Jefferson County Illinois
Church Histories

The Original Mt. Olive Church Submitted By: Sandy Bauer
The original log structure Mt. Olive Church is now preserved at the 
Jefferson County Historical Village.


Mt. Olive Church


A View Inside

History of Mt. Olive Church
Long years ago, when the country around here was mostly covered with woods, two men, one named George Casner and the other John Hawkins Jr., decided that they would like to have farms in this territory. George Casner cleared some land, that is, chopped down the trees, built some fence and entered the land in the records at Shawneetown in his own name. The President of the United States signed the Patent giving George Casner the title to the land. Now Mr. Casner and his wife had a son named Ramsey and after Mr. Casner was killed in an accident, this young man sold the farm to a trader on May 1, 1858, just six years and a month after his father had purchased it. Six months later the trader, Joel Scrivener, sold it to William Palmer, who kept it several years and so it passed from hand to hand until at last on Feb. 10, 1865 John Gentle purchased it and planned to make his home here. Other men settled close to farm also and since there was need for a cemetery to take care of those who passed away, there was also a need for a church to teach those, here, in the community how to live so that they need not fear the passing on. This was taken care of by a deed from John Gentle and his wife Francis on (1867?) to the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been organized in the community, but a strange thing occurred - the land conveyed was not the land intended to be conveyed since there was an error in the description, later this was rectified by another deed of conveyance on November 10, 1873, which properly described this 2 acre tract on which the cemetery and the little log church is located. Several men of the community volunteered their services to build the church. Very few people living today know how to use an adz, however we know of one man who does, for when we were inquiring concerning the church, we found that Jerry Williams of Bluford, had prepared one of the logs which was used for repairs at the church. This tool isn't shaped like our axe but more like a hoe with a slightly curved blade and is used on the logs to scale off the bark and work them down before being squared off. The trees were cut here on the place, drug to the church by a team, adzed and squared off and placed in position by man power, quite different from the building of our churches today. There were many of the older settlers who passed away and are buried here in the cemetery. Some of their graves were marked with sand rock which has long since disappeared. Many of the younger people left home to work elsewhere and to establish homes of their own. At last there were only three members of the church left and they were charter members, so, thinking it was the proper thing to do, they, by writing on a piece of paper and signing same, turned over the church to the community to take care of and preserve. After this there was no Sunday School or church held regularly, but Prayer meetings were held on Thursday night, and some of the young people drove many miles to attend. Since there were double doors, there was on it a double button to keep the door closed and more than once, if no older people came who knew how to work it, the young people had to go home disappointed since there could be no Prayer service that evening. About the turn of the century, Brother Mitchell, of the Salvation Army was here. He conducted the services and his daughter played the tambourines. What an inspiring service it was for they were indeed soldiers for our King. While he was here he started Sunday-school and was superintendent during his stay. A few years passed and in 1904 the church needed some repair work done. Both donations of money or work was solicited in the community. One log, the second from the bottom on the north side was practically destroyed and needed to be replaced. The men of the community gathered together to do the work and replace the log, but the man that was to haul it was detained and couldn't get there. Let me tell you of this occasion in the words of C.C. Jenkins who said "I will never forget it. You see, I was just 12 years old, but had come with Pa to get some logs from Mr. Mateer to help build Long Prairie Church. He was cleaning out some woods and we came over to haul the logs. Down the road was a log church and some men outside. They told Paw about their trouble - no team - so he said we'd take time to help 'em out and I drove the team that drug the log over to the church! Made me feel pretty grown up and good to get to help. I'll never forget it!" this was what was told at one of Mt. Olive's Homecomings by Mr. Jenkins. After the church was repaired there were often revival meetings held there. At this time a brush arbor was built for a special meeting. Cal Richardson, one of the best known country preachers of Jefferson County, and Blythe Reece, who had a peg leg, were holding this meeting in very warm weather. Wes Bundy, who lived a quarter of a mile away, always carried water to the meeting in a cedar bucket. A gourd was used to drink from and on this particular occasion he forgot to bring the gourd. Reece, as they called him, wanted a drink and asked where the gourd was. The reply was that it had been forgotten and he was told to drink out of the bucket. The bail that had been on the bucket had been lost and was replaced with a wire bail. Just picture a man tipping up the bucket to drink when the wire bail fell over the back of his head, thence a practically bucket full of water was emptied in his face. It brought a good laugh, but "Reece" had to have help getting the bucket off his head. Many years lapsed in which revival meetings were held. By 1932 the church was really in bad condition. The doors were gone, the roof had fallen in, the floor had rotted through and two of the sills needed replacing. The neighbors met to repair the church were Jim Green, Charley Moore, B. Davis, George Baldridge, Rosier Green, Jerry Williams, Roy Green, Harry Culp, Cal Gentles and Oscar Gentles, Ben Woodworth, and Wiley Green. After completing the above mentioned repairs, they also put in a new ceiling, filled in between the logs with chinking, put in new windows, white washed the walls, and replaced the sills under the floor. No regular meetings had been held for some time prior to this. The neighbor women brought dinner and everybody had a good time. Mr. B. Davis made a good talk at noon. As the group was talking, one of the men, Rosier Green, said "I wonder which of we fellows will be planted here first." By a strange coincidence, not too many years later he was murdered by a burglar and was the first of the group buried there. After the work on the church the community was drawn closer together. Many were helped by the revival closing out at Salem Church, about 2-1/2 miles northeast of here, but many felt that meetings were needed at Mt. Olive to carry on the good work. So with a will to work, everyone in the community banded together and as one of the members sated, "God sent a revival" and forty people were brought to Christ. Again regular services were held, both Sunday School and Church, for two or three years. About 1937 or 1938 two ladies of the community, feeling the children of the neighborhood should have a place to go to Sunday School, secured help and repaired the church, then started a Sunday school which was held in the afternoon. Brother Michael, now deceased, a Union Sunday School Missionary later helped organize a Union Sunday school, which increased in size as the years went be. On August 15, 1942, Roy E. Green, Cal Gentle Courtney Green, who were elected Trustees of the Cemetery leased said real estate to H.B. Walters under the name and style of Trustees of the Mt. Olive Methodist Episcopal Church, which said lease was assigned to the Kewanee Oil Company following which a communitization agreement was entered into and oil wells were drilled on the 80 acre tract of which the church yard and cemetery is a part. Although the Methodist Church here was not in existence any more, the money was paid to the trustees, who still felt responsible for the cemetery and so it was used. There Trustees have since passed away or moved away and the oil well was abandoned; however, a son of one of the former inhabitants of the community, Homer Johnson, his son, Verne, and his nephew, Gene, are still in charge of the cemetery and the Church helps keep it in good condition. In 1948 at the New year's Watch Service, a revival started. There were 37 conversions and several young married couples started attending the Sunday School. Church services were held part time, and it was their desire to have a church home. On taking a vote concerning same it was found that the majority of those voting preferred to join the General Baptist organization and so it was done on May 19, 1949 and the church was organized as it now is "Mt. Olive General Baptist Church". Although we have a new sanctuary, of which we are proud, still the little log church is very dear to our hearts and we will continue to keep it in good repair and use it as a Channel of Prayer and for meetings of the Church. In fact there were two good reasons why the new building was started - first because of lack of class room space - second because we knew that two of the logs would soon have to be replaced. We intend to take care of and to keep the little log church as long as it will stand. (Believed to be written by Alice Nelson some years ago, given to me by Betty (Breeze) Albright who attends the "new" Mt. Olive Church. Submitted By: Sandy Bauer

A little history from newspaper articles Submitted By: Sandy Bauer

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