Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Church

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We went up through Ft. Payne to get to Mentone, Alabama and got to see the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel, sometimes called "Howard's Chapel".  

It is built to resemble the Wee Kirk o' the Heather church at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California where Sallie Howard, the former wife of the builder of this church, is buried.  The Wee Kirk o' the Heather church is based on the design of the church at Glencairn, Scotland, where Annie Laurie of Scottish lore worshipped.  

The rear of the building is this huge rock:

It was dedicated in 1937 by Milford Wriarson Howard, a gentleman lawyer who had political aspirations (he was elected to Congress) but also suffered from financial trouble and nervous breakdowns.  This is an excerpt from the excellent-excellent 'This Goodly Land' entry for him:

In 1923, Howard decided to return to Alabama and establish a school for mountain children. He bought land on Lookout Mountain, near Mentone, and neighbors provided volunteer labor to clear land and erect buildings. Despite donations, there was not enough money to cover the school’s bills and the amount owed on the land. Howard was forced to sell off some property, and he began planning a development. His wife sent him money periodically, but, instead of paying off the land notes, he put it into the school and the development. After Howard’s wife died in 1925, there was no money left. Howard was forced to close the school, and he had another nervous breakdown. In 1926, Howard married the woman who had helped him start the school. 

To make his land more salable, he started a campaign to build a scenic highway in the area. The highway was built, but it was not completed until the 1930s. 

In 1927, Howard sold some of his land and took his wife on a six-month trip to Europe, writing a series of articles about their trip for The Birmingham News. In Italy, Howard was impressed by Fascism and interviewed Benito Mussolini. Back in the United States, Howard put together a book extolling Fascism and went on a lecture tour, but book sales barely covered expenses. 

In the 1930s, Howard had no income, and the Great Depression made it difficult for him to sell land. His wife refused to stay on Lookout Mountain, and Howard divorced her in 1936. 

Friends loaned him money to return to California, but he used it instead to build a chapel as a memorial to his first wife. He was finally persuaded to go to California, where he died of bronchial pneumonia in December of 1937. The following year, his ex-wife brought his ashes back to Lookout Mountain, and they were interred in the chapel.

The land the chapel is built on is beside DeSoto State Park, and the church was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and residents of the area.  

It is never locked.

One of the bibles was open to the 23rd Psalm: "The L-rd is my shephard, I shall not want..."

These words on the beam above the pulpit come from Sallie Howard's last letter to her husband: "G-d has all ways been as good to me as I would let him be":
Mr. Howard only requested that one word be printed on the beam above it - "Immortality".

The chapel is on County Road 165 at the end of County Road 89.  

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