I recently had the pleasure of visiting a charming and quaint old church and cemetery located in the scenic Cypress Hills of Alberta. My brother Michael, who lives in Medicine Hat, has done some of the landscaping around the restored church and gave me the guided, historical, and interpretive tour.
St Margaret’s was derelict and falling down when David Carter bought the land on which the church and cemetery are located in the late eighties, and built a house nearby. You may recognize the name. It’s the same David Carter who was the speaker of the Alberta legislature for many years.
Carter served as an MLA for Calgary from 1979 to 1993. He became Speaker of the Assembly in 1986 and served until 1993. He has published eighteen books with topics ranging from poetry, short stories, western Canadian history-photography and the World Wars.
The old church is located on the outskirts of Cypress Hills Provincial Park at a pioneer settlement known as Eagle Butte where the first post office opened in 1900. There’s nothing left except the church.
St. Margaret’s church was built in 1908 and was extensively restored in 1992. While it was originally built as an Anglican church, it is now non-denominational and is administered by a non-profit society. Carter still performs occasional marriage ceremonies there. What a stunning and remarkable place to get married!
It was a beautiful day featuring big blue skies, a gentle breeze, and numerous swallows flitting about, with their shiny feathers gleaming in the bright sun. The lilacs and honeysuckles were in full bloom.
Carter was cutting grass on the expansive acreage when we arrived after a leisurely 40-minute drive from the ‘Hat. Michael and I walked around the grounds, looking at names on the headstones, with one of them being his.
When I think back to the time when we were kids growing up on the farm, our entire lives ahead of us, with an entire blank canvas to complete, it would have been impossible to imagine this day. The canvas is nearing completion but some of the most interesting parts are yet to be coloured in.
We sat on the deck of Carter’s house which is about 100 metres from the church, drinking tea and devouring ginger cookies, talking politics, and solving a few of the world’s problems. Now I know I am not the only one who thinks some of the world’s problems are un-solvable.
It was enlightening to hear some insight on today’s politics from Carter, 83, a man who’s been in the loop for such a long time.
Carter made a point of praising my brother for all the work he has voluntarily completed at the church and cemetery.
I have been reading your brother’s blog from the first day that he posted. I really enjoy reading his posts and I did not know how much work he has done at this church. I may have to add your blog to my reading list.
Nice piece Bob.
Great post about this special place. I have been reading your brothers blog since the beginning. It’s nice to meet people who appreciate these places so much!
After reading this post, David Carter sent this email to me:
Michael Truman turned up one day almost like a gift from God. As a landscape gardener he has brought his knowledge and gifts to St Margaret’s. In particular he has spent many hours on his knees and not because of penance for real and imagined sins – no he has adopted the base gravel around the four sides of the church. At 83 I can’t get down on my knees let alone follow Michael’s example as he individually plucks each weed from the gravel. In addition he has sculpted the gravel border in a most attractive way. My purebred Norwegian Elkhound has adopted Michael as a buddy. Sage immediately identifies a ‘real’ person and has adopted Michael just as Michael has ‘adopted’ St Margaret’s.