Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Olivet church’s history rewritten after fire

To Mrs. J.A. "Hattie" Page goes credit for preserving the earliest history of Olivet Christian Church five miles east of Columbia. When she was a special student in the School of Journalism at MU, Hattie Page gleaned historical facts from documents that were later destroyed in a home fire. In 1924 she published a freelance article about John 0. White, enroute to California in the gold rush, and his almost certain death. He was captured by Indians and prayed desperately for God to save him. He promised to preach the gospel for the rest of his life. God saved him and White kept that promise.

Olivet’s history parallels the growth of many other congregations in Boone County.

J.O. White brought people together for religious services in his home, in a one-room country school and, in summer, outdoors under a shade made from boughs of maple trees in Tom Turner’s yard. They often spoke of having an organized church with a meeting place but White died four years before that became a reality.

Hattie Page and her family later lived in the 1820s home built by Tom Turner and his slaves east of Columbia and south of Fulton Gravel Road — Route WW. P

age found an old marble stone, lying in grass at the edge of a cornfield engraved: "Rev. John 0. White, died 1870, age 60 yrs. 20 Years A Preacher of the Gospel."

Mrs. Page wrote, "In the heart and mind of this man was the vision of what later became Olivet Church at Harg. They talked of building but carpenters were scarce and expensive and the people had little money. White had instilled the desire for a church but didn’t live to see it built four years later. The burned record said, ‘The good people of the community deemed it their duty to connect themselves together in one Christian body and meet together on the Lord’s Day to worship Him who rules and governs mankind.’"

They chose a site on Reuben Hume’s land and, on Sept. 24, 1873, Richard Estes paid $50 for one acre "to build a church for publick" sic "worship and while it ceases to be used for that purpose it is hereby distinctly understood that the title is to revert back to the person or persons at that time owning the balance of said land..."

Tom Turner, J.R. Boulton and Edward Dailey solicited funds for the building. William Berkeley Estes donated trees for the floor joists. Men made sleds to drag the long heavy beams by mules, through mud, more than two miles. Contract for the frame building went to Adams and Lukin of Columbia with a completion date of May, 1874.

It wasn’t easy to raise $200!

Mrs. Leslie "Mary" Wegener wrote the following: "This church was not built with surplus wealth ... it was built with money which was their living. All had big families and they ate what they raised. Hogs brought four cents a pound and chickens, three cents. They came in buggies and spring wagons, farm wagons or on horseback or foot. But they came!

"Once-a-month church services usually lasted all day with a basket dinner at noon. The horses were hitched all around, mostly out east. Who remembers the horses neighing and stomping and switching at flies? The smell of fresh manure?

"Imagine tablecloths spread out on the grass under the shade trees west of the church — cloth made gleaming white with homemade lye soap. Women broke off maple branches and waved them back and forth to shoo the flies (remember the horses on the east side) as they waited for the men to assemble, plates in hand, and for the minister to ask the blessing."

More about Olivet’s history on another Tuesday.


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