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Mission History


Mountain Top History

For the history from President Preece 1975 to 1977 click here.

The following material was copied from a book called the "A History of the Mormon Church in Canada" which was published in 1967. Although the material is dated I feel that it gives a good history of the Church's beginnings in B.C.

A HISTORY OF THE MORMON CHURCH IN CANADA

The historical material contained in this publication was supplied by all of the stakes and missions of the church in Canada and was compiled and edited by a committee appointed by the presidency of the Lethbridge Stake and Dr. Melvin S. Tagg


THE ALASKAN CANADIAN MISSION


Two factors led to the organization of the Alaska-Canadian Mission: First, the Western Canadian missionaries had opened many doors to receive the gospel in British Columbia between the years 1948 and 1960. Several branches had been established throughout the area. In the Vancouver district, especially, there had been steady growth and expansion. Secondly, with the concentration of members in the Coastal region, it was considered more feasible to administer the church program from a point closer at hand than Edmonton, Alberta. Vancouver seemed the logical choice.

On Monday, November 21, 1960, a meeting of the membership of the Vancouver District of the Western Canadian Mission was held under the direction of Elder Hugh B. Brown of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Assistants to the Quorum, Franklin D. Richards and N. Eldon Tanner. At this time, those members in the Vancouver Area were formed into the Vancouver Stake. The Alaskan-Canadian Mission was then organized to serve the remainder of British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska. Elder Milton L. Weilenmann of Salt Lake City was called as the mission president and his counselors were E. Evan Davis, formerly of the District Presidency, and William M. Whittle. Later Merrill C. Fisher, Dean A. Penrod and Geoffrey Newman served as counselors.

President Weilenmann was succeeded in September, 1963 by Stewart A. Durrant, whose counselors during his presidency were: Harold A. Salway, John D. Mendenhall, Peter N. Hansen, Harold V. Walther, Geoffrey Newman, and E. Bruce Preece.

In June 1966, Arza A. Hinckley became Mission President and the counselors who served with him were:
Harold A. Salway, John D. Mendenhall, Harold V. Walther (Alaskan counselor), E. Bruce Preece (Lamanite counselor), Ivan E. Burgeyne and Wayne Anderson.

Those serving on the Mission Board in May, 1967 were: Don Martin, Sunday School; Robert and Helene Mitchell, M.I.A.; Alberta Maxwell, Relief Society; June Card, Primary; and Tom and Margaret Butler, Genealogy.

HEADQUARTERS OF THE MISSION

Headquarters for the Mission at 5055 Connaught Drive, a beautiful mansion with well kept grounds and gardens, has become a tourist attraction. "The architectural beauty of the building- the workmanship of masters- is representative of the enduring truth and light that radiates from within the home."

The Canadian areas of the mission are divided into seven districts and 31 organized branches. The Mission President reports a continuing and steady growth of the church in these areas as evidenced by: attendance at meetings, tithes and offerings paid, building sites purchased, new buildings planned or just completed, and above all increased feelings of faith and renewed church activity. President and Sister Hinckley reported in March 1967 to the church members in the mission that: "Even though we look over facts and figures of membership growth and building projects with great satisfaction, we realize that the real strength of the mission is not in these physical achievements but in your great leaders who are converted and devoted. Herein is truly the strength of the mission. How blessed we are to be associated with this type of leadership. We feel that 1967 will be a banner year as we work together to further strengthen and stabilize the Lord's work in each branch and district."

Under the banner of "Alyucan" (Alaska, Yukon and Canada), the missionaries are doing "all they can" to bring the gospel to non-members and help people to build the kingdom of God in their area.

MISSIONARY WORK AMONG THE INDIANS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

"We must go to all those tribes that roam through the cold regions of North British America, and the object of our going will be to declare the principles of the Gospel unto them and bring them to a knowledge of the truth." So stated Elder Orson Pratt in 1875, when Canada was barely eight years old. However, the new nation would nearly reach its Centennial year before the missionary work to the Indians would actually intensify in Canada's far western province of British Columbia.

When President David O. McKay called Stewart A. Durrant, then living in Palmer, Alaska to preside over the Alaska-Canadian Mission in 1963, the Prophet expressed an interest in seeing the Gospel declared to the 43,000 native inhabitants of British Columbia. Under President Durrant's direction missionaries were called and set apart to begin the gathering of Lamanite Israel to the north.

In 1964 the first Indian Sunday School in British Columbia had its origin on the Indian reserve of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. That same year four Lamanite youths from this seaport city spent the winter in Mormon homes, as the Indian Student Placement Program was introduced in Canada under the direction of Harry C. Smith, director from Calgary, Alberta.

The Indian Seminary Program of the Church had its beginning when E. Bruce Preece, then Indian Seminary Coordinator in Seattle, Washington, traveled to Port Alberni in the autumn in 1964 for that purpose. Brother Preece later responded to the call to serve as Lamanite counselor to President Durrant in the Mission Presidency.

When President Durrant's three year term as Mission President expired in 1966, 26 children were participating on the Indian Student Placement Program, 156 students in the 15 classes of Seminary and nearly 200 Indians had become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Arza A. Hinckley, a businessman and rancher from Salt Lake City, Utah, upon becoming the new Mission President, announced the policy of having all missionaries labour with the Indian people. After nearly a year, the fruits of this policy might be gauged by the great increase in numbers of students in Indian Seminary (315 in 25 classes) or, by the prospects of having nearly 60 children ready to attend school in Alberta, on the Placement Program, or perhaps by the great interest shared by the missionaries as they labour to restore the Lord's promises to his covenant people.

THE SEMINARY PROGRAM IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

A recent letter addressed to Seminary Coordinator E. Bruce Preece in Vancouver, British Columbia from the teachers of a early morning Seminary class in Castlegar, Sister Laila Fenner, began this way, "We have a lovely month of Seminary. Those who really enjoy themselves and are always there on time, Mike Phipps gave the most wonderful testimony I have ever heard. He told how he has come to know what the Book of Mormon really is and that it is true, and because of this he wants to go on a mission as soon as he is old enough, so that he can share this joy of his! Of course, he handed me some lovely compliments, and I was grateful, but the more important thing is Mike wants to share. He can't share until he has something to share. What a wonderful experience for him to know at least in part what he has."

Mike was one of the 275 students who are gaining stronger testimonies of the Gospel through attending the twenty early morning Seminary classes in British Columbia in 1966-67. Castlegar was one of the twelve new Seminary classes begun in that year.

First organized in Vancouver Stake, British Columbia in 1963, the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion now occupy a respected place in total church program which the church sponsors for its youth in the province.

THE KOOTENAY DISTRICT

In the early 1940's Sidney Craig, Charles James and the Boehmer family, Latter-day Saints from Cardston, Alberta, moved into the Kootenay County. In 1948 Cranboork, Creston and Kimberly Branches were organized.

Before these branches were formed missionaries came from Spokane, Washington to hold meetings with the Saints and it brought much joy when these occasions occurred. Later, this area became part of the Western Canadian Mission. Joseph Y. Card was the first Mission President to preside ove r the Kootenay District at this time, stretched from Pincher Creek in Alberta to Trail, British Columbia. When the Alaska-Canadian Mission was organized this large area was divided and "Kootenay District" organized. Lindsay Atwood was set apart as the first District President with counselors F. R. Sommerfeldt and Jesse R. Johnson. They were succeeded by District President William M. Campbell with counselors Lionel W. Wright, Eddie A. Barr and District clerk Karl F. Luscher. In 1967 there were five branches in the District - Cranbrook, Creston, Jaffray, Kimberly and Kingsgate, with a combined membership of 664.

Cranbrook Branch -- January 21, 1961, President and Sister Milton L. Weilenmann of the Alaskan Canadian Mission accompanied by Donald Evan Davis, Counselor to the Mission President, held a membership conference in Cranbrook and completely reorganized the Branch. John Lewis Willicome was sustained Branch President with Hugh Wilton Boehmer and Steven Victor Pinchak as counselor, and Norman Karl Luscher, clerk.

Robert Byron Swinney, Allan Keith DePew, Joseph James Edwards and secretary Vaughan Dale Paulson were called to direct the Sunday School. Lenore Day was appointed Primary President. Zina Vergene Orth was appointed President of the Relief Society, and the M.I.A. responsibility was given to Elmo William Still and Amy LaRue Still.

The Latter-day Saints of Cranbrook hold their meetings in a fine chapel that was built in 1950. In 1962 the building was completely renovated to make it better for worship.

R. Byron Swinney, George R. Heath, Rasmus Pedersen and Lawrence A. Betts comprise the Branch Presidency and were set apart on September 18, 1966 by President Arza A. Hinckley, President of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission. Membership of the branch in 1967 was 238.

Creston Branch -- Creston is located in a beautiful valley, hemmed in with mountains. The climate is more moderate than much of the surrounding area. The soil is fertile and fruit produced is of excellent quality. Creston apples are counted the best.

In 1948, some Latter-day Saints from Alberta moved to Creston to make their home. They organized themselves into a Home Sunday School, membership increased and a branch of the Church was established. They have a chapel of their own. A fully organized branch is functioning under the leadership of Jesse R. Johnson, Allen Keith DePew, Glen Henry Moore and Clerk Harold Harry Hudson. They were set apart at a district Conference in Cranbrook September 18, 1966.

Jaffray Branch -- President Milton L. Weilenmann, his Counselor D. Evan Davis of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission and District President Lindsay Atwood held a Conference in Jaffray for the purpose of organizing it into a Dependent Branch, dependent upon Cranbrook. Forty people were in attendance. Eddie Barr was set apart as Branch President with Max Atwood and Eldon Atwood Counselors.

April 29, 1962 Jaffray was made an Independent Branch, Eddie Barr continued to serve as President until September 18, 1966 when he became Counselor to William Campbell in the District Presidency. Paul L. Totten Jr. was sustained as Branch President, his counselors Eddie Barr and Dale E. Reay with Sharon Ann Barr as clerk.

Fifteen L.D.S. families with 52 members reside in Jaffray.

Kimberley Branch -- The Kimberley Branch was formed in the spring of 1948, as near as can be ascertained, with Roy Scott Presiding Elder and Lovett Lee the Sunday School Superintendent. The first meetings were held in the Odd Fellows Hall with approximately twelve members present. In 1958 the present Chapel became the meeting place of the members, even though it was not completed. August 18, 1961 the Kimberley Chapel was dedicated by Elder Theodore M. Burton. About 80 members and friends were in attendance.

Since the Branch was organized the following have served as Branch President, Roy Scott, Don Henry, Ed Forester, Stanley Dickenson, Lovett Lee, Norman H. Salvensen, William M. Campbell, R.B. McKay, Glen Johnson. The present leaders are President Harley A. Dovell with counselors John Taralson and Wayne Joulie and Effie Lee, Branch Clerk.

The membership has increased from 12 in 1948 to 194 in 1967.

Kingsgate Branch -- For some years the Kingsgate Branch met in a rented community hall - a typical hall in which Saturday night dances were held. The membership felt the need for a place of their own and decided to build a small church. They acquired a piece of property in November of 1962 and immediately work began. They were given permission to salvage all the lumber they could use from an old railway station. All the doors that were needed for the building came from a house in Creston that was being demolished. Unitedly and untiringly the men worked on the building. On January 20, 1963 Sunday School and Sacrament meeting was held in their own house of worship. The chapel was dedicated on June 8, 1967 by Elder William M. Critchlow Jr..

The following words were included in a Branch report written two days before the first meeting was held in the Chapel. "We hope to have a sign up soon for our "Chapel in the Wildwood" telling people what it is and the hours of services, in the hope that travelers will drop in anytime and have a look at the little Church that faith, fellowship and love for God and his children, built by the side of the road."

Kootenay District Branch -- In 1961 the Kimberly District was given the responsibility of supervising dependent Sunday Schools. The Kootenay Branch was set up for this purpose and to receive tithes and offerings and to act as a clearing and control entity. Within a radius of 200 miles four Sunday Schools are functioning and have been in operation since 1950, Fernie, Invermere, Golden and Edgewater. President Karl F. Luscher with his counselors Kenneth Darbyshire and Adam Pasowisty, have this special calling.

WEST KOOTENAY DISTRICT

The West Kootenay District lies to the west of beautiful Kootenay Lake in the southwestern section of British Columbia. The District though large in area is sparsely populated and most of its people live within fifty miles of the international boundary. The organization of the District took place December 10, 1961, under the direction of Mission President Milton L. Weilenmann. J. Paul Riley was sustained as District President, with Counselors Wilfred R. Higgins and Alfred B. Lyne.

The area has experienced growth since its organization as a district. This is due to closer ties being established through Church brotherhood. Within the District are four Branches, Castlegar, Nelson, Trail, and Ione-Metaline Falls in the United States. The membership of the District is 550. Wilfred R. Higgins of Kaslo, British Columbia, is District President, his counselor is Alfred B. Lyne and George Elliott is the District clerk.

Nelson Branch -- Barton C. Poulsen, who had been a Bishop for three years in Lethbridge, Alberta, was transferred to Nelson to manage the Nelson Branch of the Ellison Milling and Elevator Company in September of 1937. There were some missionaries in the area but no organized unit of the Church at that time and Elder Cannon set Barton C. Poulsen apart to form a Sunday School on November 8, 1937. The first meeting was held at the Poulsen residence with Sister Alice Poulsen, the two Poulsen daughters, Horace Birch, Elfreda, Robina, David and Rosa T. Dunlop; and Manita H. Price and children in attendance. These meetings continued, alternating between the Poulsen and Price homes.

On March 12, 1944 there were 23 members of record, and a Branch was organized with Barton C. Poulsen as Presiding Elder. Sacrament Service and Sunday School were held in Eagles' Hall for two years. In 1946 Brother Poulsen was transferred back to Lethbridge and meetings were conducted by the missionaries.

In 1951 John O. Bates was named Branch President, and meetings continued in the Eagles' Hall, with sacrament Service being held sometimes in a room of the Civic Centre. Arthur Cutler served for some years as Branch President also.

In 1964 members purchased an old two story house which was converted into a temporary meeting house and has been used for all branch activities since. The Priesthood and auxiliary programs are all organized and functioning under the leadership of Branch President Stephen R. Ward, and counselors Derick Claridge and Christopher R. Pfeiffer, with Robert H. Jerome as Branch Clerk. There are now 72 families with 211 members in the Nelson Branch.

Castlegar Branch -- Castlegar in located at the junction of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers in southern British Columbia. Branch President William R. Vance with counselors James P. McKay and Marcus B. Skeen and clerk Bruce S. Romney form the appointed leadership of the Branch. Although property for the building of a Chapel has been purchased, the meetings are still held in a rented hall. In 1967 there were 93 members.

Trail Branch -- Trail is an important industrial center located on the banks of the Columbia River in British Columbia. It is the home of the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company. The population of Trail is 11,580, and of that number 175 are Latter-day Saints of record, belonging to the Trail Branch.

In 1967 Don W. Wilson was the President of the Branch with Dudley J. Hall and Robert A. Smith as counselors and Edward Turner as the clerk.

A building site for a Chapel has been purchased.

THE OKANAGAN DISTRICT

The Okanagan District was organized in 1959 with Percy C. Gregson as President, Keith M. Humphreys and Phillip Wilkinson as counselors and Roland O. Wood as District Clerk. The District then included Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon and Kamloops Branches. A Branch at Rock Creek was organized at a later date, but was subsequently removed from the Okanagan District along with Penticton Branch when the Border District was organized.

In the fall of 1960, illness necessitated that President Gregson be released and Keith M. Humphreys was called in his place. President Humphrey's counselors were Phillip Wilkinson and Roland O. Wood. Brother Wood also served as clerk. In 1962 President Humphreys moved to Vancouver and John B. Mendenhall was set apart as District President with Herbert Calvert and Roland O. Wood as counselors. Robert Metters moved to the States and Roland Wood again served as District Clerk.

President Mendenhall was called tot he Alaskan-Canadian Mission Presidency in October, 1964, and was released as Okanagan District President. Roland O. Wood was set apart as President and Hebert Calvert and William A. Perry as counselors. Albert Perry Sr., was chosen as District Clerk. Missionary work necessitated that Herbert Calvert be released from the District Presidency and William M. Timms replaced him as counselor in February, 1966.

The present boundaries of the Okanagan District encompass the Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops Branches with dependent Sunday Schools at Revelstoke, Merritt, Lytton, and Pemberton. A Branch organized at Salmon Arm in 1963 with Gordon Campbell as President was closed down I 1965 because of lack of members.

The auxiliary organizations in the District are functioning under capable leadership. President of the Relief Society is Winnifred Wood, with counselors Iona Mendenhall, Wynson Bennee. Pamela Gardiner and William Alberta Perry are directing the M.I.A. program in the District. William M. Timms is the Sunday School Superintendent. President of the Primary is Louise Meeks with Gwen Olsen as secretary. Colleen Lund and Karen Olsen are genealogical examiners.

Vernon Branch -- A Home Sunday School was established about 1947, in Vernon with Percy Gregson as Presiding Elder. The membership at that time included the Ralph Harvey family Percy Gregson family and Wilihamina James. The Sunday School grew and Vernon Branch was organized. Meetings were held in various rented buildings.

With the help of Brother McClure a building site was selected in 1961. President Albert Rosenvall met with the Vernon Branch in 1963 and presented the Church Missionary building program to the Saints. There was a unanimous vote of the membership to build as soon as Church permission could be obtained. A building fund was started - suppers, calf projects, potato projects, bake sales, chocolates, more suppers, and assessments and the building fund goal was reached. Today a beautiful chapel is the reward. It was dedicated on July 24, 1966, by Elder William J. Critchlow Jr. an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve.

Sister Howard James, an elderly sister who was, perhaps, the only Latter-day Saint in the area for many years, gave the first fifty dollars towards the constriction of the chapel. I beautiful soul seated right below the pulpit in a wheel chair, she brought spirituality and an earnest testimony tot he dedication services. His Worship the Mayor, Mercer, of Vernon City spoke at the gathering.

The Vernon Branch has grown from three families to about 300 members under the direction of four outstanding Branch Presidents: Percy C. Gregson (1946-60), John B. Mendenhall (1960-62), Wayne V. Olsen (1962-66) and Ronald Burnham (1966).

Kelowna Branch -- Thomas Deloss Hatch with his family moved to Kelowna in the year 1947. There they met the Foster Harvey family and Bother Samuel Jessop. This small group united themselves under the leadership of the Presiding Elder Thomas Deloss Hatch and organized a Sunday School. The first meetings were held in the Elks Hall, then a room in the Willow Inn Hotel, costing two dollars per Sunday was rented and was sufficient for their needs until 1950. At this time David Henry and Keith M. Humphreys with their families, arrived in Kelowna to live.

Elder Harker, an older missionary laboring in the area, baptized the Graves family, Mrs. Pierce, her daughter and daughter-in-law, Andy Arnott and Mrs. Bolingbroke. The increased membership made it necessary to find a larger meeting place and the group moved to Orange Hall to hold church services.

The Kelowna Branch was organized in October 1952 with Ellis D. Henry the first Branch President. He was followed by Keith M. Humphries in 1956 and Albert Graf in 1963.

The Branch purchased a building site for a chapel on Glenmore Drive in April 1961. Building fund projects were initiated and a united branch worked hard to raise money for the beautiful building that has been erected. William j. Critchlow Jr. dedicated the Chapel, June 7, 1967.

Kamloops Branch -- In the summer of 1955 the Gordon W. Kenney family moved from White Rock to Kamloops to make their home. With the arrival of the Kenneys, with the help of the missionaries and the few scattered members in this area a Sunday School was organized and regular meetings held. In May of 1958 the Sunday School became a Branch dependent upon Vernon Branch, 76 miles south east of Kamloops. William Ontrobus was presiding Elder with Glen H. Price and Andrew Smith his counselors. And Gordon W. Kenney, Branch Clerk. Families moved into the Kamloops country and in June, 1960, Richard R. Moray was called as the first Branch President with Thomas H. Gregson and Gordon W. Kenney as counselors. The Relief Society was organized in 1955 and has continued to function. Sister Katherine Hickey was the first President and she was succeeded by Mary Tannassee, Wynsome Bennee, Irene Hickey and Rita Moray. Kamloops has dependent Sunday Schools in Merritt, Lytton, Pemberton, Clinton, 100 Mile House and Clearwater. The membership has grown from four in 1955 to 432 in 1967 and covers an area of 250 miles wide and 400 miles long.

Pemberton -- Dependent Branch on Kamloops -- Brother and Sister Peter J. Jensen, with their twelve children, arrived in Pemberton in September, 1966. Early in October they contacted President Arza A. Hinckley and requested the privilege of holding Sunday School for their own family. The privilege was granted and the following week two Elders from the Mission Home traveled to Pemberton and a Sunday School was organized. The Elders came up every Sunday to help and to teach contacts and look up members. From a start of one family of fourteen, the Sunday School enrollment has increased to 40 members in six months time. Two full time missionaries have worked in the area. Priesthood classes, M.I.A., Relief Society and an Indian Seminary class with 23 attending are all functioning under the direction of President Peter J. Jensen.

BORDER DISTRICT

A conference of the south half of the Okanagan District was held in Osoyoos March 15, 1964, under the direction of President John. B. Mendenhall, Roland O. Wood and Herbert Calvert of the Okanagan District. A new membership area was created and designated as Border District. Marcus Skeem was sustained as the first District President with Perry David Sargent and David Elmer Wall as counselors. The new District included Penticton and Osoyoos in British Columbia, Omak, and Republic in the United States.

The value of the Missionary Program has proved itself by the steady, healthy growth, of the Church in the area.

Osoyoos Branch -- A Sunday School, dependent on the Kettle Valley Branch, was organized in Osoyoos, June 23, 1963. The membership included Latter-day Saints from Oroville, Washington, and Osoyoos and Oliver in British Columbia. Twenty-two persons attended the first meeting. Elder Max Rae Montgomery, of Oroville was called to be the Sunday School Superintendent. Four months later, (Oct. 27, 1963) Osoyoos became a dependent Branch and Max Rae Mongomery was set apart by Roland O. Wood as President of the Branch. His counselor was David M. Daniels.

In less than a year - February 23, 1964, Osoyoos was organized as an Independent Branch, under the direction of President Stewart A. Durrant. President Montgomery and President Daniels continued in their positions. Arthur Harold McCuddy was set apart as second counselor to President Montgomery completing the Presidency of the Branch and all but three families were converts within the last four years.

A Sunday School in Crouse Creek is dependent on Osoyoos and a Seminary class has been organized on the Indian reservation. Etha W. Pratt is now (1967) President of the Osoyoos Branch with counselors Max Rae Montgomery and Reed Pitcher and Arthur McCuddy as clerk.

Penticton Branch -- Twenty-five Latter-day Saints, in the Penticton area, were organized into a Branch of the Church, as part of the Western Canadian Mission in 1951. David Noack was sustained as the first Branch President with Floyd Birch as a Counselor and Bertram Hughes, Branch Clerk. Succeeding Branch Presidents have been Anthony Fisher, Seal C. Beckstrand, Walter Cox, Dale Waite, Floyd Birch, Philip Wilkinson, Arthur Cutler, R.R. Sume and Herbert Bishop with counselors Arthur C. Cutler, Eldon W. Atwood and James E. Sandburg, clerk.

The first meetings of the Saints in Penticton were held in the IOOF Hall. Ten years later, Aug. 20, 1961, during District Conference session being held in Penticton, Elder Theodore M. Burton offered a dedicatory prayer to dedicate the first phase of the Chapel where they were then assembled. The membership of the Branch has grown from 25 to 179. Glenna Noack and A. Cam Cutler have represented the Penticton Branch as full time missionaries for the Church.

THE CARIBOO DISTRICT

The Cariboo District was organized in 1961, under the direction of President Milton L. Weilenmann of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission. The first independent Branch of the District was established at Fort St. James. President Albert H. Shaw was sustained as District President and he chose as his Counselors Glen Gwilliams and Robert Cromberty. Seven branches: Bella Coola, Kitimat, Fort St. James, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Quesnel and Vanderhoof combine to make this district one of the largest in area in the Church. In 1961 there were approximately 130 members of the Church. This number has grown to 832 in 1967.

On October 13th, 1965, Jay C. Purnell was set apart as President of the Cariboo District with Glen G. Williams as first counselor and Robert W. Jones second Counselor, with Clerks Al Pederson and Larry V. Henry.

Bella Coola Branch -- Brother and Sister Lewis A. Mecham, with their family of ten children (five boys and five girls) arrived in Bella Coola in the summer of 1928, to establish a home for their family. Elijah E. Gurr, then nineteen years of age and the husband of the eldest daughter of Brother and Sister Mecham came with the Mechams to Bella Coola. In this secluded area a Home Sunday School was held for many years. In 1958, President Parley A. Arave of the Western Canadian Mission organized the group in to a Branch of the Church with James H. Mecham as President of the Branch. President Mecham chose Floyd Melvin Mecham and Jack Mack Gurr as his counselors, Albert D. Mecham as Branch clerk and Charles Weldom Minaker as Sunday School Superintendent. On June 19, 1964, President Stewart A. Durrant and Elder Albert Rosenvall of the Church Building Committee flew to Bella Coola for ground breaking ceremonies for a new chapel. Their $83,000 building was completed in 1965. On July 28, 1966, Elder William J. Critchlow Jr., Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, President Hinckley and his wife, flew to Bella Coola to dedicate their fine chapel. Elder Critchlow offered the dedicatory prayer. The church is built in a wooded section, on a six acre lot, fourteen miles east of the village of Bella Coola, near an ocean inlet, North Benedict Arm.

Kitimat Branch -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its first meeting in the new town of Kitimat in the spring of 1956 at the home of William Timms, Brother George Bates conducting the meeting. There were twelve members present and some visitors. Since that meeting regular Sunday services have been held. Meetings have been held in the Nichako Elementary School and in the YMCA building. Auxiliary meetings were held in the homes of members.

Kitimat was made an Independent Branch February 25, 1959 when President Arave met with the Saints and set apart Archibald E. Gibbon as the first Branch President. Four Branch Presidents have followed President Gibbon. They are Meade J. Coleman, William M. Timms, Donald W. Martin and Thomas A. A. Fleury. The last three Brach Presidents were converts tot he gospel in Kitamat. Kitamat has a membership of 152 which includes Terrace and Smithers. Three Home Sunday Schools are dependent on Kitamat. They are located in Kamano, Hazelton and Doughty.

Fort St. James Branch -- There is a lovely Latter-day Saint Chapel at Fort St. James, with a rather unusual history. The church is located on a site that not long ago was solid timber and brush. The members cut the trees and sold the logs to sawmills operated by Latter-day Saints, to raise building fund dollars. A bulldozer owned by Latter-day Saints cleared the property and excavated the 25x50 foot basement for the main wing. An abandoned Hudson Bay store was purchased, cut into sections, moved one half mile and placed on a new foundation. Members donated materials and time. Two labour missionaries, Elders Bell and Hansen stayed with President and Sister Shaw for one year while finishing the building. The secret for obtaining this fine Chapel, according to President Shaw "was to seek the help of the Lord, dig for dollars till it hurt. Work hard and keep the faith". The Fort St. James Chapel was dedicated by William J. Critchlow Jr. on June 14, 1967. In 1967 there were sixteen Latter-day Saint families in Fort St. James with 34 members on record. The President of the Branch is Albert N. Shaw.

Prince George Branch -- The first LDS meetings to be held in Prince George were Primary meetings conducted by missionaries in the early 1950's and a Sunday School that met in the Elk's Hall on Fifth Avenue in 1956. Until Brother and Sister Lloyd Chiles and family moved from Vernon to Prince George, Eve Huber was the only known Latter-day Saint in the area. Kathleen May Ranby and Kenneth MacDonald and wife, Iola were baptized at Ness Lake in 1957. The membership grew, Relief Society meetings were held in the home of Sister Chiles, and Sunday School services moved to the upstairs banquet room of the Civic Center on Seventh Avenue.

April 5, 1959 Adam J. Huber was baptized a member of the Church and called to direct the Sunday School. President Stewart A. Durrant set him apart as Presiding Elder of the Dependent Prince George Branch October 12, 1963. Prince George became an Independent Branch in October of 1964 with Roy Salter as Branch President and counselors Douglas A. Clark and Donald Gray were sustained as the Branch Presidency with Clerks William T. Harris and Brian Corigan.

The membership has increased from fifteen members in 1961 to 189 in May 1967. Two and one half acres of land, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Voyageur Boulevard has been secured for the erection of a Latter-day Saint Chapel in Prince George.

Williams Lake Branch -- Williams Lake Sunday School started in 1959 with missionaries traveling from Quesnel every other Sunday to take charge. Meetings have been held in homes, in the Masonic Hall, and they are now holding Sunday School in the Elk's Hall. On April 2, 1961, Emile Rich was baptized a member of the Church and given the responsibility of the Sunday School. When Williams Lake was made a Dependent Branch April 25, 1965, Brother Rich was set apart as President of the Branch. People have moved in and out of Williams Lake. The membership has gone up and down, varying from ten to forty in number.

Prince Rupert Branch -- The first missionaries came to Prince Rupert in the fall of 1955 and the following spring a Sunday School was started in the home of Carol McDonald. The meetings were held in the McDonald home for several years, then the Saints met in various places, including Ferguson Funeral Parlor, the Moose Lodge, and Valhalla Lodge suited the needs of the Branch so it was purchased by the members, with the assistance of the Church, and completely renovated for a permanent gathering place for Church functions. On October 4, 1963 Prince Rupert was organized as a dependent Branch on Kitamat. President Stewart A. Durrant of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission set apart Stanley Wallace Scott as Branch President with counselors Roderick D. Atwood and Leon W. Dircks.

President Scott moved to Prince George in the spring of 1966 at which time Samuel Dyson was made Branch President. He chose as his counselors David McDonald and David Otto and as a Branch clerk John Murray. The active membership of Prince Rupert is about fifty.

Quesnel Branch -- Quesnel, with a population of 4,673 is located at the junction of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a lumber and agriculture centre. In 1952 Thomas Deloss Hatch, with his young family, moved to Quesnel to work in the lumber industry. They held Sunday School in their home and invited the Karl Olsen family to meet with them. John Harvey Sr. and his wife and John Harvey Jr. with his two children joined the group. Elders came into the district and converts increased the Sunday School attendance. Thomas Deloss Hatch directed the Sunday School and was appointed Presiding Elder in 1954. The Elk's Hall was the first rented meeting place of the Latter-day Saints in the area. In 1967 there were 92 members of the Church in Quesnel. Dennis Anderson was Branch President with Al Pederson and Ross Olsen as counselors and Ivan Dobb as the Branch Clerk.

Vanderhoof Branch -- Vanderhoof was organized a Dependent Branch October 12, 1963. Previously it was a dependent Sunday School of the Northern Interior (Fort St. James). The organization took place under the direction of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission President Stewart A. Durrant. Wallace E. Plant was set apart as Branch President with Glen Gwilliams and Alfred Stringer as counselors. The Branch originally met in the Kinsmen Hall. Later, with donated lumber they built their own Church which they began using in the fall of 1964.

In 1962 three members of the Church were residing in Vanderhoof but in 1967 the Branch membership was 115. The Latter-day Saints Church is recognized as one of the stronger Church organizations in Vanderhoof. Glen Gwilliams is Branch President. His counselors are Ray T. Mouritsen and Durrell Pennecker, Branch Clerk Joseph A. Fleming. A Sunday School at Burns Lake is dependent on the Vanderhoof Branch.

THE VICTORIA DISTRICT

A Victoria District Conference was held August 27, 1961 in the Chapel at 2990 Guadra Street. Elder Theodore M. Burton, and President and Sister Milton L. Weilenmann were in attendance. The District Presidency and District council were released during the morning session. Due to the growth of membership on the island it was thought advisable not to have the same person hold a position as a member of the District Presidency or District Council and serve in a branch capacity at the same time. All those who had served, up to this time, in district capacities were also Branch officers so complete reorganization resulted.

Sustained as District President was Albert Isfeld with Counselors Franklin H. Smith and R.H. Price. On December 2, 1962 Franklin H. Smith became District President with Harvey A. Shaw and Frederick C. Buelah as counselors and as District Clerk J.W. Greenwell. Brothers Shaw and Buelah and the District Clerk were later released and Robert E. Whiting and Fred H. Smith were sustained as counselors with Sidney B. Smith, District Clerk.

In 1967 there were over 1400 Latter-day Saints in the Victoria District that includes all of Victoria Island. The Branches are Comox, Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Victoria First and Victoria Second.

Comox Branch -- Comox, a branch of the Church composed of 45 families and a membership of 139 began as a dependent Home Sunday School , dependent upon the Nanaimo Branch. October 29, 1961 a reorganization meeting was held, President Donald Evan Davis of the Mission Presidency and President C. Ovaiatt of the Victoria District were in attendance. The Comox Dependent Sunday School became a Dependent Branch, D. Douglas was released as Sunday School Superintendent. Julian Symchych was set apart Branch President, with Robert Vonarx and Robert Mitchell as his counselors and Albert Bryson as Branch Clerk. Comoxis now a fully organized Branch, carrying forward the Church program under the direction of Donald W. Douglas, Branch President, with Nephi G. Simmons and Frank R. Niccum as counselors and Robert C. Vonarx as clerk.

Duncan Branch -- A Dependent Sunday School was organized at the home of Sister Catherine Sauders on Watson Street. After convening in her home for about one year the group moved to the Credit Union Building. At that time Jan H. Bessinbinder was sustained as Presiding Elder with Leonard Dirks and J.H.C. Lutters as counselors. The Duncan Branch was organized in 1959 with Leonard Dirks as President of the Branch. He was succeeded in this position by David J. O. Braulin (1961-1966) Thomas Carroll Poppleton (January 1966 to December 4, 1966). Harold A. McFarland was set apart as President by President Franklin H. Smith, J.H.C. Lutters and Gerald M. Davis were later sustained as counselors.

Duncan is an enthusiastic, growing branch. They have purchased a lovely Chapel from the Catholic Church with a seating capacity of 250 people. There is also on the property an excellent Recreation Hall.

Nanaimo Branch -- In the year 1946, Elder J. Keeler and Elder Lund were sent to Nanaimo to seek out members of the Church and organize a home Sunday School. Some of the families they contacted were the Dysons, Perretts, Thompsons and Sabeys. This group formed the nucleous for the Church growth in Nanaimo. They eagerly held Sunday School in the homes. As new families moved to the area the need and desire for a chapel of their own grew. In the early 1950's the Nanaimo Branch was meeting in a beautiful little Latter-day Saint Chapel, the first Latter-day Saint building on the Island.

During the years that followed the Branch has been presided over by the following able and spiritual leaders, Sam Dyson, Melvin Lane, Elder Smith, Conrad D. Oviatt, Kenneth Scott and R.M. Perrett. The membership grew from four families in 1946 to 284 members in 1967.

Port Alberni Branch -- The Port Alberni Chapel is built on a hill of Compton Road. There is a beautiful background of evergreens, maples, spires and dogwood. It is a beautiful and restful location. The Branch purchased the property from Brother and Sister Brendel and the members worked long, willing and hard to cut the trees, blast the stumps, burn and clear the 4.7 acres of land. Plans for the first phase of a four phase building were finalized and the grounds were dedicated in the summer of 1962. Construction work began in the spring of 1963 under the direction of Brother Peay. On July 26, 1966 the Chapel was completed and dedicated by Elder William J. Critchlow Jr. President Douglas D. Ruttan and counselors, Peter A. Cantlon and Louis D. Clason with Clerk Michael Houlihan report, "We appreciate our lovely building. It is put to good use six days a week. Our dreams of ten years have materialized". In 1967 the Branch membership was 287 members.

Victoria Branches -- On March 22, 1964 President Stewart A. Durrant of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission and his Counselor President Geoffry Newman met with the Victoria District leadership and held meetings throughout the afternoon in preparation for dividing the Victoria Branch. The division took place in the evening meeting-Victoria First and Victoria Second Branches were created.

John Herrington was set apart as President of Victoria First Branch with Counselors Frederick A. Watters and Barry E. Hall. This Presidency served until Barry E. Hall, David C. Whidden, Andrew S. Arnott and Branch Clerk Frederick A. Watters assumed responsibility of the Branch. In 1967 there were 364 members.

Earl H. Smith was sustained President of Victoria Second Branch with Harvey A. Shaw and Brian E. Strong and later R. Hugh Lyle as counselor to President Smith and G. Ronald Grunewald became Branch Clerk. In 1967 the membership of Victoria Second Branch was 310.

The membership of these two branches live in the historic city of Victoria, British Columbia's Provincial Capital. The compact area makes possible the functioning of all the auxiliary organizations.

The two Branches have a beautiful Chapel to meet in. On June 12, 1967 Elder Willilam J. Critchlow Jr. participated in the ground breaking for Victoria First and Second Branch cultural hall and classroom wing addition.


I would like to include more information about the church in B.C. and the organization of the Canada Vancouver Mission, If someone has some information they would like to have included please send me an email. Richard Funk.

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