Restored Mormon meetinghouse from the 1890s open for tours in Historic Chesterfield, Idaho

By Pearl Mickelson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

The exterior of the Meeting House as it looks today. It has a new cedar shingle roof that would be current with the period and this was done by Rigby Construction out of Pocatello, Idaho. The lava rock foundation was put in by James Henry Davids and others. Not too long ago, someone that knows about these foundations inspected it and was amazed that it showed no cracks, nor had it showed any signs of having been repaired, an unusual thing, as lava rocks and cement of any form do not usually adhere together for any great length of time. He felt that James Henry Davids was very knowledgeable as to how to do this.

Chris Knox

CHESTERFIELD, Idaho — A chapel, restored to how it would have looked in the 1890s, has been added to this summer’s tours in Historic Chesterfield, Idaho.

The Greek revival style meetinghouse was originally built in the late 1880s and early 1890s by the local residents and was constructed of more than 80,000 bricks that were formed from a brickyard on the east side of the townsite.

Here the clay was dug from the hillside and placed in handmade molds — one of which is on display in the Log Store on the townsite — before being fired into brick in the pits dug into the ground in the area around the brickyard. There are two brick walls around this old beautiful building and the interior was filled with broken, chipped or discolored pieces of brick that provides excellent insulation, keeping the building cool during the summer months and helping to retain the heat in the winter.

The restoration started in September 2010 with Rigby Construction replacing the asphalt shingles with original-style cedar shingles. Bybee Construction started in October 2010 with bat eradication and all but a few outside projects were finished in April 2011.

The chapel has the original woodwork carved with a chisel and a hammer by Judson A. Tolman, who was the presiding elder when the branch was organized, the first counselor when the first bishopric was formed, and the second bishop of the Chesterfield Ward.

It also has the original benches carved in 1892 by John Detton and others.

The pump organ with leather bellows is the one that was bought from a company in New York City, transported to Bancroft, Idaho, on the railroad and then 11 miles to Chesterfield in a wagon.

The first piano is also in the room, and in the room behind the chapel, the second piano can be viewed. Due to their age and the cold of the winters in Chesterfield, these are not tuned.

The pulpit has also been painted in original colors of cream and burgundy. During the restoration, plans of the building from the Church History Library were consulted, which had the furniture, paint colors and other information about the interior of the building. According to these records, the backroom — a room behind the chapel — wasn't used as the bishop's office, as this was in the Tithing House, although he may have conducted business and interviews there.

The restoration was funded by “Saving America’s Treasures” grant, matching funds by the Chesterfield Foundation, an LDS Foundation grant, donations from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Loren Smith Family.

The Chesterfield Foundation organization bought the building with the stipulation that it would be restored as a chapel. The Camp Squaw Creek DUP previously had a 50-year lease for the building. The the DUP Museum items have been moved to the Tolman/Barlow/Call/Smith/Holbrook Brick Store that has been renovated on the townsite and can still be viewed.

Chesterfield was settled in 1879 when Chester Call and his nephew Christian Nelson from Bountiful, Utah, came into the upper Portneuf Valley looking for grazing land for a herd of horses. It had just been opened up for homesteads, and they returned to Bountiful with stories of this wonderful place.

The next spring they brought 12 families with them to homestead and over the next few years families such as Barlow, Grant, Hatch, Sessions, Higginson, Tolman, Muir, Yancy, Willey, Davids and Loveland came to settle, and in the ensuing years, others followed them. The area grew and four wards were established in the area, Chesterfield, Hatch, Kelly and Toponce. There were more 700 people scattered through this area in the early 1900s.

There are 13 buildings and homes available for tours and several others close to being finished as well. To get to Historic Chesterfield drive on US 30 between I-15 in McCammon on the west or Montpelier on the east to an sign between Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs that says Bancroft five miles and points to the north. Chesterfield is located 11 miles north of Bancroft near the Chesterfield and 24 Mile Reservoirs that are popular fishing spots for the sportsmen of the area. It is just south of the Sho-Ban Indian Reservation and is located on the Oregon Trail as well.

The townsite is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day and hosts are on hand to give tours. For information, see chesterfieldfoundation.org.

Pearl Mickelson is on the Chesterfield Foundation Board.

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