by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
On the Canadian Frontier, 1887-1903
“Crowns are not cheaper now than in any other dispensation.”
—Charles Ora Card
[p.275] Although Charles Card seriously considered fleeing to the Mormon colonies in northern Mexico, and even asked to be released as Cache Stake president, he went instead north to Canada. LDS church president John Taylor, a British subject, favored Canada as a place of refuge and felt that the Mormons would receive fair treatment there. He asked Card to explore British Columbia to locate a place of safety for Mormon polygamists. Apostle Francis M. Lyman set Charles apart for that mission on 10 September 1886. Zina Presendia sold a lot she owned on Fourth Street in Salt Lake City to her brother Chariton, who paid her eight common cows, sixteen jerseys, and one horse. She then sold the livestock and gave the proceeds to Charles to finance the trip.
Accompanied by J. W. Hendricks and Isaac E. D. Zundel, Charles took the train to Spokane, Washington, where they arrived on 19 September. There they bought saddle horses and a pack outfit and headed north. Ten days later Charles wrote in his diary: “As we passed the stone monument that designated the [national] line, I too[k] of[f] my hat, swung it around and shouted in Collumbia We are free.”1 British Columbia was mountainous and heavily forested—poorly suited for agriculture. [p.276] Discouraged, they sold their horses and outfit and took the Canadian Pacific Railroad for Calgary, Alberta.2
The land known as the Canadian Northwest was vast, bordered by the Rocky Mountains to the west and lakes and fields to the east. Its beauty lay in the sweep of sky and land in every direction. Rich with potential, it provided a fit setting for Mormon colonization efforts. When Charles Ora Card ventured into the northwest, it was sparsely settled, with only a few villages sprinkled across the prairie. Upon first seeing Calgary on 17 October, he recorded with satisfaction: “Calgary is situated between the Bow & Elbow River at the junction of these Rivers and is a place of about 12 or 1500 inhabitants & is quite a thriving Rail Road town and is surrounded by a vast tract of rolling prairie country with very rich soil.”3
The Canadian government encouraged settlement and welcomed the Mormons who brought with them experience in colonization, knowledge of land and water use policies, agriculture, and the cattle industry. Card himself had considerable experience in irrigation that benefitted the Mormon settlers in developing the area. The railroad facilitated this growth and played a key role in the location of future settlements. Although telegraph and telephone lines would not come until the 1890s, the railroad gave a sense of coherence to the area.
Next the men camped on the east slope of the Rocky Mountain range, bordering prairie land with rich soil and fine grassland. One night as the three Mormons sat around a campfire, quietly conversing about the day’s events, an elderly man walked into the light cast by the fire and described his travels across the “buffalo plains.” As a result of their conversation, Card said, “We will go into the buffalo plains for if the buffalo can live there the Mormons can.”4 They traveled the next day to Calgary where they sold their horses and bought a wagon and team and tools for farming—a plow, garden implements, and seeds. The land office was located in MacLeod, and there they registered for land beyond the Indian Reserve, not far from the boundary between Canada and Montana. The rich land of the High River district and to its south appeared to be conducive to farming. Their first two choices were thwarted by cattle companies that controlled the territory, but they continued south until they reached an area so unfrequented below the Blood Indian Reservation [p.277] that the trail into the region had been made by the Canadian Mounted Police. When they reached the banks of Lee’s Creek on 24 October, they felt they had finally arrived at their destination. The next morning, Sunday, they held a brief service, sang songs on the banks of the creek, administered the sacrament, and joined in prayer as Card dedicated the land to the benefit of the Saints.
Lee’s Creek was located 150 miles south of Calgary, fifty miles south of MacLeod. Twenty miles to the south were forested mountains. Lethbridge, fifty miles to the northeast, was a coal-mining town with a narrow-gauge railroad that hauled coal to the Canadian Pacific Railroad mainline at Medicine Hat on the eastern border of Alberta. Lethbridge’s sixty buildings were primarily built of wood and included six stores, five hotels with saloons, four billiard rooms, two barber shops, and a livery stable. Residents lived in either temporary shelters, tents, or log houses.5 Railroad officials had an expansive vision for the development of land adjoining the rail lines and encouraged settlement there.
The three settlers immediately began plowing and planting, despite the lateness of the season. At the land office in MacLeod, they learned they could homestead 160 acres each and purchase an additional adjoining 160 acres at $1.00 per acre in the twelve-mile strip running west from the St. Mary’s River to the mountains and south to the boundary line. Near the south boundary of the Blood Reserve, they found a series of stakes and mounds along the line running from the Belly River to Lee’s Creek, assumed correctly that the stakes marked the township’s baseline, and planned their own settlement to join the southern boundary of the reserve.
On 25 October they left for Helena, across the boundary line into Montana. There Charles boarded a train for Logan, while one of the other men drove his team and saddle horses back to Utah. As a mild disguise, Charles shaved his beard for the “first time in 15 years.”6 Charles was forty-seven and facing the prospects of beginning over in a new territory with a young family. His diary, as they traveled through Canada, shows his reflection on the things he most valued. For example, on Sunday, 7 November 1886, he wrote:
As I am sitting alone my thoughts turn homeward to my wives, children, [p.278] parents and many friends even to those that would risk their liberty for the servants of God. Would like to enjoy a sacrament meeting with them. I would enjoy the caresses of my wives and children could we be free from the hand of tyrants that lust after our homes and property. Free from those that demoralize our community. Free from those that would debauch our sons and rob the daughters of Israel of their virtue.7
Zina corresponded with Charles throughout his weeks in Canada, keeping him abreast of their “business and home affairs.” In response he remarked, “May heaven bless them [his three wives and many children] for their energy and integrity to me, mine and the truth.”8
Card reached Logan on 17 November “where I was welcomed by family & aged parents,” then went to Idaho three days later where he spent a few days with twenty-year-old Lavinia. According to family tradition, Lavinia was a particular favorite of Charles. He described her as “of cheerful disposition and always tries to look on the bright side.”9 He traveled surreptitiously to Salt Lake City during the night carrying his written report for President John Taylor and remained “in camp” until he received a response with further instructions.10 His first day with Zina was 26 November, but the long-awaited visit was truncated because Charles felt “unsafe” and went to his brother-in-law’s.
For the next five months, Charles shifted his location every few days, receiving visits from Zina and Sarah when he could and going north into Idaho to visit Lavinia. He chafed at his enforced leisure, and particularly at missing sabbath meetings, but he consoled himself on 9 December, “I am no better than my brethren and … crowns are not cheaper now than in any other dispensation.”11 His wives’ loyalty meant a great deal to him, and he reflected on 22 November 1886, “I passed most of the day chatting with my wife [Lavinia] about the past, present & future & was pleased to note her faith in the work of the Lord. I praise the name of the Lord for a quorum of good faithful wives. I feel I could wade through much affliction for them & my lovely children. May it please the Lord to always make us agreeable to each other.”12
On 5 December he wrote: “I visited Sarah and Zina again to night [and] found the latter sick but Blessed her that she might have health and strength and the desires of her heart (maternity) in Righteousness, re-[p.279]turned to Bro Joel Ricks & stayed over night with Lavinia again.” Zina, thirty-six, desperately wanted more children before she grew too old. Two days later Charles again visited Zina and Sarah. Friday night Zina came to him, which, he wrote, “relieved me of my lonlyness to have such an agreeable companion for the night. The eve I spent in chatting with her and William Rigby which caused the hours to pass with more radiance.”13
These winter hours formed a strong foundation for the marital happiness that Charles and Zina enjoyed in later years. Affectionately, he wrote Zina in December 1886: “Zina you have my implicit confidence in every respect & I know you are doing all you can. Your only fault is, no, not fault weakness is you do not think enough of your own strength. You go until you fail and are prostrate. Your vision is so keen that you behold the necessities of all and that heart of yours is so large that you administer to all.”14 He praised his mother and Zina Diantha for being “ever faithful in guarding me” and added that both women “have not spared their earthly substance in looking after my welfare.”15
Charles yearned to spend time with his children but had to exercise great caution. In February 1887, he wrote:
After the meeting I had two of Sarahs children George and Lavantia sent into the room where I was. They had not seen me to know me for about 6 months. When they got within about 6 ft of me they stopped and looke[d] at me with amazement. I did not wonder at this for when the[y] saw me last I had a very heavy beard & now I had nothing but a mustache, a smooth fat face & chin which they had never seen before in their lives. I had not been shaved smoother for about 17 years & Geo was only 7 & Vanti 5. I did not blame them for their halt but to think of myself having to disguise so that my children that I am so fond of that I may evade the devils that hound our tracks, it made me feel sorrowful & I burst into tears. I suffer these pangs that I may rear children and have posterity[,] then they know me not. I clasped them to my bosom and wept. No wonder the brethrens children that are permitted to visit them in prison do not know their fathers with shaven faces & striped clothes. O Lord God wilt thou Please remember the wrongs of thy people who are imprisoned, slain and robbed and fettered for sake of their loved ones & the Eternal ties thou hast revealed which will eventually reward them.16
[p.280] Charles’s decision to remain in hiding was not overdrawn. Several polygamists in the area were arrested that winter. Sarah was subpoenaed in January but was “inspired in her answers to their inquisitors” and allowed to return home safely. Zina was next “inquired after which made her feel quite nervous.”17
From his hiding places, Charles worked with John Taylor and others to organize a party of forty polygamists to go to Canada. Card carefully interviewed family heads to make sure they understood the situation and were committed. At some point during the winter, perhaps because Zina had enough money to pay her own way, Charles, whose finances were strained, decided to take her with him to Canada. In March he “conversed freely with L[avinia] about … taking Z. which she favored much & only wished me away safely and prayed that I may escape the vengeance of my enemies.” He added, “When a man has a quorum of wives that pray as faithful for my safety he is much inspired by faith for deliverance and feels always to bless them. God Bless the faithful wives of all the under grounds. Also those of the Imprisoned and Exiled.”18 Presumably he held a similar conversation with Sarah and also received her consent.
According to family stories, Zina, Sarah, and Lavinia also conversed “freely” about who would go to Canada while Charles was absent on his exploring expedition. According to Lavinia, the wives jointly decided in the spring of 1887 that Zina should make the move.19 Whether they reached this decision independently of Charles’s decision or were ratifying his own decision is not clear. It may have been a combination of the two, since Zina seems to have had a close relationship with Sarah and Lavinia, given the geographical distance between them for most of the marriage.20 A letter from Zina to Charles while he was staying with another wife is free of any hint of jealousy: “Your presence today would make our little home a ‘heaven’ indeed, but I know you are happy and blest in the society of your own loving true and lovely wife. And I can say truly I have not a pang of envy or jealousy, but feel to thank God that those to whom I owe the duty of loving are lovable.”21 Clearly Zina practiced what she preached. Before a woman’s meeting in December 1881, she had reminded the women that the enemies of the church were seeking to “uproot and destroy that vital principle of our religion,” [p.281] which she saw as the particular role of women to defend. She continued: “We should teach our children that it is a pure and holy order, and will exalt and ennoble all who live it according to the spirit thereof.”22 For Zina, it was a simple matter of character: “When selfishness is put away, and we can love our sisters as ourselves, then we can be happy.” As a plural wife first in Utah and then in Canada, she found a way to be happy while living the principle.
As preparations for the journey began, Charles still had to remain undercover and thus was not able to help Zina as much as he wished. “Zina was very weary from her Labors in settling up my business and preparing for her Journey,” he wrote in mid-March. “I dislike much to have a faithful wife like Zina to endure the hardships of so fatiguing a journey when I could care for them if the Devils would let me alone.”23
The first contingent of Alberta-bound pioneers left during April and included Thomas R. Leavitt, Samuel Matkin, Johannes Anderson, John E. Layne from Cache Stake; Joseph May from Box Elder; and Andrew Allen and his nephew, Warner H. Allen. They arrived at Lee’s Creek on 25 May 1887. Card had arrived early on 27 April with Thomas X. Smith and Niels Monson of Hyrum, Utah.24 They unanimously selected this land for their settlement, then left for Lethbridge where Card wrote President Taylor of their findings.25
Zina had paid for her own outfit from her own savings, brought her own farm animals and eight of Card’s horses, and had twenty-five head of cattle in the herd John A. Woolf drove north. Charles always intended to repay her in full but never managed more than limited compensation. Sterling, who at sixteen was only a young man but proved to be a huge support to his mother in the absence of his stepfather, and a hired man helped them drive the wagon. Zina fired the hired man when Joseph, not quite two, began innocently mimicking his profanity, and drove her own wagon from that point.26 They traveled with John and Mary Woolf, Josiah A. Hammer, and George L. Farrell. Both Zina and Mary endured the journey with good humor, founding a lifelong friendship. They learned to turn to one another for counsel and companionship. Their progress was steady—seldom more than twenty miles a day. Zina was a good sport about their limited provisions and made do with what she had.
[p.282] On 12 May, anticipating the arrival of the main party, including Zina, Sterling, and Joseph, Charles borrowed a horse and rode ten miles to meet them. “I can assure the future perusers of my Journal that this was a happy meeting for me to meet a faithful wife and sons who had toiled through a month of cold stormy weather over Mountains, hills and black plains & snow capped Mountains,” he wrote with satisfaction. “I found this little Spartan like Band in good spirits for they had leaned on the Lord. I returned about 2 miles with the company & we camped for the night and after returning gratitude to God rested in peace.”27
Charles met the group just south of Helena. Still cautious, he was disguised as an elderly man with loose trousers, a large pointed hat, and a greasy canvas coat. It had rained the day before and he had hung his soaking hat on a broomstick by the stove. When young John Woolf saw Zina and Charles embrace, he exclaimed to his father, “Aunt Zina is kissing an old galoot!”28
They made the last part of the trip through Montana and across the boundary line in greater comfort, since Charles had brought a large sleeping tent with him. They reached Lee’s Creek on 22 May where they and two other families huddled together under unremitting rain and snow for three days. They arrived at the townsite of Cardston on 3 June 1887 and found six inches of snow on the ground—a late spring snow storm made the night more difficult than they had anticipated. The next day they celebrated the establishment of this northern Mormon colony. Zina would live there for the next sixteen years.
The original forty families had dwindled to twelve, consisting of forty-one men, women, and children.29 They plowed and planted as soon as they arrived, knowing that they would have to depend on their own resources to survive. Abundant rain and warm weather facilitated the growth of their first fields. The settlers joined forces to purchase mowers and rakes from Lethbridge to harvest hay for their animals. Because the hay was heavy with water, it was tedious work.
By October, Card had constructed a simple log home of two rooms, and Zina moved out of the tent. She had become pregnant the month before and struggled with nausea. A steady stream of visitors and curiosity-seekers passed through their new settlement, and Charles added on two rooms in the next few years that could serve as guest quarters or a [p.283] parlor. This cabin, now a museum, still stands on Cardston’s Main Street. Zina made heroic efforts in creating a genteel home in such rough conditions. Her daughter, Zina Card Brown, describes her achievement as the interior appeared during the late 1880s.
She transformed this dwelling into a home of beauty and refinement. The house was built of logs with the inside as rough as the exterior, being unplastered and the unlovely chinked logs being completely in evidence. The outside was given a coat of white wash which gave it a new face. The inside, I feel was mother’s triumph. She had all the walls and ceilings covered with unbleached muslin. This she in turn covered with colored Canton flannel. She sewed the canton flannel herself with the soft silky nap running down. It was kept looking like satin with frequent stroking with a new broom which was kept for this purpose. The hundreds of yards of “Canton” were all stitched on the old treadle sewing machine.30
Local residents called the cabin “Aunt Zina’s Canton Flannel Palace.” Each room displayed a different color and pattern of the soft fabric. The dining room was covered with “British tan” bordered in gold and rose. A long dining table was flanked by “morning and evening” chairs. A sideboard stood by the west window offering a view of a “pleasant patch of lawn.”31 The parlor, papered in pale canary yellow, doubled as a guest bedroom. A black, brass-trimmed bed with a coverlet of silk and cashmere could be pulled into the room to be used for visitors. A black wash stand with a hand painted “splasher” was topped with a large bowl and pitcher. The floors were covered with brightly colored rag rugs laid over straw padding. In one corner a cupboard displayed Zina’s china and “bric a brac.” A low table covered with a gold and blue tapestry held a kerosene lamp. In the center of the room, a tall slender stove radiated during the cold months and acted as a plant stand for a large pot of bergamot during the summer. The scented tendrils reached almost to the floor. Charles’s big arm chair and Zina’s highbacked rocker, occasional chairs, a well-filled wooden bookcase, a loudly ticking clock on a shelf above the bookcase, the scriptures, and other church publications completed the decor.32
Zina papered the bedroom walls with dove gray flannel bordered in silver and rose. Two large oak beds stood against the north wall with a [p.284] dresser between them. A wardrobe built against the east wall offered storage space for clothing and bedding. A wash stand and crib completed this room’s furnishings. The double window on the east wall had a window box filled with potted plants during most of the year. Zina always put a large arrangement of flowers on the dining room table between meals as a centerpiece during the blooming season. Most of these amenities were added piece by piece over the years.
Besides Zina’s mother, Sarah’s daughter Matilda Francis lived with them for a few months during 1888. “The weather has been cool for the last two weeks, but not any colder than I have known it [in] Logan, and our house is nice and warm with fires in all three rooms.”33
Over the winter, the Saints constructed a log schoolhouse/meetinghouse with notched corners and a roof sheathed with whip-sawed logs, measuring 20 feet by 20 feet. The interior walls were plastered in late January 1888 and a large wood burning stove installed. They dedicated it in February with a prayer, followed by a dance. Two Canadian Mounted Policemen joined them that night.34
The bond of affection between mother and daughter lengthened with the move to Canada, but it did not weaken or snap. During the sixteen years Zina Presendia lived in Canada, she returned to Utah each year at least three times, and Zina Diantha traveled into Canada quarterly. These trips were neither simple nor inexpensive. They wrote frequently. It was assumed between them that they would be present at important occasions for the other. Thus Zina Presendia, though half way through her pregnancy, went to Utah for several weeks in 1888 when Zina Diantha was called to be Relief Society general president. In turn, weeks later, Zina Diantha was present to attend her daughter during the birth of her first daughter, and at Orson Rega’s birth in Canada.
The summer after the move to Canada, Zina gave birth to her only daughter, Zina Young Card, the “fourth Zina,” on 12 June 1888. To distinguish grandmother, mother, and daughter, they will hereafter be designated Zina Diantha, Zina Presendia, and Zina Brown, even though the granddaughter’s surname is somewhat premature: she would marry Hugh B. Brown in June 1908.
Joseph was three years old when Zina Brown was born, the third [p.285] baby born in Cardston. He remembered, “I used to tease her and she adored me. We used to play doll together, and roam the hills and pick flowers. I always had something to bring home to her—pretty rocks, flowers, birds, etc. My little brother, Orson Rega was born in 1891 and was sick quite a bit as a child. However, we three children played well together and adored each other. Rega was a tease too, but had implicit confidence in his big brother.”35 Joseph slept in a trundle bed that rolled out from under his parents’ bed. As a child, he stammered but with his mother’s careful drills learned to speak more clearly.
Zina Presendia kept Zina Diantha apprised of her namesake granddaughter’s progress through letters. In May 1889 when Zina Brown was eleven months old, Zina Presendia wrote: “I could write a whole quire about our baby girl. You feel like you could fly here and see her. she is ever so much cuter and prettier than I ever was, and is your own little Ziney. she is getting to understand everything I hold her while I write so you must excuse the confusion her little hands make some times.” Her friend was making Zina Brown a lace dress, and “I have some blue and pink cambric to put under it. her little cap Rie sent and the one Nabbie gave her makes her real comfortable this summer.”36 In June 1889 she followed with the report: “Zina is here in my arms. her pap has bought her a little doll.”37 Charles added a postscript about Zina Brown: “She is a regular little chatterbox. Sometimes we think she takes after mother, then her father then we turn to grand parents. but on the whole conclude she is a relative to all for we think she is able to keep all busy. She makes more fuss over Joseph than anyone and is very fond of Sterling. She also claims kin to sister Daines & the girls and is just as content there as at home.”38 Two months later, when Zina Brown was fourteen months old, Zina Presendia reported tenderly:
First let me tell you, baby walks. For such a little rose bud of a girl as she is, she is setting on my knee now, and every now and then she puts up her sweet little mouth for a kiss, calls the chickens, says “baby go by by.” She just loves her Sterling and Joseph. … My eyes are so much better since I weaned the baby, and she does splendidly, drinks her milk, and is well and happy! I shall not forget the composition though. She is really much better off without my milk. It tasted salty, and nasty.39
[p.286] Zina Diantha was anxious to keep her daughter supplied with goods that were not generally available on the frontier. For example, on 11 March 1889, Zina Presendia asked her mother to pack a box with three long night gowns, “not fancy but good, ready made bust measure 38, 4 chemises, good ones with pretty fronts, ready made, 3 good corset covers, bust 38, 2 pairs drawers to match chemise.” She also requested shirtwaists for Joseph, then not quite four, linen handkerchiefs, table “bibs” for the children, and tablecloths “not very fine, but strong.” The list is a balanced blend of feminine finery and sturdy practicality. Zina also asked her mother to send a guitar, saying, “I know I am pretty old for any thing like that, but we must have something to amuse ourselves, and we all so long for music.”40
Near the baby’s first birthday in 1889, Zina Diantha wrote to her: “My Own Dear Dear Zina I am very lonely but I expect it is all right. Phebe [Young Beattie] is cleaning to day … Aunt Presendia is very feeble … what is my home a lone without you.”41 The next year she wrote, “I often feel that you are near me I feel I need it so much.”42
In June 1890 Zina Presendia brought Sterling, Joseph, and Zina Brown to Utah to visit Zina Diantha. When together, the two visited Zina’s foster sisters and friends, attended church together, and shared stories of their lives apart. They visited Oliver in Springville. At the end of the summer, Zina Diantha accompanied Zina Presendia and the children back home. Sterling was attending school in Logan. In Cardston the two women worked together preserving food for the winter and sewing clothes for Zina Brown and Joseph. Zina Presendia became pregnant in August, almost as soon as they returned. The pregnancy was not an easy one—she would turn forty in January—and she must have appreciated her mother’s help.
The two women also visited neighbors and friends who would become close to Zina Diantha over the next decade. At church Zina Diantha was an honored visitor, frequently called on to bear her testimony of Joseph Smith. When she addressed the local Relief Society, the secretary recorded: “Sister Zina D. Young she always imparts such good advice felt the Lord was blessing the people of this place made some very good remarks and prayed God to bless us.”43 Charles spoke glowingly at the same meeting, emphasizing “the privilege of speaking of the good [p.287] deeds of our dear Sister while she is yet alive and not wait until She is gone behind the vail before She can be emulated by the Saints. She is the wife of a Prophet and is really a Prophetess herself having the gifts of the gospel. She has officiated in every temple in Zion. She is a comfort & blessing to all with whom she associates.”44 It was a privilege to the Canadian women to have Zina Diantha in their midst. She was recognized throughout the church as an influence for good and gifted at spiritual matters.
Zina Diantha returned to Utah in the fall of 1890; but the following May found her again making the long train ride north to Lethbridge followed by almost a day’s buggy ride to reach Zina Presendia’s side. Orson Rega Card was born on 9 June 1891, when she was forty. By then, between Zina Diantha and Zina Presendia, arrangements for the longed-for child were complete. Zina Presendia went into labor during the evening of 8 June. “I sat up with her all night accompanied by Mother Young and Sister Lizzie Hammer,” wrote Charles in his diary.45 “At 18 minutes to 3 A.M. Zina gave birth to a son of 9# weight and had a severe time. We all rejoiced with her delivery and now feel proud of our gift and greatful to the giver. But little was accomplished today but rest for our cares of last night and care for Zina.”46 The pregnancy and birth had taken a toll; a month later, at the Dominion Day celebration, Zina Diantha fainted during a particularly long speech.47
The next spring, when Orson Rega was almost a year old, Zina Presendia took a brief trip to Utah in April, returning after a stay of a few weeks. “Zina Y. started for our home in Canada where we arrived May 1st after 3 days hard journey from Lethbridge in from one to two feet of snow that covered the prairies. … We made a camp fire out side of sheep wagon & inside in the stove & partook of a meager supper and retired. Zina & our 3 children Joseph, Zina & Orson & J. Gregson slept in one end of the wagon.” These frequent visits speak volumes about the closeness of their relationship. Both women had lived much of their adult lives in the absence of their polygamous husbands and, therefore, the relationship they depended on most was with each other. Zina Presendia’s frequent treks to Salt Lake City also, in part, speak to the isolation of her Canadian home.
The tender relationship between Zina Presendia and her mother is [p.288] reminiscent of the love that had existed between Zina Baker Huntington and Dorcas Dimick Baker. “My Sweet Precious Mother,” Zina Prescendia wrote, in a reminiscent mood in August 1889:
I am here again sitting, in my mind and heart, near your side, hearing your lovely voice, and enjoying your souls companionship, your dear letters are here telling me so many interesting things and making me feel once more how I long to be with you. Thinking about Sterling, she added, “I feel as you do about me. I will do for his best good and stand the result. But I fear I shall never be so noble and self sacrificing as you have been to me, yes! to us. do I ever seem ungrateful? as years go by I appreciate you more and more.48
Friend to both mother and daughter, Emmeline B. Wells recognized their unusual bond in a letter written to them both while Zina Diantha was visiting in Canada in 1897. Addressed to “My Dear Beloved & Precious Sisters,” she reports on Relief Society business, the comings and goings of their friends, and the health of relatives. She says to Zina Presendia, “You may be sure what is written to your mother by me is just as much yours, or you are entitled to the knowledge of events etc. it may contain; in a certain sense you two, mother and daughter are one, because your aims and interests are almost-identical.”49
Zina Presendia did not consider herself an exiled Utahn but instead expressed faith in her community by serving its members. She made major contributions in four ways: (1) as a midwife, (2) as a hostess and spokesperson in interacting with the larger community, (3) as president of the YLMIA, which provided a natural channel to sponsor community and church events that involved the whole community, particularly the youth; and (4) as a major financial investor in community enterprises.
Zina Presendia learned midwifery from her mother, but not until she moved to Canada where health care was limited. The first birth she attended was in June 1888 when her friend Mary Woolf went into labor, and both Zina Diantha and Zina Presendia cared for her. Zina Presendia was poring over handwritten notes about childbirth when the baby’s head crowned. Mary Woolf Hickman, Mary’s oldest daughter, later remembered that Zina Diantha said impatiently, “Zina, for pity’s sake, [p.289] leave your notes alone and come here. I’ll tell you what to do.”50 The baby, a daughter, was named Zina for both midwives.
Zina Presendia subsequently midwifed numerous births in Canada. Modeled upon her mother’s example, she brought to her work calmness and serenity. When she was three months pregnant with Zina Brown in December 1887, she presided at two births in a single day. Charles wrote sympathetically: “My wife Zina who is always on hand to do good, Officiated as midwife although enceinte [pregnant] herself but by faith exercised for her and with her own she done the work well and I believe without harm to herself.”51 Zina Presendia herself wrote in a letter to her mother a few weeks later:
My experience as a midwife nearly used me up. Both coming on the same day. Aunt Mary Woolf at 5 in the morning and sister Matkins 4 in the afternoon and with the latter it being her first it was hard work. But the brethren, Charles, uncles Morgan and Henry, were there and by the power of the priesthood and the goodness of God she was delivered of as lovely a son as ever was. They have named him Lee Ora, for our location and for Charles. There is such a good spirit amongst the people here, such union and love.52
By the spring of 1888, each pioneer family had staked out the parameters of their lots, built log fences, planted gardens, and started orchards. They frequently worked cooperatively and joined for Saturday night parties. Invariably, parties included music—John Woolf on the mouth organ and Jake Workman on a variety of stringed instruments carefully transported from Utah. Zina, Mary, and other women cooked and fed the participants. Charles recorded with pleasure on Thanksgiving night 1888: “In the Evening or afternoon had a feast at my own house which had been arranged by the sisters of this place. My wife taking the lead as usial [sic]. We had an enjoyable time & I think all were fill[ed] both young and old.”53
The Saints were still living in tents only two months after their arrival when they held the first community celebration—Dominion Day —on 1 July 1888, the Canadian national holiday commemorating the union of the provinces of British America. Charles recorded with satisfaction:
[p.290] We put [up] a bowry and invited our neighboring ranchers and the Royal Canadian Mounted police in. … We sang songs, made speeches and gave recitations from 11 A.M. until 1 P.M. Then table clothes were spread under our little Bowery and all partook of refreshments after which some enjoyed themselves in chatting, others swinging, about 4 O Clock the ponies were brought into requisition and their speed tried, both in herdle and plain races. All passed off pleasantly & without the use of stimulants. The strangers all seemed well pleased with our days sports and pass times and all went off without a single jar.54
Later Dominion Day celebrations were more elaborate. Typically they began with a parade of floats and band music in the center of town. A patriotic program complete with speeches and theatricals followed in the meetinghouse during the afternoon. After supper sporting events and races lasted long into the evening.55
Their first year Zina and Charles began a long pattern of community hospitality by hosting a gathering on Christmas Eve 1887 in their home for the Sunday school children. O. L. Robinson dressed up like Santa Claus, and they danced to harmonica music by Robinson, John Woolf, and Henry Monsen. Charles summarized the past months’ labors: “During our week of Holly days we spent in family sociables and feasting with each other and frequently talking of the Loved ones at home. Our Labors during November and December were plastering houses (Log cabins) and building stables etc for our stock.”56
As a child, little Zina Brown was a frequent observer of parties held in her home. “On many occasions when this sunny room [the parlor] filled with young people who came for informal evenings of music, … The door leading from here to the dining-room was left open to accommodate the overflow. Oh, what happy hours we spent here! The latch-string was always out. My brother Sterling Williams with his tenor voice, and Mother’s sweet alto really held charm. To me as a little girl there were no sweeter tones.”57 Winter activities included ice-skating and sleigh-riding.
Zina Presendia offered a kind of hospitality to a group that could have been marginalized by the European settlers. The Cards frequently invited local Natives, most likely Blood Indians, to join them for dinner or parties. Zina charmed these guests who, in thanks, left beaded purses, [p.291] necklaces, and other handmade treasures at her door.58 Zina’s compassion, reinforced by her conviction that these were descendants of Book of Mormon peoples, gave her a sense of mission in dealing with the Indians. “Our convictions are that there is a great work to be done here,” she wrote her mother, “for the Indians all seem drawn towards us, as an old chief said a few days ago, ‘I like your people. You seem just like my people.’” She proposed that some of the Native children attend the Cardston school and explored the idea of having one of their elders teach the white children their language.59
Zina Brown remembered that her parents taught children to be tolerant of those who were different from themselves. “Neither creed nor color made any difference in our home. All were welcome. The beloved parents of this little village recognized the fact that ‘God’ is no respecter of persons. We were taught that all men are our brothers—children of the same Father in Heaven.”60 She also recalled her mother nursing sick Indians and entertaining them freely in her home. They called Charles “Nena,” and Zina “Mama.”61
Zina entertained a series of other visitors in her log cabin, including representatives of the Canadian Parliament, the president of the Montreal Bank, the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Minister Boyle and his attendants, and the Governor Royal of the three western provinces. In addition, Charles and she were invited to “grand balls” and other social events in Lethbridge and MacLeod. During her first winter, Zina requested her mother to send a silk cloak, black silk dress, and black velvet dress skirt from Salt Lake City so she would be suitably attired.62
Like her mother, Zina Presendia was a fervent defender of the church and particularly the doctrine of polygamy. Visiting Lethbridge with Charles in August 1890, she attended a party hosted by a “doctor Allen” at which other Mormons and Canadian political leaders were present. Charles recorded with some amusement:
After supper we sat a while on the porch and then we were all invited into the drawing room of the house. At this Dr. Allen said something about Polygamy to my wife and she fired up in defence and some rather sharp retorts were indulged in. At this Capt. Young interfered and said in as [p.292] much as Polygamy was against the Law gave as his advice that we should taboo that principle Subject. I drew his attention that when the subject was mentioned by us it always was in defence.63
After another few rather biting remarks, the exchange ended in a reserved calm. However, this pattern of visiting, entertaining, and meeting with governmental dignitaries continued throughout their stay in Canada, usually in a spirit of mutual good will.
Many of the settlers’ church meetings were held in the Card home for the first year. Sunday school and auxiliaries were organized in June 1887, when LDS apostles Francis M. Lyman and John W. Taylor traveled to Alberta, called John A. Woolf as the first bishop of the Cardston Ward, and presided over a series of prayer and testimony meetings in the Card home. At one evening meeting, Jonathon Layne, the new Sunday school superintendent, prophesied that a temple would eventually be built in Cardston.64 Woolf served as bishop for seven years. In 1890 he called twenty-year-old Sterling Card as his counselor.
In 1889 Mormon church president Wilford Woodruff visited the settlement, praised the pioneers’ efforts, predicted that the country would be settled 500 miles farther north, and that in time it would be the home for the lost ten tribes of Israel after their return. He also prophesied that a temple would be erected in Canada. George Q. Cannon, Woodruff’s counselor, recognized as well the people’s great sacrifice, reminding them that with sacrifice comes great blessings.65
The Saints’ continuing persecution in Utah brought more settlers to the area. Within a few years, wards were organized in Aetna in the south and in Leavitt and Mountain View to the west. But it was not until 1895 that John W. Taylor arrived to organize the Alberta Stake. Charles, who had held no ecclesiastical position in Canada up to that point, was called as its first stake president with counselors Orson Wooley and John A. Woolf. He served as stake president until 1901, when the stake included 3,000 members in ten wards and two branches.66
In 1887 Zina Presendia was appointed president of the Young Women’s (also Ladies’) Mutual Improvement Association and served as president for the next sixteen years. The group frequently gathered in her own house for theatricals, blessing meetings, or other types of social or [p.293] educational activities. Always watching for those with dramatic potential, she encouraged talent nights and other opportunities for performances. They put on such plays as That Awful Girl, The Rose of Ettrick Vale, The Quiet Family, Uncle Josh, Tony, the Convict, A Visit to the Oil Regions, and The Two Orphans.67
In addition, Zina was at the center of planning for dances, parties, and evening buggy rides on the vast prairie to watch the stars. Her son Joseph loved his mother dearly and later praised her efforts at community-building. “Mother was a public servant,” he told his granddaughter, Marie Card Burnham. “She was the leader of the young people, and also in drama, art and music. Father was away from home a great deal, and the responsibility of the children was mother’s. With both, there was no wavering from justice.”68 Joseph portrayed his father as a strict disciplinarian, always standing “squarely for morality, and truth,”69 while his mother provided a home ground, a meeting place for the town’s youth. It was to Mother Card, or Aunt Zina as they called her, that the children gravitated, more than to their own homes, according to Joseph. Besides the steady stream of visiting state dignitaries, many of the town’s children, including Joseph’s friends—Milton and Jane Woolf, Sam Layne, Lee Stoddard, Arvin Stoddard, Godfred Peterson, Orson Daines, Frank Layne, Seigfried Peterson, Quency Kearl, Joe and Ves Low, Percy Cottingham and Percy Shaw—regularly spent time in and around the Card house.
One report to the Young Woman’s Journal from the Alberta Stake described a quarterly conference of the YLMIA. A lecture on “Home Management,” a reading called “A Child’s Question,” and an exhibition on physical culture presented by one of Zina’s Young Women’s classes filled out the day’s activities.70 As president of the association, Zina closed the meetings with thanks to her fellow workers: “… Let us be on our guard for Satan will try to tempt us, if we are united as we have been today his shafts will fall harmless at our feet; … knew the Guide was given by the inspiration of God.” She bore testimony of the Book of Mormon and said that it “remained with her a priceless gem.”
In an 1890 letter to the Young Woman’s Journal, she recommended a schedule for local meetings of the association.
Opening Exercise—as in all meetings.
[p.294] Roll Call—answered by a sentiment or proverb.
Lecture—Book of Mormon or Bible.
Biographical Sketch of some eminent woman.
Recitation, Song or Select Reading.
Topics of the times or budget box alternating by all members.
Extract from Church works memorized by all members.
Attributes divine—such as truth, justice, love, industry, etc., by all members.
Testimonies, addresses and remarks from visitors, etc.
“This,” she wrote, “constitutes our present working exercises, and fills in our two hours to the brim.” Each member was expected to memorize and study a paragraph from a church book, and occasionally news articles were assigned for discussion. “The budget box,” she explained, “is an extract, poem, anecdote or anything the members feel inclined to bring, brief, and often memorized.” She concluded her letter by testifying to the value of their work: “Have I been too lengthy? Ah me! The field of truth is so broad, and the products so varied, and we as reapers get so little because of our own slothfulness. Yet I love the work, and ask my sisters to give from their store, that we may all be blessed in giving as well as receiving. Your co-laborer in the search for knowledge.”71
At Christmas the parlor in their log home was transformed by a decorated tree, candles, special cakes and goodies carefully laid out on a beautiful table, an amateur band, and spontaneous dancing, game playing, and other festivities bound to carry on long into the night. Although they were frequently poor, Joseph remembered that the children always received gifts. One Christmas in particular stood out in his memory. They had earned extra money from the sale of some properties in Utah, and he “got a drum, skates, a flying bird that ran on a steel rod, hair brush, pocket knife, sox, shirt, tie, two chews of gum, and the usual candy, nuts and raisins.”72
Living in the middle of the Northwest Territory provided children with opportunities for adventure. When the weather was warm, Zina, Joseph, and little Rega played outdoors. “We built a boat down at the creek,” remembered Joseph. “It worked, and we had a grand time in the water. Our play grounds were the creek, the creek banks chiefly and birds’ nests.” One time the boys tied a piece of rawhide to the tail of one [p.295] of the steers in the field near their home and turned it loose. They all hooped and hollered, scaring and chasing the animal. As a result, all the cattle stampeded. The boys chased them to the cemetery, where the cattle reversed and began to chase them. The boys ran to a cluster of trees, quickly climbed above the reach of the cows; the cattle then bumped into the trunks of the trees trying to jostle the boys down. The scared children clung to the branches like monkeys swinging in the jungle, and eventually, when the cattle had traveled to a different spot, climbed down and ran home.
Zina always gave the children chores to do, believing that idleness would lead to trouble. Joseph’s assignments included milking the cows and feeding the pigs, while Zina’s responsibilities included working alongside her mother in the house. Regrettably, there was little time for sports, although the boys did hunt and swim in nearby ponds. Joseph played the French horn and tenor horn in the Sam Newton town brass band, liked to sing, and in 1912 was in the special choir which traveled to Lethbridge for performances.73
Besides teaching her children the value of work, Zina taught them to love God. “We always had family prayer in our home, sometimes it was difficult because of so much company, but was always a must. I liked Primary, but I was full of mischief and sometimes caused a few problems. I always attended Sunday School, Sacrament Meetings, M.I.A. and Primary faithfully.” The most profound influence on Joseph’s eventual “conversion to the church” was his mother’s testimony, her “saintliness.” “This,” he said, “did more for me than any other thing. When I was about fifteen years of age, I went through a period of doubting, but my mother was so understanding and forgiving. The fact that I looked first to my mother and father, the leaders of the church, the prophet Joseph and their testimonies, is what brought me to my conversion. I then put church principles to the test, and saw the differences in my progress.”74
As president of the YLMIA in Cardston, Zina taught her and other settlers’ children the principles of both the gospel and secular culture— theater, poetry, music, and the dance. As previously noted, Zina described a typical meeting of the YLMIA for the Young Ladies Journal in September 1890. To encourage other rural wards to do likewise, she included the specific line-up of their evening meeting: roll call, lecture, [p.296] brief biographies of prominent women, memorized recitation, song, selected reading, testimonies, and any other item of interest to its members.75
Zina also presided at Alberta Stake YLMIA quarterly meetings like the one held in the Cardston Assembly Room on 14 July 1896. The sisters began by singing “Redeemer of Israel,” followed by a prayer by local stake patriarch Henry L. Hinman. Zina welcomed those in attendance, recognizing the support they received from the brethren. Attena Williams, Sterling’s wife, gave a lecture that night on “Home Management,” followed by Sterling on the work of the Improvement Association. Perhaps the highlight of the meeting was, however, an exhibition given by the Young Ladies, whom Zina had trained, in physical culture.76
Zina frequently planned special activities to bring the Canadian Mormons together. At one such event in 1894, John W. Taylor, Charles O. Card, and John Woolf spoke on Sunday afternoon. The next day was devoted to a dance for the children and an evening dance for the adults. Tuesday night the “Cardston Dramatic” entertained a full house; the next evening featured a “Woman’s Reform and Hygiene Class” taught by Ella Nelson. Zina described the closing sumptuous meal: “The menu consisted of three kinds of bread, beef such as only can be found in the North-west, chicken, beans, beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, four kinds of pie, two puddings, four kinds of cake, cheese, milk, cream, as is cream, and butter—all Cardston productions—fruits, canned, that came from Eastern Canada, strawberry, apricots, cherries, raspberries and peaches.”77
Charles played a prominent role in the organization of virtually every local business venture during the first years. Zina Presendia also helped fund a number of cooperative endeavors like the co-op store, the saw mill, the grist mill, and the cheese factory. A butcher shop, land office, co-operative irrigation company, and other cooperative and private enterprises rounded out the community and provided vital services and resources. By the end of 1887, a blacksmith shop, butcher shop, shoemaker, and dentist were located in town. Communication with the world outside improved with mail service to MacLeod that year, while a stagecoach made transportation to Lethbridge faster. During the next five [p.297] years, the town boasted a new bank, hotel, lime kiln, and telephone line to Lethbridge.78
Zina Presendia’s contributions expressed both her faith and confidence in the potential for success in Canada. In a document prepared for a disputed land claim in the 1910s, she detailed her financial history between 1887 and 1902. Her investments included the “Co-op Store, Steam Threshing Machine, Grist Mill, Sheep Stock (1700 head) Cheese Factory, Meat Market, Big Land Deal, in which we lost more than $7,000, I being heaviest loser, Saw Mill, … Cattle, Horses, and Farming.”79 “You know fathers policy was to get land and keep it from our enemies, that the saints may possess it,” she wrote her mother in 1889, asking for financial help. “Am here a pioneer for my fathers house. now let me claim the privilege of getting some land in your name and mine, for may as well have the benefit as others.”80 Thirteen years later she sold her interests in the Brigham Young Trust Company, an entity set up after Brigham’s death, for $6,866 and loaned Charles $2,000 to repay a debt owed Zion’s Savings Bank.81 Charles was never able to repay her.
Despite his donations of time and effort to the Canadian colonies, Charles was always financially strained. His efforts at start-up enterprises usually failed or foundered within months or years. Despite this, his efforts were well meaning. He played key roles in developing irrigation systems, acquiring land for the church, and helping colonists start towns, farms, and businesses. After the settlement of Brigham Young’s estate, Zina Presendia reportedly inherited $30,000, $6,000 of which she used to build a more comfortable house in about 1900.82
Like her mother, Zina Presendia was spiritually gifted and understood the use and abuse of these talents. She reserved the exercise of these powers for special church meetings like blessing meetings, young women’s gatherings, or Relief Society meetings, and was careful not to use it improperly. Although particularly proficient in the exercise of tongues, Zina seems to have laid this gift aside in Canada for about six years until her mother broached the topic directly. Speaking at the Cardston Stake conference of the YLMIA in 1894, a meeting at which her son-in-law and daughter also spoke, Zina Diantha instructed the young women “not to make light of the gift of tongues, although it was the least of all gifts, it was sacred, as it was a gift of God.”83
[p.298] Although there is no record that she or Zina Presendia spoke in tongues at this conference, there emerged a new freedom in regard to this gift. After she returned home, Zina Diantha praised the Canadian Saints: “The saints are filled with the spirit of the Lord. I never attended better meetings in my life. On one occasion my daughter said she felt like giving the Bishop’s wife a blessing, she spoke in tongues and gave her the very blessing she desired.” She had also attended a meeting with the young women in which they asked her to speak in tongues, “having never heard the gift. At the close of the meeting I was called upon to dismiss, I then spoke in tongues. I heard after that the girls had fasted and prayed, that I might speak to them in tongues, their prayers were answered, it was a testimony to them.”84 Mother and daughter together were consciously modeling these gifts for a generation less familiar with their blessings.
Only fourteen months later came another spiritual feast. After Sterling and his wife, Attena Bates Williams, built a new home, they asked Charles to dedicate it on 23 December 1894. Charles wrote:
When I got there I found Sterling, Atena & Nellie Leishman had been fasting & praying that my wife might speak in tongues. We sang. I offered the dedicatory prayer after which we talked a little & bore testimony presently Zina arose & began speaking in tongues & walked to every individual. Some she put her hands on their heads as if to bless them. She did upon mine more particularly & with longer duration.
After Zina sat down she stated that Sterlings wife Atena had the interpretation af[t]er awhile Atena arose & Interpreted being much overcome of the spirit stating the children were given their parents as a blessing & comfort for their faithfulness & blessed them all. Stated for my faithfulness I should stand free before the people (I took it free from debt). This comfort[ed] me very much for I long to see the day. We had a spiritual feast & spent the evening in conversing. God blest us much.85
The next June at fast and testimony meeting, Charles recorded:
We had a very spirited meeting. Sister L. Hinman [wife of Edgar W. Hinman] Spoke in tongues and Zina Y. Card interpreted them. Thus as far as I can remember: “The angels are watching over us. Some of you [p.299] think you are exiled from the Church, not so. You are a part of the church. Many of your sons here will fill missions in this land for there are many in this land yearning for the Gospel & yet this nation will seek you for wisdom. The Lord is watching over us.”86
Three months later Zina interpreted when Sister Cahoon spoke in tongues. “At 11 P.M. when we were Singing We thank thee O God for a prophet my daughter Zina only 7 years of age be came frightened. When asked the cause She stated she Saw her 1/2 Bro Thomas Williams standing behind me & just above me in my rear. Truly there was an excellent spirit in the house & none others saw what Zina saw.”87
Charles was frequently gone, organizing irrigation and land development projects, and overseeing the church’s interests. Periodically he traveled to Utah to report to church leaders, negotiate loans, report on financial and ecclesiastical matters, and visit Sarah Jane, who was still living in Logan, and Lavinia, in Idaho. “Between fall 1888 and spring 1892, he made twelve trips that took him away from home 18 weeks out of 40.” Charles wrote to Zina frequently while he was away, and in fact corresponded regularly with all his wives.
Charles tried to spend as much time as possible with each wife. Having families in three different locations—Canada, Idaho, and Logan— made this difficult. Managing complex human relationships and loyalties was even more complicated. As a result, he was rarely alone, taking one or another wife on most of his traveling assignments, staying at each of their homes for different periods of time during the year. He continued to father children with them throughout their child-bearing years. His first two children, Sarah Jane and Charles Ora, were born in 1870 and 1873, a half a decade before he entered plurality. Between 1876 and 1904, he sired children with plural wives every year or so.
Charles married his three plural wives between October 1876 and December 1885. The birth dates of his children are one way of marking his movement from household to household. Matilda Frances was his first child born in plurality in April 1878 in Logan. He fathered children with Sarah Jane in 1880, 1881, and 1884 before marrying Zina Presendia in June 1884. Zina had her first son with Charles the next June; that December Charles married his third plural wife—Lavinia Clark Rigby. [p.300] Sarah bore a daughter, Abigail, in April 1886; Lavinia gave birth to Mary Rigby in October 1887; and Zina, another daughter, Zina Young Card, in June 1888. Zina’s last child with Card was delivered in Cardston in December 1891—Orson Rega Card—when she was forty-one. Sarah Jane, age thirty-four, gave birth to her last son, Franklin Almon Card, in 1892 in Logan. Card’s remaining children were Lavinia’s—born in 1890, 1896, 1899, and 1904.
Two journal entries typify Charles’s reaction to these infrequent times spent with his families and how confusing it must have been.
April 17, 1889: [at Sarah’s home in Logan] … brought the children with my supper and I made myself known to those that did not know which was pearl 5 yrs old and Abbie 3 … but the trial came at 7 pm when I drew each one to my bosum and kissed them was more than I could do without bursting into tears. Who would not weep for their own flesh and blood when forced from them by the power of an unrighteous Gov’t. Next came Sarahs mother with her heart filled with blessings and bade me good by … Then I must perform the painful task of parting with my wife Sarah who held up well and bore our parting with the courage of a L.D.St. but not without tears, thus we pass through life and if only faithful will reap the reward.88
The next week a similar scene played out at Lavinia’s home in Rexburg: “April 30, 1889: Now I must turn my face towards Canada and seek to fill that mission under the blessings of the Lord. … Lavinia and the babe Mary rode 2 blocks when we stopped and I assisted them out of the carriage. Kissed the child several times then embraced and kissed Lavinia and bade her adieu with my blessings and we both were obliged to give vent to tears. We know our hearts are right and filled with love towards each other.”89 Charles attempted to be fair with his wives and love them each. On 14 November 1886, he recorded, “I praise the Name of the Lord for a quorum of good faithful wives. I feel I could wade through much affliction for them.” And in another, dated 23 May 1891, he admitted, “some times I feel sad that my lovely families are so far removed from each other and hope sometimes in the future to have a gathering dispensation.”
Zina had long before learned how to care for her children and orga-[p.301]nize the necessary work of the household, family business, and farmstead. She did not consider Charles’s absences a reason to withdraw from church responsibilities or community activities. At the end of one of her letters to her mother, Charles added:
Zina has served her neighbors so faithfully today she has not been able to finish this [letter] to our mother. Ma you know Zina. She is like yourself ever self sacrificing to others. Yes we had a good trip via Lethbridge to Macleod & Zina preached to some of the Royalty while I do Business with others all in all we make something of a team something after the nature of the mule when they try to turn us from our purpose which is only in the line of duty.90
On 3 February 1891, Charles collaborated in what he thought was a surprise for Zina Presendia: “After doing some chores in the morn, about noon I hitched up the buggy and took my wife out for several calls.” But when he returned, he discovered that Zina had actually turned the tables on him and that the surprise party was for him: “When I returned about 2 P.M. I found my house filled with brethren and sisters and a table spread with a scrumptious dinner, all of which to my surprise was in honor of my return to Lee’s Creek and my freedom. We had a good hearty laugh and then dinner. Including my family about 50 old & young dined at the tables. After dinner I was presented with numerous sentiments of respect, verbally & written.”91
Charles always returned eagerly to Canada, grateful for the warm welcome and the freedom from worry of arrest. In May 1889 he arrived so early that Zina Presendia was, as he said, still “preparing the morning meal for the family and Company. … I met with a most hearty welcome by my family, friends and strangers of Card, and was very happy.”92 The next spring he left for a few days, with a “loving embrace” for Zina, Sterling, and the children. “Zina was feeling so poorly [s]he melted with tears. She is a devoted wife and has not only her husband & family at heart but grasps the whole kingdom and its magnitude and interest.”93 When he returned, “tired and weary,” he was heartened to find “as usial a warm welcome b[y] family and friends.”94 The next day he added, “It seems [p.302] good to be in a land where a man does not have to be confined in the house of a friend, even, to keep from arrest by a biased enemy.”95
As late as 1890 but before the Manifesto, Charles wrote to Zina: “I learned from a private source and a true friend that vene [Lavinia] would be captured. So I arranged her departure and if my program worked she is in her own state will go directly to Wyoming or at an early date. You are also threatened but I think not unless you visit Cache. Although they have sworn vengeance & expect to make us trouble. They can’t convict Canadians nor Idahoans but can make us trouble.”96 Zina Presendia and her children also often traveled to Salt Lake to visit Zina Diantha, and frequently it was necessary to bypass Logan to avoid causing problems for Charles.
As another example, in April 1890, Charles drove Zina Presendia, Sterling, Joseph, not quite five, and Zina Brown, almost two, to the train station in Lethbridge so they could visit Zina Diantha in Utah. That night Charles wrote with melancholy:
I hugged & kissed the children and Zina and blessed them in my heart and the train pulled up the platform. … Thus my loved ones, the only ties except duty I have in Canada were snetched from my sight, but I sent a God bless you after them. … Spent my first lonely night in my wagon [on his way back to Cardston]. What a change! from the presence of a loving wife & children to wend my way again to Canada 172 miles all alone. Cheer up my boy it requires pluck to [be] a L.D.Saint.97
They were gone almost three months, and he wrote letters to them each Friday evening until they returned on 16 July, bringing Zina Diantha with them for a stay of several weeks.
Charles was also an affectionate and attentive father. In December 1879 he was in Logan and his youngest child, Matilda Francis, was sick with what he called “lung fever.” He wrote of his sorrow on 21 December 1879. “I layed my hands upon it and gave it a fathers last blessing & it expired at 20 minutes past 11 am filling us with the sorrow of bereaved parents it being the only child of my wife Sarah J. Painter and the first one that I had ever called to part with … tonight myself & wife retird very sad but feel to acknowledge the hand of the Lord.” When he returned from a [p.303] short trip to find both Joseph and Zina Brown “very sick with fever” and croup and Zina “worn out nearly with care,” he blessed the children, then nursed them through a long “sleepless night,” and recorded with relief that they were better the next morning.98
Several years later, yet another child was near death. On 16 November 1894, he wrote,
This day was an anxious one and our little one [Rega] evidently nearing death after prayers in the evening I remembered the suggestion of the Presidency at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. “If we desired a blessing as they did of old face the Temple of our God.” I went before the Lord secretly in our sitting room about 9 pm & told the Lord I desired a blessing and I prayed God to spare our son to relieve him of the raging fever & give him rest, I returned to the sick room & it was done & that so suddenly it startled us for it seemingly left him low & nearly exhausted so much so you could scarcely hear him breathe … He was eating in about 4 hrs.99
Rega also would become seriously ill with Bright’s disease in the spring of 1903.
Sometimes Zina traveled with Charles, visiting the Mormon branches in Aetna, Mountain View, Leavitt, Caldwell, Stirling, Magrath, Kimball, Taylorville, and Raymond. There the two would speak, and, according to local tradition, Zina was the stronger orator. Charles, obviously, was a vivid and witty speaker as this summary of one of his sermons, delivered in Cardston, shows:
I met with the sts in the log meeting house which was filled to overflowing. After the Sacrament I spoke to them for nearly an hour and showed them the necessity of nurturing the holy spirit that we might be guided of the Lord in all things, showed them the necessity of living tempirte and sober lives. Some talk of sowing wild oats & think it necessary to do so. I told them that those that sowed wild oats would certainly have them to harvest and thrash & undoubtedly would have to clean out the smut etc.100
He was also known for his practical instructions, wisdom, and judgment.101
[p.304] Zina Brown remembers evenings passed en famille when she, Joseph, and Orson would gather around their mother’s chair and coax her to read from Alcott, Dickens, and other favorite authors. But the best stories of all came from Zina Presendia’s “fertile imagination. Mother was an artist too and often illustrated her stories on slate or tablets. The fairies and princesses that grew under her hand were like magic and so special to us! This was real.”102
Other glimpses of family life come from Zina Presendia’s letters to Zina Diantha. In September 1888, following her mother’s return to Utah, she wrote, “Sterling is up in the morning with his moccasins, mittens, & nice cap grandma gave him, on feeding, milking, going for coal, and doing his duty cheerfully and manfully, and I assure you Charles & I appreciate his noble course. We get 7 newspapers, and all try to read them. Our evenings are spent reading or at some meeting or writing, the young people get together at the houses and have a good time reciting, singing, &c., and all are happy and contented.”103
Zina’s letters to her mother paint a picture of domestic tranquility and relative calm in the midst of bustling activity. On 14 July 1889, she penned the following description of her home: “Sterling is here reading your letters, Joseph is eating a turnip on the porch, Zina is sleeping in her hammock in my room. It is a heavenly Sunday out doors and we have had replenishing showers and all our crops look well.” Charles had recently laid a wood floor in the kitchen, and “my front room is just as pretty as it can be, and we just long for you to share our joyous blessings.”104 Apostle John W. Taylor had just visited the colony, inspiring the Saints with fresh messages about the gospel.
Joseph first attended school in Salt Lake City during the winter of 1889 when he was four. “I went to Cardston’s schools—we always had school no matter how modest it was. Our schools were well disciplined. John Ross was one of my first strong outside teachers—he will always be outstanding in my memory. I went up to and into grade nine, but didn’t finish that year as father needed my help at his office.”105
Although the children went to school, attended church meetings, and did chores, they were largely left to their own resources. As a child, he liked to walk along the top of the fences that surrounded the field near their home, regardless of his mother’s admonitions to be careful. One [p.305] day he was walking along the fence, “contrary to what she said, and my foot slipped, and I fell straddle of the fence. It nearly broke my pelvic bone and I cried bitterly.” He later recounted, “My mother came out and carried me into the house, even though I was about eight years old.”106
Sterling, who turned twenty just before the family moved out of the tent and into the log cabin, grew into manhood with the family’s arrival in Canada. Zina Presendia wrote anxiously to her mother in the spring of 1889: “Our son Stirling is working too hard and I can’t stand to see him over do it if I can prevent it. … He is so noble and good, we must pray that the way will open for him to go to school next winter, then you two can take much comfort.”107
Zina Presendia succeeded in making the necessary arrangements, and because he had done so well in school, Sterling returned to Salt Lake City in 1888 to live with Zina Diantha in her home at 146 Fourth Avenue and attend the LDS College. There he completed a two-year business course which provided him with a foundation in accounting and business practice. With the pleasure of a proud grandmother, Zina Diantha recorded in her diary on 2 February 1890: “4 of my Grandsons took dinner after meeting[:] Henry Jacobs, Sterling Williams, Wilba Dougall, Willard Craxal [Croxall], 4 as examplary young men [as] are in Utah … H is clerking W. D. is in Telegraph Office, S going to School, WC teacher in the Latterday Saint Acadamy for which I return thank[s] to the Lord [for] Brigham Youngs Grand sons, he has many good sons.”
Sterling returned to Canada in 1893 where he spent the next forty years. His first merchandising experience was in his stepfather’s store in the log granary just west of their home on Main Street in Cardston. Business eventually expanded and moved to the building first used as a meetinghouse on Main Street. Sterling also managed the Cardston Mercantile Company under Charles’s direction. But Sterling desired further education and entered Brandon College in Brandon, Manitoba, graduating on 6 February 1901, again in business.
In 1893, while at the Mercantile, Sterling became acquainted with Attena Bates, the youngest daughter of Ornus Ephraim and Sarah Haymas Bates, who lived across the street from the Cards. Attena, born in Tooele, Utah, had been educated at Brigham Young College in Logan. [p.306] After a year-long courtship, the two traveled to Logan where they were endowed in the temple, then were married on 21 June 1894 in the Salt Lake temple by longtime family friend Apostle Francis W. Lyman. Sterling and Attena became the parents of six children.
Rega, born when Zina Presendia was forty, was only nine when Zina Diantha died and eleven when the family moved back to Utah. Aside from the Canadian landscape, riding ponies, and playing outdoors, the most powerful shaping experiences of his youth would take place in the same locale where his mother had grown up in Salt Lake City.
For Zina Brown, however, her most important landscapes were interior. Certainly, she had memories of an ebullient Canadian girlhood—of Indians who joined the family to dine as welcome guests, dramatic prairie fires, being chased by a bull, and witnessing an Indian burial in a grove of trees with Zina Woolfe, a friend just weeks older than she and, like her, named for the same mother and grandmother.
However, as the only daughter, attached to her mother and grandmother by name, blood, and affection, Zina Brown moved within the circle called “home,” whether it was a log cabin papered with flannel, her grandmother’s cottage on Fourth Avenue, the long train rides to Utah and back to Canada, or the many homes where her mother came as midwife, YLMIA president, visitor, neighbor, and friend. She learned to speak carefully, with correct grammar and enunciation, as befitted a well-born woman. But coupled with this genteel training was also a freedom in speaking powerfully and persuasively that her mother and grandmother had honed in hundreds of public speeches. Zina Brown grew up absorbing her mother’s instructions during rehearsals for the theater. By age eleven, she was joining in the performances.
Only a few photographs survive of grandmother, mother, and daughter together. In each the three lean into one another as if drawn by their mutual affection. Although Zina Brown grew in a different location from the half-brothers and -sisters of her father’s plural families, the presence of her mother and grandmother was a living reminder of the demanding principle. Raised in a home of love and religious devotion, she grew up with a strong sense of connectedness to others. She was, almost from babyhood, a superb hostess. According to one historian of Mormon women, Zina Prescendia was “the unquestionable female leader of the [p.307] Alberta colonies,” perhaps the settlement’s equivalent to a first lady.108 Her daughter remembered a constant stream of visitors who came to parties, dinners, or simply to visit: “Hundreds and hundreds of strangers, politicians, merchants, investigating new economic opportunities, journalists, and curiosity-seekers.”109 This queue of rich and famous included the Honorable McKenzie Bowell, Minister of Customs, Canada’s Governor General, and Lord Stanley (Frederick Arthur Stanley).110 Conscious of her parentage, Zian Prescendia confidently defended the church and spoke to the advantages of plurality.
When Zina Brown’s family returned to Utah, she was fifteen and ready to make the most of the social opportunities that surrounded her. Ironically, it would be a Canadian boy who would capture her heart. (See Chapter 14.)
2. The literature on the Canadian settlement efforts is rich. See C. A. Dawson, Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada, Vol. 7 in W. A. Mackintosh and W. L. , eds., Canadian Frontiers of Settlement (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1936), Part 3, 173-272; Archie G. Wilcox, “The Founding of the Mormon Community in Alberta” (M.A. thesis, University of Alberta, 1950); A. James Hudson, “Charles Ora Card: Pioneer and Colonizer” (M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, published by the author in 1963); Lawrence B. Lee, “The Mormons Come to Canada, 1887-1902,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 59 (January 1968): 11-22; Melvin S. Tagg and Asael E. Palmer, A History of the Mormon Church in Canada (Lethbridge, Can.: Lethbridge Stake Historical Committee, 1968); Brigham Y. Card, “Charles Ora Card and the Founding of the Mormon Settlements in Southwestern Alberta, North-West Territories,” in Brigham Y. Card, Herbert C. Northcott, John E. Foster, Howard Palmer, and George K. Jarvis, eds., The Mormon Presence in Canada (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1990), 77-107.
17. Ibid., 7 January 1887, 28. On 8 January 1887, Charles was able to see Sarah Painter and their baby Abigail. He gloomily reported that “while [Sarah] was before the Grand Jury (the inquisitors of the Latter days) they done all they could to get testimony against me that they may indict me for polygamy and cohabitation. My daughter Jennie was also before this inquisition with her mother [Sarah Beirdneau] who has been my traitor for years. This Grand inquisition done their best to pry into my privacies that they may disturb not only me but my companions not caring how much distress they bring unto my little ones. Sarah [Painter] staid all night with me.”
19. Brigham Y. Card, “History of Lavinia C. Rigby Card as Told to Her Grandchildren,” The Wives of Charles Ora Card (n.p.: mimeographed, 1987), 11-13, copy in Zina Young Williams Card Collection; Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 6 March 1887, 36.
29. The forty-one were (according to Sterling’s “Biographical Memos of [p.309] Sterling Williams” begun 9 June 1956) Charles and Zina Card with their two children; John A. and Mary Woolf and six children; E. R. Miles and his wife; Josiah A. Hammer, his wife, and one employee Jonathon Merrill; Johannes Anderson, his wife, and five children; Thomas R. Leavitt, wife, and four children; Samuel Matkin, wife, and one child; George L. Farrell and wife; Andrew L. Allen and his son, Warner; Robert Daines; John E. Layne; Mark Preece and his son Franz.
36. Zina D. H. Young Card, Letter to Zina D. H. Young, 25 May 1889, Zina Young Williams Card Collection. “Rie” is Maria Young Dougall, the daughter of Clarissa Ross Young whom Zina Diantha raised after the death of her mother.
82. Hudson, “Third Family of Charles Ora Card,” 163. See also Lawrence B. Lee, “The Mormons Come to Canada, 1887-1903,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 59 (January 1968): 19; Leonard J. Arrington, “The Settlement of the Brigham Young Estate, 1877-79,” Pacific Historical Review 21 (February 1952): 1-20; and Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 497 and Appendix D.
89. Ibid., 30 April 1889, 88. In 1889 Charles purchased a log house for Lavinia in Rexburg, Idaho. Two years later he moved her to the Teton Basin to a four-room log house, where she lived for the next two and a half years. In 1895 Lavinia and her children moved to Logan to live with Charles’s father who was seriously ill. “History of Lavinia C. Rigby Card,” as told to her children, n.d., typescript, 19 pages, in the possession of the authors.
96. Charles Ora Card, Letter to Zina D. H. Young Card, n.d. [most likely 1890] Zina Young Card Collection. It is evident that Charles and Zina Diantha had a close friendship. Just ten years younger than his mother-in-law, their correspondence shares a common respect and regard for the other.