Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard


Life on our frontier was rugged. People saved their shoes for Sundays and worked barefooted at other times or made footwear from animal skins. Unfortunately, they had not learned to dig cisterns for storing water underground and, as Indians did, they located "living water" and walled up a place for it to collect and settle. They’d dip their buckets in and carry water to their homes; livestock drank from creeks or ponds. They ate what they raised or traded it for goods and services they themselves couldn’t provide. Markets were far away, and many relied on hunting and trapping for food and for pelts to trade products or for cash. During the War of 1812, they were "cooped up" in forts almost like animals. There were hostile Indians on the frontier here until after 1815. In those trying times, it was most important to worship together seeking protection and guidance from their Creator. Early churches were built of logs, of course, as were the homes.

Building Olivet Christian Church in 1874 was similar to constructing several other frame churches in Central Missouri. Small congregations used their own skills and sacrificed some of their meager resources to build houses of worship in the denominations of their ancestors. Olivet, affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, welcomed people of differing denominations. Many — including my Presbyterian husband — moved their memberships if there was no nearby group of their own affiliation. At the turn of the century, small white frame churches with adjacent cemeteries were located at country crossroads throughout Boone County. The village of Deer Park, south of Columbia, had three churches of differing denominations — devout people who sacrificed to build the structures and pay their ministers.

Through the years, the men of these community churches did the painting, yardwork and repairs. The women’s missionary society did the cleaning and moneymaking events to pay for improvements. They were in charge of music and special programs at Christmas, Easter and Children’s Day. Only men were deacons and elders, "teaching and praying" as well as scheduling "protracted meetings" — revivals — and hiring ministers.

The original Olivet Christian Church, a one-room building located at the country crossroads where Route WW and Olivet Church Road intersect, had two sets of double doors wide enough to accommodate a coffin and pallbearers. The pulpit is at the opposite end, slightly elevated. An old pump organ once sat on the pulpit with the lectern and two pulpit upholstered chairs. When I was a child, the two collection baskets sat on lovely walnut table with porcelain rollers. It was donated by a member of the Estes family and is still being used in the new Olivet Church for flowers and candles.

Across the country road at the side of the church was the store that gave this crossroads the name, Harg. William McHarg operated his general store and lived across Fulton Gravel Road from the church. McHarg’s telephones were on Columbia’s rural line, but farmers who had "mutual" phones out of Millersburg had service only from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Many farmers had no phone service at all, so they relied on the McHarg’s phone.

McHarg or his father-in-law, Brother Wilkes, opened the store immediately after church services. Some people brought baskets of eggs, cans of cream or live poultry to trade for things they couldn’t produce at home — sugar, salt, coffee or kerosene. Then the store was locked because it was Sunday.

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