Harper Chapel’s History
Thomas W. Ezard (1818-1885) and Charles Avery Harper (1837) both arrived in the area of Zebra, Missouri from England, traveling via Canada. They built farms near the church’s present-day location and became friends. It is possible that they knew each other in England as well.
In 1868, the Ezard Class recorded its beginnings, meeting in homes to study Methodism, pray and sing hymns.
One of the Thomas W. and Jane J. Ezard’s daughters, Honor (1843-1916), married Charles Avery Harper after his first wife died. Among other children, the couple had a son, also named Charles A. Harper. In later years the son used the initials A.C. Harper instead of C.A. Harper to help eliminate complications in mail delivery. Many individuals from these two extended families occupied land North and East of Harper Chapel for nearly 100 years.
In 1910 the congregation began to think of having their own church building and on 20 April 1911. Asa Farmer and his wife Ethel and C.P. Wade gave “one square acre” on the State Road (now Highway 54), located between Linn Creek and Zebra for the church.
Charles A Harper Jr. (1864-1936), as leader of the group, took the major responsibility for raising funds and was active in the actual construction of a concrete building which was dedicated January 26, 1912, and named Harper Chapel.
“My grandfather growed up and built the church. His first wife died; they had three children. Then he married an Ezard on the second go around. Their sons, Clifford and Arthur Harper, helped to build the church too. One was 18 and the other was 14. They hauled a lot of the materials. It all came by boat down the Osage River in those days. The cement they took to their barn so it wouldn’t get wet. (Lora Harper, 1995)”
In 1938, Zebra became Osage Beach.
Although the building of Bagnell Dam from 1929 to 1931 helped the area’s economic welfare, the Great Depression still produced negative effects. Tourism struggled during those early years and all the good farm land had been inundated with water.
“During the 1930’s Harper Chapel church was in such despair and not being used. My mother, Elsie Mansfield McDowell, and Ida Forrester worked hard to get it cleaned up. They paid for windows to be replaced on at a time; they had all been broken out. We began to have church and we got our young people together. They called it the Epworth League.” (Mildred Franklin, 1995)
A Ladies Aid Society was formed in 1937 and helped both spiritually and materially in the growth of the church.
In 1946, a group within the church, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, started raising funds for an additional Sunday School classroom and a kitchen. This addition was dedicated in 1954. The wishing well from the earliest church building still remains.