in Prince Edward County has a long and glorious history, and we are proud
to say that Olive Branch Church has been a part of that history as early
as 1805. The Prospect-Olive Branch Circuit is the oldest circuit
(at the time it was a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church) in Prince
It is impossible for us to know exactly the date, the people of Wesleyan belief began to meet, however, it has been authentically stated that the first meeting place was in an old house three and one-half miles west of the present church. The house was on the property of Mr. Jonna Gray, and it was called Wesley Chapel. The house is now 200 years old. Believe or not, back then they only has preaching once a year. Lorenz Dow, true Methodist Circuit rider, who rode an old gray mule, conducted the service, and was said to always be present on the specified date. His wife Peggy, always accompanied him. In an account of our history written by Woodrwo W. Wilkerson in 1934, he states, “Note that is has been said Mr. Dowdy rode, but we can not be sure. We might say that he rode when Peggy forgot to tell him that he could not.”
Wesley Chapel had a Sunday school, or Bible school as it was referred to in that day. It met only in the spring, summer, and fall. Remember, transportation and heat were not easy to come by in those days. The Bible school was one of participation, no one just came to listen. Everyone took part freely to discuss fundamental questions. People in that day did not stop going because the preacher did not visit or because there was not newsletter, but were faithful to their God and their meeting house. We, as members and friends of Olive Branch owe a great debt to the faithfulness of our ancestors, for their actions gave us a heritage.
In 1814, a log meeting house was built near the site of the present church, and was in the northeast end of the grove of oaks. Wesley Chapel also had a brush arbor, on the right side of the log church, where the “protracted meeting” was held every summer. For those of us who are too young to remember a “protracted meeting,” it was an evangelistic meeting, which lasted usually two weeks.
The Rev. Mr. Blunt was the first preacher of this church and was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. William Johnson in 1828. It was during the days of the log church that our church received its present name. Mr, Olive Branch, a farmer and blacksmith, who lived next to Seven Springs, located one-eighth mile north of the church was a very prominent member, and devoted much time to the workings of the church, therefore, after his death, the congregation named the little log church – Olive Branch.
In 1829, land was purchased by the church society from Benjamine and Mary W. Boatwright. The land was conveyed to the Rev M. William Johnson, the Rev. Mr. James McNeal, Edwin Gray, Thomas Andrews, Joel Elam, John C. Owen, Charles Venerable, trustees, for religious purposes. On January 17, 1834, additional land was purchased by the society from the same parties, making the total sum owned by t he church two acres. The total cost of the land was $6.96 1/4. It was at this time that the Rev. Mr. Blasingame Harvey Johnson was the Circuit Rider of the Prince Edward Circuit. The Prince Edward Circuit at that time included all the Methodist Churches of the county. The parsonage was located at Farmville, Virginia. The Rev. Mr. Johnson’s diary reads as follows: “ On June 18, 1834, I preached to a large and attentive congregation at Olive Branch Church. Took subscriptions for conference collections amounting to $20, and baptized two persons.” “On February 23, 1835, preached to a large size congregation in spite of a very cold, windy, and cloudy day.”
In 1859 the log church was torn down and a frame building was erected on the site of our present building. The building was under the workmanship of Mr. John Greene Brown. Mr. Brown laid the foundation of the church due north and south, at night by the North Star. The members supplied the building materials and did most of the work. The building was remodeled and extended in front to about the place of the front of the present church in 1895, under the pastorage of the Rev. Mr. Bascome Dey.
The Sunday school was organized in 1865 with Mr. Henry Wilkerson, a Confederate, as superintendent. There were 24 members. The officers were The Rev. Mr. Alfred Wiles, general superintendent, Mr. Henry Wilkerson, superintendent, Mr. I. O. Elam, assistant superintendent, Mrs. E. A. Brown, treasurer, and Mrs. M. R. Price, librarian. The following is an exact copy of the preamble of the constitution of the organization: “Believing that the Sabbath School cause is the cause of God and humanity, that it promotes the happiness and usefulness of the rising generation, and when Sabbath Schools are properly conducted, they become the nursery of the church, glorifies God and results in the best interest to our race. Therefore, under this condition we agree to form ourselves into a Sabbath School Society, and be governed by the following constitution and bylaws.” Mr. George Daniel Warriner was also one of its earlier superintendents. He served faithfully for 49 years in this capacity.
The church purchased the first organ in 1896, while the Rev. Mr. N. H. Robertson was pastor. Miss Elizabeth Price was the organist and Mr. Hunter Wilkerson directed the singing. After the “demise” of the organ, a piano was used for many, many years. In the late 1960's a Hammond electric organ was purchased by the church and is still in use. A new piano was given to the church in 1977 in memory of J. Frank Coleman, Jr. by his wife LaNette Coleman and children.
In 1915, the church, which was built in 1859, was torn down and a new building was erected on the same site of the present church. Bishop Denny dedicated the building in 1916. Eight years later the church was remodeled with four Sunday school rooms being added. The source of heat for the church was two round black iron stoves. One was in the middle of the pews on the left hand side of the church and the other on the right hand side, with the pipes going across to the middle of the church where they were joined to a single pipe which went up to the ceiling. In 1954, the men of the church dug a small basement in order to install a hot air heating system. Air conditioning was later added in the early 1990's.
In 1968, an uniting conference was held in Dallas, Texas, in which the General Conference of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form the United Methodist Church. The merger resulted in the name of our church being changed from Olive Branch Methodist Church to Olive Branch United Methodist Church.
During the ensuing years, the generosity and love of many people have made possible continued improvements to and beautification of the church. In 1952, new pulpit furniture was given in memory of former members of the church by members of their families. Stained glass windows were installed in the pulpit in 1968, in memory of W. W. Vaughan by his family. Funds designated for the church in the will of Miss Myrtle Brightwell enabled the building of a kitchen and restrooms. A dedicatory service for this addition was held in October, 1975. Gifts received for the kitchen include: a stove, from Miss Flossie Reynolds; a dishwasher, Mr. & Mrs. R. H. Moore; a folding table, Misses Nancy and Caroline Moore; flatware and tableware, Mr & Mrs. Harry Fauber and Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Vaughan; curtains, Miss Clara Clements.
Paraments for the pulpit were purchased in 1978, with gifts received from Mr. And Mrs. Walter Foster and Misses Elizabeth and Iva Young and from contributions to the church in memory of J. Frank Coleman, Jr., and Miss Mary E. Moore.
In 1980, cushions for the middle aisle pews were given by Samuel Hubbard, in memory of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. R. Hubbard and cushions for the side pews in memory of Mrs. Eura Reynolds Vaughan, by the family. (A complete listing of the gifts to the church can be found in the Remembrance Book.)
Also in 1980, the cemetery and the church property were officially separated and the cemetery is now incorporated with its own board of trustees. Jack Brightwell gave a new fence for the cemetery, to replace the badly deteriorated black iron fence. A riding lawn mower was given to the church in the mid 1980's.
Many families have remembered their loved ones by the giving of special gifts to the church. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Moore gave a new silver communion set in their memory and the chandelier in the vestibule was given in memory of Mr. Anderson D. Coleman by his wife Evelyn M. Coleman. In 1977, a plaque was place in the sanctuary in memory of Miss Mary Moore and her wonderful work as a missionary.
Within the last ten years many renovations have also been accomplished. Among these are the installation of vinyl siding, a new metal roof, a new front doors, new carpet and pew cushion covers in the sanctuary, repainting the interior of the church, placement of new church direction signs on Highway 460, repainting the church yard sign and completion of the church nursery.
We are proud of the influence Olive Branch has had on this community and of the many accomplishments of its members and more particularly those who have gone into church work and church-related professions. Miss Mary E. Moore, daughter of Henry Cabell and Nannie Binford Moore, served for many years as a medical missionary in Africa. Milton Chick Wilkerson, son of Milton and Anne Chick Wilkerson, dedicated his life to serving as a Methodist minister as did Ralph L. Haga, Sr. son of Clifford and Myrtle Warriner Haga.
The women fo the church have a long history of participation in the ongoing work of the church and through their talents and resources have assisted in the missionary efforts of the Methodist church.
September 18, 2003, in one date that will not soon be forgotten in the lives of many Virginians, especially those at Olive Branch. It was on that date when Hurricane Isabelle made herself known and caused a tree fall on the back of the church leaving major damage to the roof and adult Sunday school classroom. As a result, the roof over the kitchen and Sunday school rooms had to be replaced, new ceiling was installed in the adult Sunday school room, new carpet was installed in the back rooms and the classrooms and kitchen had to be painted. If you look closely in the sanctuary you can see cracks that were made when the tree fell on the church causing the roof to shift. It is our hope to one day replace the roof over the sanctuary with the same material that was used over the kitchen and classrooms.
We look forward to the future and rejoice in the past of Olive Branch United Methodist Church as we continue to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
This updated history has been prepared for the 190th anniversary using the original research of Barbara Brown and the revises and updated history by John C. Speight, Jr. (The Rev. Mr. Speight’s work was an update of Woodrow W. Wilkerson’s book Olive Branch Church form 1805-1934.)
Circuit Riders and Pastors serving the Olive Branch United Methodist Church
Blasingame H. Johnson
J. Wiley Bledsoe
J. S. Hunter
W. C. Vaden
G. H. Ray
H. C. Cheatham
|T. J. Taylor||1881-1885|
|J. E. Ports||1885-1889|
|R. W. Watts||1889-1893|
|J. H. Proctor||1893-1895|
|N. H. Robertson||1899-1901|
|O. M. Bell||1901-1903|
|A. L. Carson||1903-1907|
|J. O. Moss||1907-1911|
|J. W. Gee||1911-1915|
|C. H. Greene||1915-1916|
|E. F. Hall||1916-1917|
|J. M. Moser||1917-1921|
|R. S. Baughan||1921-1923|
|A. M. Clarke||1923-1927|
|W. L. King||1927-1929|
|J. C. Harry||1929-1931|
|T. J. C. Heath||1931-1933|
|G. D. Coffey||1933-1940|
|J. W. Gee||1933-1940|
|H. M. Burleigh||1940-1943|
|J. H. Light||1950-1952|
|A. R. Knotts, Jr.||1960-1963|
|Melvin M. Forren||1963-1968|
|Fred H. Troll||1968-1973|
|William A. Ricketts||1973-1976|
|John C. Speight, Jr.||1983-1986|
|Myron I. Simmons||1999-2000|
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