by Faye Salley, Church Historian
on april 4, 1834...
nine men signed a deed accepting stewardship of a small lot Joseph Evans owned on the western edge of Sam Cecil’s land in Northern Davidson County for a "place or house of worship." Mount Olivet stands there today.
That was 175 years ago and that seems like a long time, but people seeking freedom to worship had landed at Jamestown over 225 years before. Methodist Episcopals had been worshipping in New York for nearly seventy years and John Wesley had begun to formally organize our church in Baltimore fifty years before Mount Olivet was organized.
By 1834 there was already tension in that Church. It had been divided for six years over the question of Clergy versus Lay authority, and would divide again in another ten years over the question of slave ownership. Andrew Jackson had begun his second term as President and the eviction of the Cherokee from our state to make room for settlers was well under way. That year the Virginia Conference sent Pastor Thomas Barnum to Lexington to be the first Presiding Elder for a new Davidson Charge. He was instrumental in formally organizing our congregation and may have been the first Methodist Pastor to preach in a Methodist Episcopal church in Davidson County. (The following year Pastor James M. Darden organized a congregation at Good Hope.) There was no North Carolina Conference then, but there were healthy Methodist Episcopal congregations where Pastor Francis Asbury’s circuit riders visited. Even among the Cherokee.
People of all persuasions had probably been gathering to worship in Joseph Evan’s field for some time before the Trustees paid him ten dollars for his lot. We are told that when the weather got better each year and spring farming was far enough along, inspired lay preachers gathered families from the farms for "Protracted Meetings." It may have been from one of these congregations that Mount Olivet began to grow. When we observe our 175th anniversary this year we will think of all of the devoted congregations upon whose sturdy shoulders we as a congregation stand.