Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Olivet Church stands as a reminder of past

Harg was a buzzing little farming community about five miles east of Columbia. It had "Star Route" postal service and was marked on Missouri’s official road maps. Gone is the wonderful county store where people traded eggs and butter for coffee and other things they couldn’t produce on their own land. Gone is the blacksmith shop where the "smithy" sharpened his plowshares, repaired broken machinery and shod horses. And gone, thank goodness, is the chain stretched across the road where people had to stop and pay a fee before being allowed to proceed. That road is now state Route WW linking Columbia and Fulton. Private individuals paid to gravel the road from Columbia — and were allowed to collect "three cents for horse and buggy, six cents for team and wagon and 10 cents for a big load of hay."

The one landmark that remains at what was once the busy village of Harg is Olivet Church, built in 1874, and the adjacent cemetery. Our family has been active there since my mother played pump organ in 1918. Chub was a charter member in the bass section of the choir. He was an elder and the member who handled Olivet’s electrical problems. I taught Sunday School for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, sang alto in the choir and helped write the monthly Olivet Church News, which was mailed free of charge to more than 300 persons. Olivet, our church, was the hub of Harg community for three generations.

When Alexander McHarg and his wife moved their large family from Maghera, in northern Ireland, to Boone County in 1884, they bought the farm that was east of Olivet Church. McHarg’s daughters, Sarah, Tillie and Hannah, were schoolteachers in this community and in Columbia. The sons, John, Tom, Arch and William, were Columbia businessmen. It was 2-year-old William McHarg who later put "Harg" on the map.

He owned the home place on one corner of the crossroads and bought the blacksmith’s log cabin home, which had a little store added on one side. He also bought the blacksmith shop. He replaced the cabin with a new frame house for his bride, Cynthia Wilkes McHarg, and they became "pillars" in Olivet Church for the rest of their lives. Mr. William, as he was fondly known, built a frame general store on the home place corner. He then owned all of Harg as I knew it as a young girl.

My mother played the pump organ and piano at Olivet Church from 1918 until her death. The church and store were the centers of community activities. McHarg’s store was also the post office. A large concrete front porch was shaded by a full-length grape arbor — luscious concord grapes ripened in August, and customers beat the birds to them. The store sold all sorts of supplies — groceries, chicken feed, bib overalls, coal oil and live poultry — whatever people needed. It was truly a general supply center.

Automobiles came into general use. The state owned and maintained the Fulton Gravel Road, eliminating the chain across the road, but the toll house stood for many years, on the very edge of the road. Mr. William added a gas pump at the corner store and a mechanic at the blacksmith shop. Fulton Gravel became a part of the shortest and busiest route between New York and California.

Tourists once smelled homemade blackberry cobbler from Cynthia’s kitchen across the road and insisted on buying servings. That developed into a business for Cynthia and her helper friend, Phanah Grant. Time marched on and Highway 40 replaced Fulton Gravel as the transcontinental route. Rural Free Delivery replaced the "Star Route" postal service. Harg gradually passed from the picture — except the cemetery and the old church, which is now the meeting place for the Redeemer Presbyterian congregation.

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