as well as good fellowship and a feeling of pride in being able to work on "their" chapel. There were many non-members of the community who also donated their labors to the cause.

In the spring of 1960, renovations were completed, and the exterior of the church received a much needed coat of paint, in preparation for dedication of the building as a chapel.

It was on April 17, 1960 that the Branch was richly blessed when Elder Marion D. Hanks of the First Council of Seventies from Salt Lake City, Utah, was present for the dedication services of the chapel. President J. Golden Snow, President of the Raymond Stake, and his counselors were also in attendance to share in the beautiful spirit that was there in rich abundance. All of the visiting brethren bore their testimonies, and gave words of advice and inspiration. A most beautiful and humble prayer was offered by Elder Hanks, at which time he dedicated the chapel to serve the needs of the people of Spring Coulee.

A temporary water line connecting the school well to the church grounds, was laid in June of 1960, so there would be water to maintain the beauty of the grounds, which Bill Fortner had designed, planted and continued to maintain for years.

The people shared many precious moments and special experiences in the "new" building . Weddings, receptions, missionary farewells and homecomings, parties, with invitations extended to the community members, bake sales - well patronized by the ladies of the area, and programs offering local talents - to name a few of the activities that took place. And sad to say, our little church has been the scene of funerals, that were so well attended that speakers were installed in the classrooms to accommodate the overflow from the chapel area.

Up to June 1991, the Spring Coulee Branch has had thirteen missionaries serve in the mission field, eleven elders and two sisters. For several years Stake Missionaries have been assigned to assist the members in various capacities and continue to do so at the present time.

For many years the LDS women worked along with the members of the United Church Ladies Aid, the Women's Institute, in Red Cross during the second world war, as well as various community enterprises.

In 1960, the members thought it would be nice if there was an organ beside the piano that Eulalia Wood had so generously given, so the Relief Society women organized a variety program. Both local and outside talent was solicited to help raise funds to buy an organ. The performance was superb, the community hall was packed to capacity, and the evening was termed a very satisfactory success. It was gratifying to share this special event with friends and neighbors of the community and those from outside the area who came to be entertained.

In the spring of 1977 the needed major changes in the building were started, and completed in the summer of 1978. The chapel was enlarged, washrooms installed and a kitchen added. An "Open House'- was held in June, when many people toured the building, amazed at the changes that had been effected on the "Old Store".

The newly renovated building was dedicated October 22nd with Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the First Council of the Seventies from Utah offering the prayer. A capacity crowd of members and friends attended this thrilling service, as well as the social which followed.

The membership of the Spring Coulee Branch gradually increased as boundaries were extended, and more people were attending services. Soon the leaders were talking of expanding the facilities.. But it was decided that this edifice built in 1907, had seen enough renovations and was due for retirement.

Since the church had been judged as being unsafe for further gatherings, meetings were held in the Community Hall until November of 1990. For the next 16 months, while the new chapel was being built the people travelled to Welling to hold meetings in their chapel.

March 1992 was special, for it was then that construction of the new chapel was completed, and the doors were opened for yet another "Open House" for all to visit to see the structure that had replaced the 1907 edifice.

The members were delighted to have their own chapel in Spring Coulee again. But the numbers seem to be increasing, and it may not be long before the second stage of this three stage building will be needed.

The Spring Coulee Branch operates the same as a fully organized ward, though on a smaller scale. There is the Relief Society for the Women, Priesthood Quorum for the Men, Primary for the children, Sunday School training, and organizations for both the Young Women and the Young Men, including Boy Scout activities.

The members of the Spring Coulee Branch are truly grateful for the leadership they have received through the years, and for the fellowship enjoyed in the community.

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Mary Tollestrup