Magrath was established in 1898 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to fulfill its settlement and contractual agreement with the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company. Like most Church settlements of that era, Magrath was based on the ‘Plat of Zion’ model developed by its founder Joseph Smith. Magrath subsequently became known as “The Garden City” and “The Irrigation Capital of Canada.”
The Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company was established with the support of the Canadian government to promote the colonization of the Canadian West. It was headed by Elliott T. Galt and his brother-in-law, Charles A. Magrath.* who asked the Church if they would be willing to participate in a major settlement and irrigation project activity in Southern Alberta. This was subsequently undertaken with Charles Ora Card—the Cache Valley Stake President—and Apostle John W. Taylor representing the interests of the Church. Key terms of the contract were the creation of two communities by December 31st, 1899, each with populations of at least 250 people. These communities were Stirling and Magrath.
By November 1899 Magrath and Stirling had been established and the head-gates of the irrigation system in Magrath were officially designated by the Government of Canada as a National Historic Site. The original Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada bronze marker states:
“The Magrath Head-Gates: Promoted by Elliott T. Galt, Charles Alexander Magrath and Charles Ora Card, and aided by the Dominion Government, the first large-scale irrigation system in Canada was inaugurated with the opening of the Magrath head-gates by the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company on 14th November, 1899. It extended for ninety miles from Kimball to Lethbridge and beyond. British capital, Canadian enterprise, and the vision, experience and labour of Mormon pioneers united to fructify and beautify the land.”
* Charles Alexander Magrath was a leading member of the Northwest Territorial government during this period before Alberta was made a Province in 1905. He was the brother-in-law of Elliott T. Galt and the son-in-law of Sir Alexander Galt. (Sir Alexander Galt was a “Founder of Confederation,” and one of the most prominent builders of the then new nation of Canada formed in 1867.)