According to Victor Davidson’s History of Wilkinson County (1930), Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church was organized May 25, 1837, by William Payne, a minister, and his wife Sarah, Benjamin Fordham, Nathaniel Cannon, Miles Cannon and his wife Nancy Isler Cannon, John Holliman and his wife Prudence Hooks Holliman, Anna Burkhalts and Martha Payne, all former members of Big Sandy Church. The land was given to the church by Nathaniel Cannon, Revolutionary War veteran who is buried here next to his wife Frances Sumner Cannon. The church was a member of the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Association. The church is located at the Laurens County line on Evergreen Road (now known as Mt. Olive Church Road). At one time the church was called Evergreen. The cemetery is divided by Mt. Olive Church Road.
Considering organizing members were from nearby Big Sandy Baptist Church (organized 1809), it is possible that the organization of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church was a result of the missionary schism in the Baptist Church in the 1830-1840 periods. Though the church was organized in 1837, we are not certain of the age of this building. Speculatively we can say that, if it follows the pattern observed in other instances, the original structure was a log meeting house or a frame structure, replaced by a structure such as Mt. Olive Church in the 1880 to 1900 time period. The type of flooring, wall boards and ceiling support this estimated date of construction, though it could be earlier.
The Mt. Olive Cemetery is in two parts, divided by a two-lane road. The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Nathanial Cannon, 1760-1844, a Revolutionary War soldier. The second oldest is that of his wife, Francis Sumner Cannon, 1778-1850. Miles Jefferson Cannon, possibly a grandson of Nathanial and Francis, served as a sergeant with Company A of the 49th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, CSA. One of his brothers, Nathan, died at Seven Pines, Virginia, in 1862, and another, Nathaniel, died at Gettysburg in 1863. A third brother, Wiley Lewis, died at Delhi, Louisiana, in 1862 but it is not known if his death was war related.
A gap of 39 years exists between the oldest graves (1844 and 1850) and the date of the next interment, 1886. This suggests several possibilities: the memorials to the elder Cannons are cenotaphs or that the church did not exist on this site until the 1880’s, among others. The year in which the church disbanded is not known to us at this time. The building is in private ownership and as you will see from the photographs receives the care it deserves.
When indoor plumbing was added it was necessary to make some modifications to the sanctuary wall. It is possible that there were two single doors in the original structure, replaced now with the double doors. The tongue and groove bead board suggests the building was constructed in the late 1800’s.
Similarly designed slatted pews seem to have come into usage during the 1880-1900 time frames. They represent a move toward mass production, though not on the scale that arose later. They were also a move toward comfort of the congregation, much more so than the older style of pews in use earlier.
The church’s pulpit area layout is similar to that of other early Primitive Baptist churches. The pulpit is formed by a low wall capped with a book rail, there is a window in a raised position behind the pulpit, and contains a short bench (pew). In this case there is one door beside. There is second bench between the pulpit and the communion table for the use of the clerk and the mediator.
This pew is possibly one of the pews original to the church. Its construction features suggest an old design and it likely predates the existing structure, possibly by decades. The lack of lower back support must have been torturous to the congregants.
This traditional baptismal well was constructed on a natural spring and is of a size to accommodate total immersion, as is the practice of Baptist and other denominations.
The repaired gravestone of Joel Pickle, 1846-1883, stained with the red clay on which it stands. The loving inscription reads “Peaceful be thy silent slumber, peaceful in the grave to rest, yet again we hope to meet thee, where no farewell tears are shed. With this broken heart of mine, I shall ever remember thee.” These words are an adaptation of an old hymn by S.F. Smith.
Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church once stood in a grove of oak trees. The aged trees were removed a few years ago to insure the building was not damaged by falling trees.
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