The Site & History
In 1839, the Hudson Bay Company invited four Methodist missionaries to their forts in Rupert’s Land (which became the North West Territories). The Methodists welcomed the opportunity, convinced their practical approach to Christianity suited a land that required courage, ingenuity and individuality.
In 1860, Reverend George McDougall, the Superintendent of the Methodist Missions that lay in the vast tracts of the Hudson’s Bay Territory, traveled west by horseback with his son, John. George hoped to fulfill a promise made by Reverend Robert Rundle years earlier to send a missionary to the First Nation people.
In 1858, fifteen years before the McDougall's arrived in southern Alberta, the Palliser Expedition camped beside the Stoney's along the Bow. Dr. James Hector’s journal notes, “We were awakened at an early hour by the hymns of our Stoney friends, joined in worship... None of them went hunting as it was Sunday.”
Clearly, they were looking forward to the promised mission. The McDougall's: George and Elizabeth, John and Lizzie, David and Annie with family, friends and a herd of livestock arrived in 1873. At first, they chose a site a few miles north of the Bow River. Two years later they moved to a natural ford by the River. The ford was a traditional camping spot for Stoney's and others; multiple trails radiated out from the site.
Photos used by permission: GLENBOW ARCHIVES
On the 1A Highway between Cochrane and Banff, there stands a Church surrounded by natural grassland. This is the site of Southern Alberta’s first pioneer settlement, Morleyville. The Church was the heart of that settlement and Morleyville was the centre for over 200 people. Today it stands as a powerful reminder of our Western heritage and values.
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1862 - George and John McDougall establish Victoria Settlement and visit Fort Edmonton.
1864 - George McDougall first visits indigenous Stoneys in Southern Alberta.
1865 - John McDougall re-opens Woodville (Pigeon Lake), a centre for the Stoney Nakoda people.
1873 - Mission at Morley established.
1874 - Construction begins on the present church building and the Morleyville Settlement.
1875 – The church is completed; the North West Mounted Police arrive at the Bow and Elbow Rivers.
1876 - George McDougall dies after a buffalo hunt.
1877 - John McDougall and others build the first Methodist Church in Fort Calgary.
1883 - CPR tracks are laid on the south side of the River, bypassing Morleyville.
1899 - John and Elizabeth McDougall move to Calgary and no longer play an active role in the running of the Mission.
1906 - John and David McDougall assist with the participation of the First Nations people in the Dominion Day parade.
1917 - John McDougall dies in Calgary.
1921 - The entire Morleyville site is abandoned and Calgary overtakes it as the regional trading centre.
1952 - The Morleyville church building is restored. New siding & paint, roof shingles, windows, shutters, interior sanding.
1975 - A new cedar shingle roof was put on the church.
1979 - The mission is designated an historic site by both the United Church of Canada and the Alberta Government.
2003 - A concrete foundation was added.
2017 - In the early hours of May 22, 2017 the historic church burned. Eighty percent of the original logs are salvaged for use in the restoration.
2020-2021 - Chalmers Heritage Conservation restores the church based on detailed drawings done in 1985 by a U of C EVDS team.