The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In 1983, construction completed on a new 14,000 square foot chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)--it cost over $1,000,000 to build and boasted a membership of over 300. It stands in stark contrast to the early days of the Mormon faith in Huntsville which began on October 7, 1949, in the home of Sister Esther Beck Harper. The seventeen-member LDS congregation that met that day, mostly coming from the Harper, Beck, Johnson, and Toole families in Huntsville and nearby Oakhurst, soon outgrew the space. Temporary accommodation was found downtown in an office building above the Raven Cafe--it accommodated three dozen metal folding chairs, hymn books, and a sacrament table. A more permanent home was clearly needed.

On January 21, 1951, Sister Emma Beck Harper started the church's first building fund, initially depositing five dollars into Huntsville National Bank. By spring of 1955 $23,000 had been raised for a new church to be located on a one-acre lot on Old Houston Road. The new prefabricated church building arrived in pieces on a railway box car in nearby Phelps and was hauled away in trucks by volunteer workers. Three days later, on June 11, the congregation held its first service in the new building and celebrated afterwards with a barbecue. A dedication ceremony followed on January 20, 1958.

The new Huntsville Dependent Branch of Houston (Second Ward), as it officially became known, enjoyed further growth and prosperity in the 1960s and 1970s. New members were drawn from Huntsville and beyond, including Oakhurst, Shiro, Madisonville, and Crockett--in fact, membership growth in the last two communities was so significant that it led to two new branches to service the LDS communities in those areas.

By 1980 the decision was made to relocate yet again, this time to its current location on the corner of 19th Street and Avenue S. It continues to serve the needs of the Latter day Saints in Huntsville and the surrounding area.

Images

Audio

Dr. James Olson, History Department, Sam Houston State University
Phone interview from August 28, 2014 using Audacity
View File Record
Dr. James Olson, History Department, Sam Houston State University
Phone interview from August 28, 2014 using Audacity
View File Record
Dr. James Olson, History Department, Sam Houston State University
Phone interview from August 28, 2014 using Audacity
View File Record

Map

1803 19th Street, Huntsville, TX 77340