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On the Canadian Frontier

Stories of Life in the Charles and Zina Card Home

A City Girl in the Wilderness

A daughter of Brigham Young, Zina Young Card was born less than three years after Salt Lake City was settled. When she was 6 years old, she and her mother, Zina Hungtington Jacobs Young, moved into the Lion House. For a woman who lived her life on the “frontier,” Zina was a thoroughgoing city girl. When she left Salt Lake City with her husband, Charles Ora Card, to establish a settlement in Alberta, Canada, Zina brought her city manners and mentality with her. Making the transition would prove challenging.

When Zina and her children arrived at Lee's Creek in Alberta to join Charles, they were greeted by rain, mud, and snow. Undaunted, they pitched tents and made fires—though a child spoke for many when, after hearing from his mother that they were in their new home, said, “'Home?' with a sob. ‘Where are the houses?’”

Fortunately for the pioneers, they were met by a few eager helpers. Zina remembered that they encountered “several of the Mounted Police, who kindly volunteered their assistance in crossing [St. Mary's River]. … All arrived on the other side in peace and safety. Thus began the life of our people in their adopted country.”

A few ranchers who lived in the area were likewise welcoming:

“One evening Mr. Brimmer brought a large pike and presented the same to Mrs. Card, and Mrs. Card received the gift. She was delighted but puzzled over the task of removing the scales, but he followed her out, remarking: ‘Bring the tea kettle, Mrs. Card.’ And holding the fish up by the tail, he slowly poured the boiling water over the treasure, and it was soon ready for a delicious supper, which was speedily prepared under the bowery in front of their tent and partaken of with a relish by several of our neighbor policemen.”

The welcome helped the pioneers acclimate to life in Cardston; after a shaky start, Zina remembered the settlers greeting their task with “sunshine and joy [in their] hearts, for the waving grass, beautiful wildflowers and lofty mountains on the west, the rolling prairies, all combined to make us feel that President Card had truly found the right place where we might have a home.”1

A Touch of Civilization

The log cabin in which the Cards would live was a far cry from the homes Zina had known as a child, but the homemaker in her did her best to brighten it up.

For starters, Zina covered the walls and ceiling of the Card home's dining room with light tan flannel, prompting Charles to dub the cabin “Mother's Canton Flannel Palace.” Zina's daughter, Zina Card Brown, described the care her mother took in hanging the flannel “so that the nap of the cloth all ran down.” Zina had a special broom she used just to brush the nap into place, leaving the wall with “the look of satin,” the younger Zina remembered. It was “really lovely and so cozy looking.”

Zina Card Brown also remembered decorative furnishings her mother placed in the cabin, as well as a bookcase “made from packing boxes” that had been stained and varnished. The boxes were filled with “the standard works of the Church … fairy tales and illustrated books of famous works of art. It also held many of the world’s great books of literature, and the ones from which mother read to us each day. The latter were Dickens’s works, and Louisa Alcott’s such as Little Women and Little Men, etc. These were ‘daily diet’ for hungry young minds.”

Thirteen years after their arrival in Cardston, in 1900, the Cards moved from the log home to a nine-room brick house on the other side of the creek that the younger Zina later called “almost as dear as the little log one of the earliest days of Cardston.”2

The Hearth of the Community

Whether living in the log home or the brick house, the Cards frequently opened their home to fellow settlers, visiting dignitaries and other guests. Just a few months after the log home was finished, Charles and Zina hosted a Christmas party for Sunday School children in December 1887. Complete with a Christmas tree, music, and Santa Claus, the party set the tone for their home as a social center in town.3

Many an evening saw the home filled with music and conversation. Aunt Zina, as Zina Young Card was known around town, played a parlor organ and organized dramatic productions. The home also hosted religious cottage meetings where the Cardston Saints prayed and worshipped together.

“In some of the cottage meetings,” a biographer of Zina later wrote, “the Saints were blessed with the gift of tongues in both speech and song and they had many rich spiritual experiences. The same atmosphere pervaded her big brick home which was built in 1900, and here as in the log home the doors opened upon a hospitable welcome to all.”4

It was the family's musical gatherings that Zina's daughter, Zina Card Brown, remembered most fondly. She described frequent gatherings filled with songs, games, and readings. The old parlor, she wrote, “was like a magnet to the young people. I can still hear my mother at the organ and her sweet alto voice and my brother Sterling’s clear voice, always so true in tone. Then all the roomful of voices would be blended in—‘After the Ball’ or ‘Sweet Genevive,’ oh, so many of those dear old songs rose in that room. The ice cream and cake was always plentiful, or maybe it had been a candy-pull—if the group was one made up of youngsters.”5

There were no restrictions on who was welcome in the Card home, and the family greeted guests all year long. A biographer later reported that “the Indians came in great numbers to visit them and to be fed, which Aunt Zina did, spreading her table with the best she had, asking them to sit and eat and won the hearts and good will of all and received many presents in beaded work of skill.”6

Said Zina Young Card, “[we] received all travelers in [the] little log cabin, which was ever home and welcome for strangers and friends."7 Among the most distinguished guests Charles and Zina hosted was President Lorenzo Snow, who visited Cardston for three weeks in 1898.

Footnotes

[1] “Pioneer Band Landed in Cardston in Snowstorm; Echoes of Frontier Days,” The Lethbridge Daily Herald, Mon., 27 Aug. 1923.

[2] Zina Card Brown to “My Dear Nephew Floyd,” Zina Young Card Collection, BYU, MSS 1421, Bx 2, Fd. 20.

[3] Charles Ora Card, The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Canadian Years 1886-1903, Donald G. Godfrey, Brigham Y. Card, eds. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993), 47.

[4] “Zina Young Card,” 1949, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

[5] Zina Card Brown to “My Dear Nephew Floyd,” Zina Young Card Collection, BYU, MSS 1421, Bx 2, Fd. 20.

[6] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” Zina Young Card collection, BYU, MSS 1421 Bx2, Fd 20.

[7] “Pioneer Band Landed in Cardston in Snowstorm; Echoes of Frontier Days,” The Lethbridge Daily Herald, Mon., 27 Aug. 1923.