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.
Mt. Olivet is an extraordinary example of rural skill and craftsmanship, and Marion Ragsdale had to be a master craftsman. Notice that the church has no interior or visible supports such as walls or columns. Ragsdale employed a structural technique known as the “trussed rafter” roof design – two equal inclined planes joined by a central, level panel. The raised ceiling is thus held up with suspension trusses that function similarly to those on a suspension bridge. This technique is not in the toolkit of a backwoods, lumber-butcher. A prominent decorative element of this meeting house… the real star of the show… is our old friend, Georgia Long Leaf pine. One of the former owners suspects the reason the church was never painted was the sheer beauty of the wood grain which was milled on site. We find it hard to to argue with that.
What can you say about the simplicity and dignity of such an image? The Lord’s will be done.
It doesn’t require much imagination to see this church on a Sunday morning in 1868 filled with the simple farmers and merchants who lived within a few miles along with their wives and children dressed in their Sunday best. And now let us all turn to page 128………. A Mighty Fortress is our God.
We love these old foot pedal organs. This one is particularly decorative and would have been quite expensive in its day. It would have provided a welcome sound and accompaniment for the thousands of parishioners that joined in singing hymns at Mt. Olivet for over a century. And, it was not just anybody who could properly play these instruments. We salute the sisters and brothers of the past who led the Sunday morning hymns for all those years.
These sturdy pews were hand hewn just after the close of the Civil War and have provided a comfortable seat for congregations and visitors to Mt. Olivet for almost 150 years now. They were hand hewn from pine timber harvested and milled nearby. They have a quiet glow enhanced by the warm light streaming through the large 12 over 12 windows. The beauty of the foothills of the Appalachians when viewed through these old panes is striking.
Here lies Obediah W. Ayers who had the misfortune to be born in 1842 and the further misfortune to enlist in the 15th Ga Infantry. The only good news is that he survived it. The 15th Ga participated in almost every major battle the Army of Northern Va participated in. He came home to nothing, married and raised six children the best he could. His Confederate pension application of 1904 tells a sad but familiar tale. No assets, no income, supported by the children. Not much of a payoff for Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga etc etc. Hard times in Georgia for these Civil War vets. Rest in Peace.
Reverend Francis Marion Ragsdale was the founder of Ragsdale Mill, Mt. Olivet Church and the township of Nail’s Creek. He was a true entrepreneur and sincere Minister of the Gospel. We see above, the final resting place of Rev. Ragsdale and his wife, Martha. The large monument is made of marble and is a style that was particularly popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. It consists of two separate pillars linked by an arch which signifies their unification in both marriage, death and heaven.
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Where was the history of Mount Olivet found? I am trying to put together a record of the church and would love to access the source/sources of this history.
I think most of it came from the N Ga Methodist archives. https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/pittsarchives/mss028/pdf/MountOlivet.pdf
Hi! Jenny Ragsdale was my great, great grandmother. I haven’t been to Mount Olivet in over 20 years but am planning a trip soon and would love to take pictures inside. A great many of my ancestors are buried there. Do you have the contact information for who I would speak with?
Sorry Katherine. We do not have a POC. Maybe you can find something online.
Do you have a photo of the original church or the church when it had a bell on the building?
We do not. Do you have one. Sure would like to see it.
Are we able to go inside?
Not sure about that Marie. It is probably locked.
There is a service the Sunday before Memorial Day every year. Other Methodist churches in Banks County help keep it up.
Can “anyone” please get into the church and snap a picture of the group of ladies on the wall? I believe there is a long list below the picture with names.
Send an email to me. Several years ago, I snap shot the wall picture and plan to piece the pictures together.
I’ll send you what I have.
My great great grandfather (on the Ragsdake side) built that church.
William Claxton Poole is my great grandfather.
He married Jane Ragsdale who is in the picture with her mother and sisters.
My cell phone is 229-413-2398
Make sure you put a subject in the mail like Ragsdale/Poole or I might delete it.
Tracy- several years ago we were allowed in the church. The picture I took of the cemetery list was blurry. Do you have a clear copy please?
You can email it to me. Thanks in advance.
I would LOVE to have a copy of the photograph inside the church! I’m related through Vann Ragsdale/Virginia Ragsdale Poole. Feel free to email me at carly.alzen @ gmail.com (no spaces). Thank you!
I’ve took a picture of the one you want.
Can you still have weddings here?
My family line ?
Earlier, I commented that “M.G.” stood for “Minister of the Gospel,” not “Minister of God.” Did this comment not arrive?
“M.G” is “Minister of the Gospel, though he would also be a “Minister of God”!