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Historic church in Springville remains gathering place for faithful

Nov 01, 2019 02:10PM ● By Janice Helmick

Brigham Young and the Mormon settlers of Utah welcomed non-Mormon people to the areas settled by the Mormons on the condition that no persecution of the Saints would take place.

These people built their own churches and held their own religious meetings according to their traditions.

The home missionary activity in Utah was spearheaded by Dr. Henry Kendal of the Board of National Missions. Traveling through Utah, he became aware of the number of Protestants living among the Mormons. Cut off from others, they were unaware others of their faith that were around them. He felt these Protestants had two main needs: The need for pastors to bring these people together and the need for schools because of the poor condition of education.

Dr. Kendall met the Reverend George Leonard, a Civil War Veteran, who agreed to bring his wife and family to Utah. They arrived in Springville in the spring of 1876 and rented a two-room adobe house. After about a year they had about 38 people in a shared worship. The two-room house was their first meeting place. From this group came plans for a chapel and a mission school.

The first chapel was completed in 1879 with financial aid from friends in Auburn, New York. This building served the Presbyterian Church and mission school for 13 years before the present church was built. It is significant, not only as the first Protestant church in Springville, but also for its sponsorship of the Hungerford Academy, which eventually consisted of six buildings covering two-thirds of a city block north of the church. It was the most prestigious school in the Utah Territory.

More than 30 schools were maintained by the Presbyterians at the peak of their scholastic activity in Utah. In 1890, the Utah Territorial Legislature passed the Public-School Act and in the years that followed the Presbyterian schools one by one closed. The buildings of the Hungerford Academy were torn down long ago.

The Springville Presbyterian Church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places on Oct. 24, 1980. The church is presently known as the Springville Community Church. The congregation currently numbers about 70 members. The church is located at 245 South 200 East in Springville. Visitors are welcome and Sunday services begin at 10:30 a.m. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)