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Welling, Alberta

Welling Early History; pages 5 -13

The first inhabitants of the Welling area were the Indians. An ancient campsite just a few miles south on land now farmed by Reid Heggie has yielded many ancient artifacts including arrowheads.

As modern times approached some fur traders probably visited the area. Then the whiskey traders and other freighters using the Ft. Benton - Whoop Up Trail travelled nearby. The trail went through land now farmed by Bakers. In 1874 the North West Mounted Police arrived to maintain law and order. Shortly thereafter the Dominion Land Surveyors were here measuring and marking every mile in both directions. Among those land surveyors was C. A. Magrath.

In the early 1880's the CPR was being built across Canada. Alexander Galt recognized that a railroad would need coal to power the locomotives so he sent his son Elliot to search for some. He found that there was plenty at Coal Banks, (later Lethbridge.) A company called the Northwest Coal and Navigation Co. was formed to transport coal to Medicine Hat for CPR. They first tried shipping by barges down the Oldman River but that was a failure. They then got a grant from Ottawa to build a railroad from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat. The grant was 3840 acres of land for each mile of railroad built. The railroad was constructed in 1885. During the period of construction C. A. Magrath joined the Galt Co. and later married Elliot Galt's sister Laura.

The railroad was successful so the Galts decided to build a railroad to Great Falls to deliver coal. In 1889 the company name was changed to the Alberta Railway and Coal Co. and received 3700 acres per mile for the new railroad. As can be seen the Galts became the owners of large tracts of land. We go into detail in this matter because much of the land in the Welling area was part of the land granted to that company.

In 1888 the settlement at Cardston was established largely as a haven for Mormon men who were living in polygamy. Their effective and energetic colonization of this area was noticed by Mr. Magrath. He had responsibility to make some recovery from the large land holdings of his company. He realized that if irrigation could be added to the land it would become more valuable as well as produce more business for the railroad.

After a series of negotiations with Ora Card and the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, a contract was made for the construction of a canal from Kimball to Stirling. The contract also required that two towns be established with at least 300 persons in each town. Work started on the canal in Sep. 1898. Magrath and Stirling were surveyed in 1899. Water reached Stirling in 1900.

Some of the most intensive construction activity was southwest of Welling. A long cut was required to divert the water from the Pothole Coulee to the high ground near Welling. A prominent leader from Lethbridge visited the construction site at the Hammond cut in Nov. 1899. He tells of riding along the east bank of Pothole (later Welling) to the canal in the making. "It seemed thronged for a couple of miles, with teams laboriously scraping this brown trench along the hillside. We at once agreed that these newcomers from Utah might be wizards with water but they could never make it run up that hill." (Irrigation Builders page 78.) That canal was in constant use until the early 1950's. Since then much has been levelled but the canal along the Pothole is still there as a monument to the industry of our early pioneers.

The first settler in Welling was James Pearce, a horse rancher who as early as 1885 took a squatters right on Sec 7, twp 6, rg 21. (near where the present highway crosses the Pothole).

On Aug 11, the town of Raymond was founded by Jesse Knight and others. For the next two years there was feverish activity and by 1903 a sugar factory was operating. Jesse Knight had purchased large tracts of land around Raymond which were subsequently sold to settlers. Some of the land in Welling was owned by Mr. Knight.

Welling's First Settlers 1901-10

Jospeh C. Peterson, his wife Cecelia and family, bought the first land at what is now Welling and moved to it about April 1901. He build a house, did some fencing, ploughed some land and raised a small crop of oats that year. His house was built on the nine-mile coulee and he was known by his friends as nine-mile Peterson. Hyrum Ririe and Christian D. Peterson were the next to settle, and by spring of 1902 they were joined by Christian's brothers, Niels and John. John's wife Genevra and their family, Michael Schumers, his wife Mary and family and his brother Louis. The Bullock brothers, Earnest K. Bullock Sr. and Amasa Bullock Sr. also arrived that spring, accompanied by James Straton and his son Roy. They drove their teams and wagons from Provo, Utah. Their wives and families joined them in October of the same year, coming by train on the Great Northern Railway to Great Falls, then on the Alberta Railway and Irrigation (A.R.I.) to Stirling. Here they were met by their husbands in covered wagons and taken to their new homes. As cash was scarce, they welcomed the job of building fences for the Knight Ranching Company. The fencing east of the highway through this district is credited to the Bullocks.

A. M. Wilde and sons William and Vern and daughter Millie with her husband and two small children, came in the spring of 1902. They made their first home in Raymond in a "dug out" while they built a house in Welling. The rest of the family came in the fall. In October of 1903, they moved to their new home on the farm in Welling.

All of these pioneer farmers brought or bought the necessary machinery and set to work. The sod was ploughed by 14 inch walking ploughs pulled by four horses, then disced and harrowed and seeded by hand. A man would sit in the back of a wagon throwing and spreading grain, first with one hand and then the other, while his neighbor or wife drove the team.. The yield was good, wheat about 30 bushels to the acre and oats about 50 bushels. The rainfall in 1902 was 28 inches.

Horace Welling came sometime in 1902 and planted his first crop in 1903. He built a fair-sized house just south of the railroad tracts and he, along with Hyrum Ririe, the Peterson brothers and Schumers brothers, bought the first threshing machine powered by twelve horses going around in a circle.

James C. Thompson, his wife Alice Jane and twin sons, James and Henry came to Canada from Moab, Utah in October 1903 and settled at Stirling until February 1904 when they came to Welling. The community continued to grow. Joseph Elisha Day, his wife Harriet and family from Draper, Utah came in 1904. In the same year Heber Robert McBride, his wife Elizabeth and their family arrived from Eden, Utah. Sometime before 1908, Brenaman and Miriam Bitner and Chris and Annie Christensen came.

John and Libbie Heninger and family came in 1908 and lived by the elevator and station where Horace Welling had built. They operated the first Post Office and owned the first automobile. John started out to do things in a big way in Welling, he almost made a village on his own. There were huge barns, thousands of chickens and sheep. It was quite a site riding by the train.

How Welling Received It's Name and Organization Of The Welling Branch

The newly formed Taylor Stake Presidency consisted of President Heber S. Allen, formerly of Cardston, with Theodore Brandley of Stirling as First and J. William Knight of Raymond as Second Counselors. They felt the need of some Church Organization for the people on farms 6 miles west of Raymond. That was a long distance then with a horse and buggy, dirt roads and no bridges over the coulees. It was almost impossible for these scattered farmers to get to Raymond to Sunday School and Church. The Presidency of the Stake called a meeting and those living in the district were all notified. Some were told as they came to Raymond for groceries, and they notified others. Most of them were present in the home of Abraham and Louise Wilde for the meeting. (The exact date is unknown because the minutes were lost in a fire, but it was sometime between October 1903 and February 1904. President Allen welcomed all and told them the purpose of the meeting was to organize a Branch of the Raymond Ward. After singing and prayer, it was suggested they decide first on a name. According to William Wilde, "Apostle John W. Taylor arose and suggested the name of Welling, in honor of his good friend Job Welling of Farmington, Utah. He is a splendid man, of excellent reputation, and besides his son Horace has built one of the first fair-sized homes in this community. His suggestion was put to vote and was unanimously accepted. The other business of this memorable meeting was the appointing of a leader of the new Welling Branch. His name was Abraham Marsh Wilde.

Sunday School Organization

On 22 Feb 1904, the Stake Sunday School Superintendent Lafayette Holbrook came to Welling to organize a Sunday School. The following officers were sustained: Superintendent Horace Welling with assistants James C. Thomson and John C. Peterson also as Secretary Treasurer. Teachers - Adult Class: Abraham M. Wilde: Intermediate Class: Christian C. Peterson: Kindergarten and Primary: Genevra Peterson.

Weekly Services

Weekly services were held in President Abraham Wilde's home until the fall of 1904 when the School House was built. The big one roomed School House was used for everything: School, Church Sunday School, Choir Practice, Wedding Receptions, Funerals, Dances, and Home Dramatics.

The Welling Ward Organization

The Welling Ward of the Taylor Stake was organized on 18 May 1908. The meeting was held in the Welling School House with 58 members present. Apostle George F. Richards: President B. H. Roberts of the First Quorum of the Seventy: Heber S. Allen, Stake President: George H. Budd, Stake Clerk: John T. Smelie, Stake Counselor and John F. Anderson, Bishop of of the Raymond Ward were all in attendance. John C. Peterson was sustained as Bishop with Abraham M. Wilde and Hyrum Ririe as Counselors and B. H, Bitner as Ward Clerk.

Relief Society Organization

The Welling Ward Relief Society was organized 27 June 1908 with Stake Relief Society President Hannah Russell in attendance. The meeting was held in the Welling School House at 5 pm, prior to Sacrament Meeting. Louise Wilde was selected as President with Genevra Peterson and Harriet Day as Counselors and Ann Christensen as Secretary. They were sustained later that day in Sacrament Meeting.

The Mutual Improvement Association Organization

The Mutual Improvement Association was organized 3 Jan 1909. Chris Christensen was sustained as President of the Young Mens Mutual Improvement Association with Niels W. Peterson and James C. Thomson as Counselors and Alma Bullock as Secretary. Annie Christensen was sustained President of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association with Amber Peterson and Effie Day as Counselors and Geneva Day as Secretary.

Primary Organization

The Welling Ward Primary Association was organized 14 June 1914. Amy I. Allen, Stake Primary President attended the meeting. The following were sustained: Hattie W. Heninger as President with Leah Wilde and LaVon Peterson as Counselors and Delecta McBride as Secretary. Delecta McBride was also sustained as Chorister and Elva Bullock as Organist. Teachers were Katie Bullock, Genevra Peterson and Ireta Peterson.


Tithing Granary:

In Louise Wilde's diary dated Saturday 20 June 1916 it says the Relief Society sold refreshments at the afternoon sports to raise funds to help furnish the new Relief Society Building. This new building was the former Tithing Granary. It was built by Bishop Peterson's home to hold the tithing produce that was paid in kind. The building was moved to the school grounds and made into a very comfortable room complete with curtains, an organ, and each sister gave a chair. It was also used as a classroom for Sunday School and later a School Room and also a Scout Hall. In 1935 it was sold to John Wolsey Senior who moved it and built on it and made it into a nice home. As present the home is still lived in.

School House

The School House was built in the fall of 1904. The big one- roomed School House was used for everything. A big round coal stove stood in the northeast corner, a large cupboard to accommodate lunch pails stood in the southeast corner, a big glassed in cabinet held library books, beside it stood the piano, on the north of the west wall was a map of the world.

Welling Ward Building

In March 1929 ground was broken and construction began. Within one year it was being used for church meetings. The basement was used for dances, parties and class work. It took another 6 years before it was ready for dedication. On 20 Aug 1936 Melvin J. Ballard of the Council of the Twelve dedicated the building. Antoine R. Irvins, one of the First Seven Presidents of the Seventy was also present. Taken from records in Salt Lake City "Dedicatory Service Thursday Evening 20 Aug 1936, at 7:30 pm held in new Ward Chapel. Opening prayer by John C. Peterson of Aetna Ward. He was the first bishop of Welling Ward. Financial report given by Bishop Sterling Floyd Wilde: 'Building Cost', $12,638 - Equipment $2,138 improvements on grounds, $176, making a total $14,952, and we are free from debt. The Welling people had raised $7,476, and the Trustee in Trust of Church in Salt Lake City gave the same amount." Brother Ballard in his dedicatory prayer blessed all who would stand behind this pulpit to speak that their tongues would be loosened and other wonderful promises were made to the people if they would live their religion.

Later the building had some major renovations and additions. In 1951-52 the Cultural Hall was built and the entrance to the building was changed. The chapel was redone with the podium changed from the west end to the east end. The basement was made into classrooms and a Junior Sunday School room was built over the old furnace room. There were more renovations done in 1958-59 and the building was rededicated by Elder Bruce R. McConkie.

In the spring of 1985 the building was demolished and the construction began on the new building. The Welling Ward members travelled to Magrath for Sunday meetings for the year until the new building was completed in the spring of 1986. The new building was delicated on 13 Mar 1988 by Stake President W. Tyler Alston.

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Mary Tollestrup