Canada’s Mormon Trail, a long length of history that travels through the communities of Del Bonita, Spring Coulee, Magrath, Raymond, Stirling and even Cardston.
But before Canada’s mormon trail was recognized, the people who helped shape that lifestyle and history existed within those various areas, people who came from all over.
One of those people was John Henry Bridge, who was born in Coalville, Utah in 1889. Bridge traveled to Magrath with his family in the 1900s, however soon after his mother tragically passed away and his grandmother came to town to help with the family.
“He grew up kind of an orphan. When he was about 15 and his dad was riding a horse in front of the school – a dog ran out and scared the horse. He was drug to death,” explained local historian Alan Dudley. “So his older sisters had all left home and married and left him and his brother, Orson, in the house. With no income to support themselves both boys went to work.”
Bridge was able to save money and went on a mission to the Eastern States. Upon his return there was no family or friends awaiting his arrival at the Magrath Train Station.
“He carried his bags and walked to an empty house, because Orson had moved away. He was all alone and he went to work and served the town for the rest of his life, in many positions,” said Dudley of Bridge’s work experience and dedication over the years.
Soon after his return Bridge went to work delivering mail from Magrath to Del Bonita via horse and buggy. He also served as the town policeman, caretaker of the cemetery – and planter of all the trees out there, he served as the Provincial Government’s road foreman for many years and worked very hard to open Magrath’s first hospital.
“He was mayor, and on town council (four separate town councils). He had that kind of ‘can do’ attitude which is what personifies Magrath and the people here,” Dudley said of the mark Bridge left upon the town and its residents all those years ago.
“he was one of the first pioneers of the town and he grew up here, as a boy and made something of his life (as a man).”
Dudley went on to say that often times people tend to focus on those who have achieved great fame, however Bridge came from nothing – starting out in tragedy, as an orphan to the world.
“He went on to make a tremendous impact on this community, that we still enjoy today,” he said. “The tradition of working on the roads and irrigation and the hospital – he was just a builder and a booster of the town and the type of man that helped make what we in Magrath enjoy today.”
He was an ‘outstanding student of the scriptures,’ and was known by many for his vast and reputable, knowledge and ability to recount religious passages flawlessly. He was also a ‘sought-after orator’ in town, for both religious and secular occasions.
In 1914 Bridge married to Alvira Dickson, who came to reside in Magrath after moving from Cowley, Wyoming. In addition to providing a great service to her church Alvira also provided Bridge with five children, Avilda, Betty, Geraldine, Jim and Jack.
After his death in February 1974, Bridge was remember for his handsome, tall figure and bass voice.
Stay tuned for next month when the Westwind Weekly will continue to focus on Canada’s Mormon Trail and the pioneers who helped shape it.