Friday, October 30, 2009

Old Altamont Mormon Church

Below is an article written by Gordon B Hinkley about this beautiful chapel in Altamont, Tennessee.

 "Salt of the Earth…." January 3, 1948
Persistence Wins For Southern Leader
By Gordon B. Hinckley

All men dream. Some men work to make their dreams come true. The labors of Lewis F. Fults over the past 25 years have brought the fulfillment of a dream that has proved a blessing to the Church and to the community in whichhe lives.

Altamont, Tennessee is a town of only 300 people. Almost half of theseare members of the Church. Twenty-six years ago when Elder Fults and his wife moved to the community, they were the sole members. The only knowledge the people of the area had of the Mormons came from the occasional passing visits of two missionaries moving through the county, each carrying a heavy suitcase and an umbrella. Brother Fults dreamed of the day when there would be a congregation and a chapel in which to meet. And then he set to work to makehis dream a reality.

He became postmaster, and operated a general store and filling station. He forced his opinions on no one, but those who traded with him, received more than letters and groceries and gasoline. They learned something of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He ran for the office of county registrar, and was elected and is now serving his fourth term, each of four years. For the past ten years he has also been mayor of Altamont for which he receives no pay beyond the gratitude of his fellow citizens.

As many people of the community and the county observed him at work and listened to his philosophy they began to realize that he had something which they wanted. With the aid of missionaries serving in the area, he brought some of them into the Church. The congregation of which he dreamed slowly became ma fact.

But that was only half his dream. They needed a chapel. He consistently hammered at the idea and in 1938 President William T. Tew of the East Central States Mission, secured from the Church an appropriation of $1,000 with the nderstanding that the Altamont Saints would furnish whatever else was necessary to complete the project.

Members and non-members turned out enthusiastically to begin work on a spring day in 1939. But excavation for the foundation had to be cut through solid rock which underlaid a thin layer of topsoil. Enthusiasm died, and only three men continued at the tedious job of drilling, blasting, cutting, and then moving the debris in wheelbarrows.

The task seemed too great. Everyone was discouraged, but Elder Fults determined in his mind and prayed in his heart that somehow the work would be completed. Meanwhile weeds grew in the shallow excavation, and people suggested that the hole be filled and that the idea forgotten. Then this man of quiet determination went to work alone, literally chipping away at the stone that stood between him and his dream. His spirit became infectious. Others again pitched in. Then came the war. Costs soared, the young men went into the Army, and many of the older ones went to work in other places. The thousand dollars dwindled, but the project had gone so far that the Church added another two thousand to complete it.

Elder Fults schemed and shopped to keep costs down. He went to 25 different mills to save $300 on the doors and windows. As county registrar in the building adjacent to the chapel site he had a little free time now and again, and always kept his tools handy to put in a few strokes as opportunity arose.The outside walls were constructed of native stone much of which was gathered out of the mountains, and hauled on sleds drawn by mules. Hardwood flooring was impossible to buy during the war, and so he purchased oak tie siding, stacked it and allowed it to dry for several weeks, and then had it cut and planed by a local mill.

Elder Fults pays glowing tribute to those who faithfully worked on the project. But the fact remains that he laid most of the rock veneer, laid the brick trim around the windows and doors, did much of the inside finish work, and more important than all else, pleaded and coaxed, crusaded, and schemed to see the building begun and completed.

On November 2 of this year Elder Henry D. Moyle of the Council of the Twelve dedicated the chapel. People gathered from near and far, many of them not members of the Church, bringing baskets of food for a day of rejoicing. A dream had come true.

Today Lewis F. Fults sits in his office in the moldering old red brick courthouse of Grundy County. Many people call in to do business with mayorregistrar. But the thing that forcibly catches their attention is the little church building over the way, neatly framed in the office window. They invariably ask questions. And Lewis Fults, the builder and the branch president, knows the answers. A few tracts are on the table. The visitors leave with a desire to read and learn more.

The pick-and-shovel, trowel-and chisel, saw-and hammer days are over for Lewis Fults. He is 61, and a little tired. But he is happy. The dream of his younger years has come true. Altamont, county seat of Grundy County, has a congregation of Latter-day Saints. Altamont has a Latter-day Saint chapel. Prejudice is gone and the people of Grundy County know the truth about the Mormons, largely because of his pioneering efforts. He is happy in the satisfaction of a task unselfishly and well done.

The chapel was in use from 1946 to 1981. It was also used to house the County Court offices in 1990 and the county legislative body in 1991. I'm still trying to find out what it is being used for today.


Ardis Parshall said...

This one is especially good, of course, but I appreciate your several posts documenting the LDS chapels in your region. I think those photos and records will only become more valuable as time passes.

BruceCrow said...

Thanks. The first picture I saw of this chapel was black and white. It is so much better in color.

And that tower didn't originally have a roof. It looked more gothic and like a bell tower.

LeVa said...

It was a bell tower at one time. Lightening struck it and it was changed. Not sure why. I agree the Bro Fults was the only member in the city itself, but as you know from your work on the other chapel, there were several members that lived close by. I attended this chapel as a child. I have very fond memories of it.