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Lee's Chapel (Sandtown) Cemetery
Independence County,

By 1870 small settlements had developed throughout the hills of northern Independence County. The population was sparse in comparison to Batesville and other towns located more closely to the White River. Unlike easy to reach areas along the river, the rolling hills and deep valleys provided an element of isolation for the few families who had settled the treacherous northern part of the county. In 1873 a Methodist Church and school was built at Sandtown. As was the case for many other small communities, life revolved around the church building. It was the place of public meetings, community gatherings, and more times than not, the church-school signified a community.

Life changed dramatically for residents of the communities of Cushman and Sandtown in the 1880s when large deposits of Manganese ore were discovered in the hills surrounding the two small communities. In 1882 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad completed its line to Batesville. In 1886 the rail line was extended to Cushman in order to take advantage of the mines. The principle mines of the area were the Southern Mine and the Turner Mines, both mines were owned or controlled by William Carnegie’s Keystone Iron and Manganese Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. With the railroad and the mines the town of Cushman boomed. Although the rail line did not extend to Sandtown, as Cushman grew so did Sandtown.

By circa 1920 Sandtown had a cotton gin, grist mill, general store, post office and blacksmith shop. In the late 1800s Billy Smith founded the Montgomery Masonic Lodge 360 at Sandtown, and meetings were held at the Lee’s Chapel Methodist Church. Throughout both World Wars the area mines saw heavy activity supporting the war effort and the population of Sandtown continued to grow. At one time over 1,000 people worked the mines. In 1946 the original Lee’s Chapel Church was razed and a new concrete block church replaced it. Members built the new church on the exact spot that the previous one had sat. The plank board ceiling was salvaged from the first church and used for the new church. The original bell was also salvaged and is still in the church today. Members of the community recall that when there was a death in the area the church bell was rang and local men would come to the church to dig the grave of the recently departed person.

After WWII the United States Government quit buying Manganese from the local mines. The last mine closed in 1959. With the closing of the mines the population of the town declined. With better roads and the convenience of the automobile the townspeople turned to nearby Batesville for their shopping and other needs. Today the Lee’s Chapel Church and Masonic Hall is the most prominent reminder of the community of Sandtown.

The church still meets annually to raise funds in an attempt to restore the church to its original glory. The second story is still used on a regular basis as meeting hall for Montgomery Lodge #360.

Contributed on 4/20/14 by hawkinsdonna
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Record #: 996030

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Submitted: 4/20/14 • Approved: 4/21/14 • Last Updated: 8/19/15 • R996030-G0-S3

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