19740030053 | Irrigation canal of the St. Mary's Project, AB, about 1911
Irrigation canal of the St. Mary's Project, AB, about 1911
About 1911, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
11 x 15 cm
This artefact belongs to : © Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives
Keys to History
In 1895 the federal government instructed Chief Inspector of Surveys J.S. Dennis to survey the route for an irrigation canal from the St Mary's River to a point where the Village of Stirling is today. Design work for the irrigation project proceeded on the basis of Dennis' survey, under the direct control of the federal government. The Alberta Irrigation Company (AICo.), formed by Elliott Galt in 1893 and revived in 1897 to carry out the project, hired American irrigation specialist George G. Anderson to review and fine-tune the government's design. Finally, negotiations were started to make the proposal a reality, with the AICo. at the centre of it all.
The AICo. first secured financial support from the Canadian government in the form of a rebate of the survey fees it had paid to Ottawa for the land grants received by the Alberta Railway & Coal Company (AR&CCo.). The company next opened negotiations with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church) to secure labour to construct the irrigation canals.
The Town of Magrath was named after Charles Alexander Magrath, land agent of the North Western Coal & Navigation Company.
This photograph taken around 1911 shows the irrigation canal of the St. Mary's Project. The town of Magrath can be seen in the background.
Like the other Mormon communities in southern Alberta, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Magrath recruited settlers for the new town. The townsite was surveyed in early 1899, and the first six homes built in the spring of that year.
William D. Bennett of Dingle, Idaho, and his family received the call to move north to Canada in a letter with the return address "Box B" - the official return address of the LDS Church. Any Mormon who received a letter bearing this return address knew that it was a call to serve.