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Spring Coulee United Church

Pinepound Reflections
a History of Spring Coulee - pages 29 - 34
by Lillian Beswick

In the early years of the century the Presbyterian, Methodists, and others interested met at the home of W. L. Thompson for church services. They also met in the school a few times with Rev. Whiteman of Cardston conducting the service.

In 1907 Rezin Thompson, father of John Coffee Thompson and grandfather of John M. Thompson, donated some land in the Spring Coulee townsite for a church. It was built by O.G.Olund and William Sheffield of Cardston with local help. In 1909 it was dedicated by Rev. Ferguson who was connected with the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and assisted by Rev. Whiteman of Cardston who was the first minister. The first church board members were Henry A. Walter, H.E.Kelley and J.C.Thompson.

FLASHBACK: September 1909 The Presbyterian Church will be dedicated next Sabbath In 1916 Rev. Inglis was minister of the church and Dick Matson received a certificate for perfect attendance from the Presbyterian Church. Dick was caretaker at the time and said, "I dusted the pews and mother laid the fire!" Verda Matson also has a certification from the church for perfect attendance.

In 1920 the minister was Rev. Barrett who had lived in Australia. He was grandfather of Kay Van Horne who, with Stuart her husband owned the store in Spring Coulee during the 40s. Rev. Barrett, as did some of the other ministers, came to Spring Coulee on Saturday afternoon by using the CPR workmen's cart. They would return to Magrath after the service Sunday.

A very popular minister was Rev. Harry Wood. He was in charge in 1925 when the church joined the United Church of Canada. He took as many as 30 young people at a time from Magrath and Spring Coulee to Waterton to camp in tents. Tom Beswick can remember going to the lower lakes with Rev. Wood and Leo Chapman to catch fish for the campers to eat. Besides his wife, Vella Jolliffe, Mrs. Dustin and probably others assisted with the supervising.

The minister in 1927 was Rev. Claxton. Rev. O.R. Lavers and his wife Margaret ministered in 1935-36. He was from P.E.I.. They had three sons - James, George, and Tom. James taught school in St. Mary's for a short time but died shortly after in Namao. Tom and James were both musical. Tom took an active part in musical performances in Lethbridge for many years. He still resides there. George became a surgeon and is now retired in California where he practices medicine.

Dorothy and Harold Marston of New Brunswick came to Magrath in about 1937 and stayed about eight years. They were very well liked by everybody. Mr. and Mrs Marston took many youth to Waterton to camp in tents. He worked very hard while there. He would take the group on hiking and fishing trips. He would also sit propped against a tree for hours some nights watching a certain tent. He had two girls who were hoping to sneak to the the townsite after "lights out". Harold was chief cook as well and felt really badly when some church board members came to visit and they criticized him for wearing his cap while preparing the lunch in the camp kitchen. The new church was built while he was in Magrath. He worked right along with the other crews. They had three sons. The youngest one Stewart, was drowned while they were living in Whitehorse. Harold died when preaching in Edmonton of a heart attack soon after learning that Dorothy had cancer. She died a few years later while living with another son in B.C.

Little is known of the early Sunday School but without a doubt there were classes. In 1919, Ralph Thompson brought his bride, Leona to Spring Coulee. It was a very cold winter so there were not regular services held in the church. Leona had been teaching SS classes in Spokane before she was married and missed working with the children. Therefore, she had a class at her home of the Loveday children-Olive, Annie and Billy. There were a few others also, including the Rusk children.

In the summer of 1920, Mrs. Crocker who lived in the station house and Mrs. Jean Kelley held Sunday School in the church until the New Curriculum became available in 1964. From then on, except for special services, it was held in the Memorial Hall.

The roster of church and Sunday School leaders and teachers would fill pages because over the years nearly everyone helped in some way. A few names that must be mentioned are Mrs. Jean Kelley, Mrs. Vella Jolliffe, Ralph and Leona Thompson and Bill and Geneva Wood. The last three Sunday School superintendents were Mary Yvonne Hohm, Roslyn Beswick, and Keith Hunter.

Besides the regular S.S. classes there were many groups which if not officially part of the church, were being taught by the same people. Some of the more important groups were Cubs C.G.I.T., Knights of the White Cross, Scouts, Sunshine Girls etc..

Many donations were made to the church. Mr. Rezin Thompson father of John C. Thompson and grandfather of John M. Thompson, gave the land on which the church and Memorial Hall were built.

The Sunday School room was added in 1936-37. Donations and local help made this possible. Jesse Sherman Sr., Bill Wood, Leo Chapman and Jack MacKenzie and many, many more donated their help.

In November of 1938, the large pulpit Bible was given in memory of John C. Thompson and Jesse Sherman Sr. by their wives, Mrs Christine Thompson and Mrs. Mae Sherman.

When John C. Thompson died in 1938 he gave in his will $1200.00 for the support of the minister and $1200.00 for the support of the general expenses of the church with instructions that it was to be invested and the interest used perpetually for these purposes. The money was invested in government bonds and the interest is collected each year for the Spring Coulee United Church. The pulpit and two chairs and the communion table were given by the children of Mrs. Clara C. Thompson in 1948.

The cloth of the pulpit and the cloth of the Communion Table were donated by Mrs. M.E. Potter.

Mr. and Mrs Wm. Wood coated the collection plates in memory of Mrs. Minnie Culp.

The pulpit light was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Herb Walter in Memory of H.A. Walter.

The cross in the church was donated by Mrs. Karl Seliger in memory of her husband, Karl, who died while serving the Magrath Spring Coulee charge in August 1959.

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Mary Tollestrup