History of DeKalb
County Alabama - Milford W. Howard, Builder of Howard’s Chapel
Milford Wriarson Howard was an uncommon man. A
self-described dreamer born December 18, 1862 near Rome,
Georgia. With little more than 11 months of formal
education, Howard began to study law under Major Joseph A.
Blance, a lawyer of Cedartown, Georgia who had lost one arm
as a Confederate soldier. Howard fulfilled his "impossible"
dream and was admitted to the bar one year later.
arrived in Fort Payne on November 7, 1881 and began studying
the statutory law of Alabama before becoming one of the
youngest men to ever apply for admission to the Alabama bar.
He soon met Sally Lankford and they were married 2 years
later on December 2, 1883. They had 3 sons one of which died
at only 11 months old.
Howard was an outstanding lawyer and speaker. He traveled, lectured,
wrote books, farmed and after an illness he stopped practicing law and
invested in a Mexican mine, Louisiana and Texas oil fields and a Salmon
cannery in Alaska. He lost money on all of these investments and after a
strenuous year’s work on the farm, Howard moved to California.
He returned to Alabama in 1923 and began work on a school for
underprivileged children. His wife Sally remained in California. Debts were
added to debts and little financial aid came, except frequent checks from
Sally Howard in California. Sally spent the summer of 1925 with Howard,
already seriously ill with cancer; she died in the fall, soon after
returning to Los Angeles. Due to insufficient funds the dream of the Master
School was lost.
November 9, 1926, Howard married Stella Vivian Harper "Lady Vivian". She
too, was also a dreamer and she and Howard traveled throughout Europe
together. Howard had yet one more dream. When he had buried Sally Howard at
Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, he had greatly admired the
Kirk ‘O the Heather church there. This church was a reproduction of the
Annie Laurie Church in Scotland. He had secretly hoped to reproduce the
Glendale Church as a memorial to his first wife. His last accomplishment was
getting enough money and materials to build this memorial, though the organ
and beautiful stained glass windows he envisioned were never added. A line
from Sallie’s last letter was written above the stone altar, "God has all
ways been as good to me as I would let him be." The chapel was dedicated at
a memorial ceremony on June 23, 1937. Two years after Howard preached the
first sermon in the rock-anchored mountain chapel, the aging, broken man
became ill. He traveled by train to California, where he died of pneumonia
on December 29, 1937 at the age of 75. His body was cremated and Lady Vivian
made arrangements to place his ashes inside the huge boulder of the Sally
Howard Memorial Chapel in the fall of 1938.
A bronze plaque placed over
the boulder reads "Milford W. Howard, born December 18,
1867. Died December 28, 1937. I shall dwell in the house of
the Lord forever."
Chapel...Rock walls covered in English Ivy
today as a monument to Howard's dream of a Master
underprivileged children that was never completed.
It stands, on private property, as it did when work
on the project ended.
Look close and you will see
a chimney standing on top of this
big rock. It is what is left of a log cabin Howard
had built in
the middle of the woods in the 1920's.