Ashley County Leader 1949 Newspaper Article


            A newspaper article on the history of the Mt. Olive Church appeared in a 1949 edition of the Ashley County Leader.  It provides some unique history not captured elsewhere.  It would seem that Ann Veazey was not aware of this article when she transcribed the church records in 1967.  The historical account appears to have some information which conflicts with other sources.  For instance, James C. Riley is attributed as being at the first church organization meeting held in November 1858, but according to the church records, he did not join the church until August 1862. 












History Of Mount Olive Church Is Very Interesting

(The following article concerning the history of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church was given the Leader by Allen J. Linder who has attended many of the homecomings and is now secretary of the Association.)

About two hundred people were present at the annual Mount Olive Homecoming which was held Thursday, July 31st. The facts about this church and the homecoming are very interesting because of the many years it has been held.

It was voted by the Church that they would have their regular Church Services on the 4th Saturday and Sunday of each month in 1860. In the year 1871, several men and boys met at the cemetery on Thursday before the Fourth Sunday in July and cleaned the cemetery. Since that time the people have met there each Thursday before the 4th Sunday in July and had a cemetery working. They carried their dinner and most of the work would be finished in the morning. At noon the ladies would spread the dinner. After lunch the work would be finished and then all would go into the church and sing and often have preaching.

In 1936 the Mount Olive Cemetery Association was organized with a Board of Directors, a Secretary and Treasurer. Since this organization letters have been mailed every year by the secretary and donations made sufficient to do the work on the cemetery. The people, however, have continued to meet on this day and it has become known as a homecoming.

George T. Riley, age 76, who is the oldest living member of the Church, served as Clerk for 33 years and has some good records. An interesting thing concerning Mr. Riley is that he now lives on the exact spot where he was born, the old Riley homstead (sic), and has lived his entire life there. He is the only one of the children of J. C. Riley and Elizabeth Riley living at this time and is also the youngest child of this family.

The Mount Olive Baptist Church was organized in the New Salem Methodist Church in Drew County and services were held at intervals in this church. At that time Dr. W. C. Kimbrough had several hundred acres of land in that community and told the people he would give the land to build a church. In November 1858, about 45 men and boys met near the site where the church now stands and around a huge log fire selected the site and made plans to start the erection of the church. The story is that during this meeting wolves could be heard howling in a hollow north of the site and panthers screaming in the hollow to the south.

Some of the men who were present at this meeting were Dr. W. C. Kimbrough, James C. Riley, John Gammell, W. M. Johnson, George Etheridge, Bill Wheat and Rev. A. B. McCullough. There are many descendants in Arkansas and Ashley County of these men. The seven acres of land deeded to the Church by Dr. Kimbrough is still owned by the church.

The dedication service for the new church was held May 11, 1859. The record shows that when the church was organized (presumably in the New Salem Methodist Church), there were nine men and eight women present. The first deacons were John L. Gammell, an uncle of A. M. Gammell, now living in Hamburg; George Etheridge, an uncle of Y. W. Etheridge and other in Hamburg.  T. R. Tresnit (or Trennit) was elected church clerk.

The following were present at the organization of the church: Dr. and Mrs. W. C. Kimbrough, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Gammell, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Hail, John Prichard, Mr. and Mrs. James C. Riley, Mrs. Susan Etheridge and Mrs. Rebecca Sullivan. After the church was erected Rev. A. B. McCullough was pastor for several years. Rev. Allen served as pastor for 24 years and was well known over the entire County.

A check of the cemetery shows that the oldest grave with a headstone is that of Emily Johnson who died August 30, 1867, but it is known that several people were buried there before that time and at least two persons were interred during the Civil War.

During all these years the grave yard working, or homecoming, as it is now called, has been held on Thursday before the fourth Sunday in July and for the past sixty years it has never been postponed nor have they ever failed to meet because of weather conditions. In the words of an old timer they have never been rained out.

The church is located two miles north of Berea. Very few people live in this community now but many years ago Berea had a post office, saw mill, gin and three or four stores. Many people can be found in Ashley county, Arkansas and other states who were born and reared in this community.