The development of Huntsville on the bluff above “Hunt’s Spring began with the settling in and incorporation of the town in 1805. Starting from the earliest days, the affluent residents came to Monte Sano to escape the summer heat. The first permanent (non-Indian resident) came to Huntsville from Fairfax, VA in 1808. He purchased a large tract of land on the north end of the mountain and built his bride a house in 1815.
In 1814, Dr. Thomas Fearn and his brother (a prominent Huntsville physician and a member of the Methodist Episcopal church) planned a real estate development which by 1827 evolved into a health colony where he promoted the medicinal benefits of the spring water and clean mountain air. The mountain soon became known as Monte Sano from the Latin words “mount” and “sanitos” for health.
In the early 1800’s, the Methodist Church was served by Circuit Riders. These “Itinerant Ministers” were appointed to one station, but also served in several locations. This often required long journeys on horseback over difficult terrain in all kinds of weather.
In 1826, the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church appointed the Reverend James Rowe to the Methodist Episcopal Church Huntsville Station. After one year, Reverend James Allen took over this circuit.
Reverend Rowe returned in 1828 to fulfill his second appointment to the church. He was also married the next year. By 1830, he had resigned from the conference and he and his wife, Malinda opened Monte Sano Female College. The establishment of the college increased the population on the mountain. In 1833, the town of Viduta was established. It was mainly a summer retreat for the wealthy.
The first record to have a church on Monte Sano was in 1892 On February 23, 1892, Episcopal Bishop Jackson laid the cornerstone for a building that was to be an Episcopal mission. Stone walls were laid up to about six feet. The building was never completed. A stone marker that is presently located on the right of the sidewalk at the entrance of Monte Sano United Methodist Church is the only evidence we have of an earlier church on the mountain. The church never existed.
On December 12, 1896, Sidney J. Mayhew sold The Trustees of the Monte Sano Union Chapel a small parcel of land for $1.00 and other considerations. A little white church was built on a 40 ft. x 75ft. lot on the northeast corner of Lot No. 26 on the plat of Viduta The little white church by the side of the road was a landmark on the Boulevard for more than 60 years. The church remained non-denominational and had no regular minister assigned. The financial depression had it’s effect on Monte Sano and by 1930, Monte Sano Union Church closed.
In the 1930, Reverend T.J. Williams enters the history and the Church begins what was to be the first lasting ministry on the mountain. Rev. Williams heard that someone was going to open a roadhouse in the former church; he decided that he would not stand by and let the house of God be put to that use. He went to the Court House and received permission from the judge to reopen the church and hold services.
In 1934, the Monte Sano Union Chapel received electricity. In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps came to the mountain and the church was often packed on Sundays with young men from the camps. Rev. Williams served the Monte Sano Union Chapel until 1943. At that time, the church became part of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church. The nondenominational chapel ceased to exist and the members of the congregation became members of the Monte Sano Methodist Church. Reverend Williams served The Little White Church for 24 years.
On July 7, 1957 the D.S. Dr. J.S. Christian reorganized the Monte Sano Methodist Church as a station supported by a full-time minister. All members that joined within the first six months after reorganization became Charter members. At the first quarterly conference in Sept. 1957, Jack Cain was appointed as minister. At that time the first Women’s Society of Christian (WSCS) was organized.
The small sanctuary at the Union Chapel was the only space available for Christian Education. The nursery was in a private home three blocks away. The small children were in a home next door to the church. Older children had class in the choir loft and the adult class was in back corner of the sanctuary. Construction of a two story addition on the back of the chapel building began in November 1957 and gave the church classrooms, a rest room and a small pastor’s study. In 1958, the new addition was named “Williams Fellowship Hall” in honor of the first minister, Rev. T.J. Williams. On December 24, 1958, the Monte Sano Methodist Church was incorporated.
In 1961, the members voted to find another location for the church as it was growing and needed more space. The property north of the Baptist Church was selected. 3.77 acres were purchased with an option on an additional 1.73 acres. Fellowship Hall was completed in 1962. Long range plans were to have 3 buildings. The first building was to be a temporary sanctuary, plus classroom, a pastor’s study and restrooms. The multi-use space had metal folding chairs for the services and folding tables were brought out of the classrooms for church dinners.
The last service was held in 1962 in Union Chapel and the first service was held at the new Fellowship Hall at 601 Monte Sano Blvd. In 1963, the board of trustees voted to purchase the additional 1.73 acres. The second education building was completed in 1967. In mid-seventies the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren merged to form the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Women’s Society of Christian Service became United Methodist Women (UMW). Monte Sano United Methodist Church expanded it’s services and in June of 1974 plans were made to remodel the Fellowship Hall into a sanctuary with pews. The education became the Fellowship Hall, Pastor’s study, Church office and nursery. In December 1977, all rooms were completed and in use in the current sanctuary building.
To read more of the church’s history, please read “Mountains Of Blessings; A Short History Of Monte Sano United Methodist Church” available in the Church library.