Mt. Olivet Methodist

Banks County
Org 1868
Photography by Randy Clegg

Mt. Olivet Methodist is really the story of Reverend Francis Marion Ragsdale and the Ragsdale Mill located on the propery. Marion was the fourth son of Michael Ragsdale, one of the earliest settlers in Banks County whose family had migrated into Georgia from Virginia. Marion Ragsdale was born in 1822 and was named after one of his fathers heroes, Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox of Revolutionary War fame. Marion was quite an entrepreneur and was listed in the 1850 census as a mechanic, which was unusual and suggests he was employed as an assistant to whomever was operating the mill below the big rock that produced a 30 foot drop and thus supplied the water power for local grain milling. It is not known when the first mill was built on Nail’s Creek but it was prior to 1837. Marion acquired the mill site and 257 acres of land from his father in 1853 and established the present Ragsdale Mill.

At the time of the Civil War, there was a rift within the Methodist church over the issue of slavery. Most of the Southern Methodists supported it and the Northern Methodists did not. The Ragsdales did not approve of slavery and split off from Mt. Pleasant Methodist over the issue, resulting in the founding of Mt. Olivet. In 1868 Marion’s neighbor, William Hix, deeded a 5 1/2 acre church lot to the Trustees of Mt. Olivet. Marion Ragsdale witnessed the deed as the Notary Public and was the driving force behind the establishment of the church. Reverend Ragsdale built the church and performed many marriages and baptisms in the the 1870’s and 80’s. He had obviously acquired other skills in addition to his mechanical ones and signed all of papers followed by the letters M.G. i.e. Minister of God.

He was a visionary and his intention was to establish a town to be called Nail’s Creek, and to this end a ‘Grange Hall’ was built on the property in 1883. The Grange was a farmers organization which was formed to further agricultural knowledge and best practices within the community. It also served as a schoolhouse. The Mill, the Church, the Grange Hall and the Schoolhouse were to be the nucleus of the township of Nail’s Creek. Alas, time passed and the vision never happened.

The last service at Mt. Olivet as an active church was in 1961. The church and the mill were purchased in the 1960’s by some private owners and some significant repairs made to both properties. It is now used periodically for weddings and religious purposes and has been carefully maintained by its present owners. Each year on the last Sunday in May, Old Fashioned Day is held at Mt. Olivet. Dress in period clothing and bring some fixings for dinner on the ground. Thank you Stewards of Marion Ragsdale’s vision. What a service you have done for us all.

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