In the 1800s, a group of farmers worshipped under sugar maple trees in summer and in a one-room schoolhouse in winter. One cold January day in 1874, the farmers met at the Carlisle School and formed a congregation. Half of those present wanted to name the congregation Corinth, and half wanted to call it Olivet. Finally, Olivet was chosen. Historians say that the group then went to R.S. Estes’ pond and that 23 members were baptized! In January? Brrr!
Olivet is the country church four miles east of where O.D. and Nancy Meyers bought a farm when I was a toddler and Jim was almost 4. It was located on the toll road to Fulton.
Soon, Mother, Jim and I were going by horse and buggy to every church event, every funeral and wedding. Mother was needed; she played piano, and she could learn to play Olivet’s pump organ. She was soon playing for Sunday school and twice on "preaching Sunday."
Dad was busy on our 80-acre farm. He bought a few more cows and delivered milk to homes around Columbia with a canvas-covered four-wheel cart pulled by one black horse. The milk was in metal cans. Dad knocked on a customer’s door and called out, "Milk!" The customer brought her pan, and Dad measured out the milk and poured it into her pan. He didn’t go to church often.
Mom, Jim and I never missed. My first two memories of Olivet are of the hard wooden benches babies slept on and of being allowed to push those organ pedals with my hands when Mom went on Saturdays to practice.
Many years later, the Rev. Herald Reisch convinced us that we members of Olivet could raise money enough for an additional two-story classroom building. I argued with him about that, but when a mysterious 2 a.m. fire destroyed that concrete block building several years later, it was a miracle that Olivet Church was badly scorched in one small area but that the 1874 wooden building was not destroyed! A new brick addition replaced the concrete block area, which was a total loss.
I remember the Sunday when all was normal for the singing of the first verse of a hymn of invitation. Then people stood up and walked forward. Seventeen people, in various places in the congregation, headed for the front to declare their wishes to be full-fledged members of Olivet. These 17 had been among the hardest church workers and were now declaring their faith and seeking full membership at Olivet.
I recall how Charles Henry Reid, a skilled carpenter, and W.F. "Chub" Gerard and Herald Barnes - Reid’s helpers - installed a complicated lower ceiling in the old building, which had very tall windows. The difficult measuring and fitting around all those tall windows actually paid off because the costs of heating and cooling were reduced.
Men, women and children have, through the 137 years, shared their skills and their family "living money" to support the original Olivet Church and the much larger, new Olivet on the hill. Between the two are memorial stones of many who made Olivet and Harg very special.
Each June for half a century, guests and former residents have "re-enacted" a barbecue that began with farmers choosing sheep of just the right size, then finishing them off with special feeding just right for barbecue, with open-fire cooking and specially made sauce.
Modern marketing in 2005 might not require such detailed handling, but I know there is rarely enough mutton left for me to buy an extra serving to put in the freezer.