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
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.