100th Anniversary of Haley’s Mill Chapel Commemorated
Contributed By By Flora Schaller, Church News contributor
James Wells Robins did not want to go on a mission, but his mother intervened and arranged for him to receive a mission call when he returned home from herding cattle.
Once out in the mission field, he disliked asking people for food and a place to sleep and ultimately decided to go home. His small leather suitcase in hand, he walked along the dusty road toward his mission-free future. But first he decided to take his decision to God.
He set the suitcase down on the side of the road and knelt in a thatch of trees. After struggling in prayer, he received the answer to stay. He returned and served faithfully from 1911 to 1913, during which time he was a carpenter who helped with the construction of the Haley’s Mill chapel in Christian County, Kentucky.
The little white chapel nestled on a green hill in northern Christian County was filled to capacity and beyond on September 15, 2012, just as it was a hundred years earlier when Southern States Mission President Charles A. Callis dedicated the building.
In preparation for the 100-year celebration, Carlos Hernandez oversaw a renovation of the chapel for his Eagle Scout project: the exterior, benches, floor, and roof were all painted; windows were replaced; damaged trees were removed; and rock was set near the foundation of the chapel to help prevent erosion. Carlos is a direct descendant of all of Haley’s Mill’s branch presidents: John Wesley, Jeptha L., and John S. Manire.
Robert L. Fears, a patriarch and local Church historian who wrote Through the Woods of Old Kentucky: A History of Mormonism in Christian County, Kentucky, shared excerpts from his book during the 100-year anniversary celebration.
Brother Fears created a nonprofit group to oversee the chapel. For the past 20 years he researched early chapels in the area.
“It’s a beautiful little chapel,” Brother Fears said.
When Brother Fears was a stake president, the Presiding Bishopric’s office contacted him and asked him to dispose of the extra property in the area, including the Haley’s Mill chapel. However, because several people in the area had been buried in the churchyard, he asked for permission to organize a nonprofit organization and retain the chapel. He received permission and was able to spare the chapel. It is now called the Haley’s Mill Mormon Cemetery and is maintained by donations.
Arthur Horton Sellers built the Haley’s Mill chapel when serving as a missionary, and he built another chapel in Lamison, Alabama, in 1913, that is also still standing.
“It’s unique because the Haley’s Mill chapel is still standing, and I guess you would say it’s the oldest known chapel [in Kentucky] that is still intact,” Brother Fears said.
—Church News writer Whitney Evans contributed to this report.