Saturday, July 3, 2010

Duff Chapel Marker

In early June, I took a business trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. While I was there I met with Jim, whom I had met at the Mormon History Association conference. Through Jim, I met his wife and his mother-in-law. The four of us took a trip into the mountains north of Knoxville to where a small community of Mormons lived since the 19th century. Eventually they built a chapel. There we located the marker you see below. It reads:
A Sunday School was organized in 1943 by Elder George Quist, A full time missionary. During 1948 a building was erected at this site on land donated by Charlie Wright. Money was raised by the Riggs and Wright families. Members, friends and full time missionaries. The small building served members until 1956.

Like many early pockets of the LDS church in the southern states, this branch began with the conversion of a family in an isolated rural community.

In 1948, land was provided for a small chapel. Service missionaries were called, money was raised and labor donated for the completion of the one room chapel. By the time I visited, however, only parts of the foundation are left barely visible under the grass. Based on what I saw and heard from those who were there, the chapel was probably about 20 feet wide and 30 feet long. At one end, the floor was built up a little higher to serve as a stand. A single wood stove provided heat for the entire building. Sacrament services were held in the chapel and Sunday School classes would split up, some using rooms in the home next door.
The home and the land belonged to Mary Wright, but since there was another Mary in the congregation, everyone called her Aunt Mead. The house no longer stands, but behind where the house was is an old water pump which is still there. No, it doesn’t work. We tried.

The marker was placed about 10 years ago. My hosts, descendents of the Riggs and Wright families, are pretty sure the structure was still being used in 1958, not 1956 as the marker says. Regardless, the marker is an important reminder of the sacrifices and dedication of the members of the Church in Duff, Tennessee. From these early pioneers, a faithful body of saints has grown into the strong membership of the church it is today.

[Thank you to Jim and his family for pointing out this wonderful piece of history. -Bruce]


Ardis E. Parshall said...

Do you know who placed the marker? What a great thing, to do that while people were still around who could point out the precise spot. I've never seen that kind of thing around Utah, nothing on the sidewalks or walls around Salt Lake to mark the locations of the original chapels in areas that have now become commercialized.

BruceCrow said...

I think it was placed by members of the La Follette Tennessee Branch which now covers the area which includes Duff Tennessee.

Jim said...

Ardis--Bruce is correct on who placed the marker. Helping them was a former missionary to that area, Elder Martin, who labored there about 65 years ago. He is still alive and visits LaFollette once a year coming from Texas. It may be of interest to know that the structure Bruce talks about was built in 20 days and cost $1000. The construction effort was led by Elder Ray Silver, then serving as a missionary in the East Tennessee Hills. He is still alive and serves as a sealer in the Salt Lake Temple. I asked him one time if the authorities in SLC knew a Church building had been built. He indicated "no" and I then asked if he was concerned; he indicated "no." When asked why, he indicated that LeGrand Richards was the Presiding Bishop at the time, and that he was his Uncle. He did not see a reason to bother his Uncle.

BruceCrow said...

Elder Silver's explanation of why he was not concerned made me laugh out loud. Thanks.