This history was submitted by our church historian, Stella Hagemeyer.
“Joel and Jordan Drake settled in this community in 1812. Leroy Swornsledt, a young man, preached in the Drake home for three years. In 1821 and 1822, they built a church for the services. April 23, 1822 Joel Drake gave the Methodist Church a deed for the log church. The trustees were Joel Drake, George May, George St. Mire, and Braxton and Jessie Drake. In 1843 a frame structure was erected which was a big improvement with more comfortable seating. There was also a school and a cemetery on this property. This church had grown with lots of children and young couples, and they needed to expand. The site of this original church and the cemetery was on the north side of Wilmington Road, just west of the I-71 overpass.
In 1864-1866, there was a big revival in the Clarksville area. The minister was T.A.G. Philips, and they met at the Spring Hill School Building (on the corner of Wilmington Road and Clarksville Road, where the Fisher home is now). The two churches got together and agreed to build a new church about one mile east of the old Olive Branch Church. Isaac Campbell offered to give an acre of ground on the corner of his farm, which was located on the west side of Lincoln Road past the Ed Jeffery Farm, but when the deed was made, it had clauses that the trustees did not agree with, so they turned down the offer.
Baylis Settlemyre offered to give one acre of ground, which was accepted. Plans had already been made for the building, and members had pledged their donations ($1.00 was considered to be a big donation). Mr. Settlemyre deeded the property to the Methodist Church on April 18, 1891.
The people donated work when they could. The stone was hauled from the hollows of the John Wilkerson farm. The frame lumber was donated by Henry VanDerVoort. The stone work was done by Josiah Warwick (Ed and Eugene Jeffery’s grandfather). Mr. Thomas Sherwood was the head carpenter, and did most of the carpentry work. There was a lot of
discussion about getting comfortable curved seats and the graceful windows. These seats were ordered from a company in Indiana at a cost of $308.76. They were picked up at the Oregonia Freight Station with a freight cost of $6.34 on November 18, 1891.
An early picture of our church
Reverend Phillip Trout was the minister and worked with the men on the building, but he had a little trouble with heights. He was helping put up the rafters, and as he got to the top of the ladder, he “froze”, and it took two or three men to finally get him down the ladder. To the disappointment of all, the conference moved him to another charge in September 1891, so he never got to preach in the new church. The new minister, Reverend John A. Easton was here for the dedication in November 1891. Bishop Moore, Editor of the Christian Advance, was the speaker for the dedication service. The weather was disagreeable, but the church was filled with people. They were very proud of their new church.
The trustees met on March 30, 1923 and sold the old church to A.W. Dorhman for $100.00. He signed the following contract: “I hereby agree to remove the old church building and its foundation and all the litter made in its removal and leave the premises in a clean and respectable shape within a reasonable length of time.”
The Olive Branch Cemetery was deeded to the Washington Township Trustees on June 25, 1925 to be maintained. We do have a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a veteran of the Civil War buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery.
An addition to the church (54’x24’) was dedicated on October 10, 1948. The chairman of the building project was George Beckett and Reverend John P. Lewis was the pastor.
In 1963, an addition of 36 feet was added, which included two rest rooms, a new and larger kitchen, extra classrooms (making 6 classrooms in all) plus a larger community room.Lawrence Gray was chairman of the building project, and Rev. John De Young was the pastor.
In 1964 aluminum siding was put on the original church. In 1976 aluminum siding was put on the cement block.”
Beginning in 1987, our beautiful stained glass windows were added.
“The windows used to be just plain glass and we had beautiful red velvet drapes. In the fifties there was talk about stained glass windows, but there was lots of objection because some members that the plain glass windows and drapes looked more like a country church. I guess opinions change over time, as everyone enjoys stained glass windows now.
The beautiful stained glass windows of Olive Branch United Methodist Church are admired at all the churches services, and bring back memories of many dedicated families. In 1987 Evelyn Palmer (Thompson) and Jane Wallace were appointed as a committee for new windows. They contacted Cliff Blowers of North Dayton. He had retired, but had a hobby as a Stained Glass Artist. He was very good and in great demand.
Evelyn and Jane started the project by donating a window in memory of their husbands, Floyd Palmer and Bill Wallace. Evelyn and Floyd were active in church with their children Virginia and Bill. Bill and Jane Wallace were dedicated members with their children, Shirley, Bill, Mike and Danny.
The second window was donated by the Vipperman family in memory of Bill or better known as “Vipp”. After Vipp’s death, Eileen and the children Gayle, Bill and Bob moved to Dayton but visited our community and church often.
The third window to be installed in 1987 was in memory of Bertha Campbell and Lawrence Starr. Bertha and Mort Campbell were very active in the church. Bertha would often entertain the United Methodist Women in her home. Mort was Chairman of the Council. Everyone was saddened when Lawrence Starr died of cancer in 1969. He and Marjorie and their children Carolyn and Larry were such an asset to our church. After Bertha died, we were pleased when Mort and Marjorie started seeing each other and were married in 1975.
In 1988, three more windows were installed. One was dedicated to the Wykoff and Schnecker families. Bob and Connie Wykoff served in many activities. Bob was the Superintendent of Sunday School for several years and also Chairman of the Council. We lost a great worker when Bob died in 1999 and Connie’s health does not permit her to be active. Their grandson, Nick Hanselman, donated our playground equipment as an Eagle Scout project.
Earl and Esther Schnecker were active with four children attending church: Neil, Nels, Cindy and Carl. Neil and Judy and Nels and Barb are still giving their all to our church.
The window dedicated to the Sherwood and Jeffery families goes back to six generations of workers in the church. Bob Jeffery’s parents, Florence and Ed Jeffery, were always at church with their five girls and one son. Bob and Laverna have always been active in church activities, with their two children Ruthie and Bill. In May of this year, Bob and Laverna witnessed their great-grandchildren’s baptisms at Olive Branch UMC.
The window dedicated to the Settlemyre family goes back to 1891, when Baylis Settlemyre gave an acre of land to build the present church. Many remember John and Thelma as active members with their two children Bill and Nancy. We are thankful that Thelma is still going strong. Bill and Pat were always there when their children were young (John, Lyn, and Dale). We are proud of the work Dale and Amy are doing with their children Ali and Drew in our church.
The window behind the altar is in memory of Anne Attlesey. Anne was always at church and enjoyed entertaining in her home. When she died in 1973, she left her farm to the church. The farm was sold, all but 12 acres, which is the site of the parsonage. The proceeds were invested.
We are grateful to Evelyn Thompson and Jane Wallace and to Mr. Blowers. He was always there to help install each window and several men would help with the installation of the windows. Mrs. Blowers would usually come along, and Evelyn and Jane always had a lunch to serve all who helped. Each family paid Mr. Blowers the amount of $400 for each window. The window behind the altar was $1200 and was paid by the church in memory of Anne Attlesey.
On May 21, 1989, the stained glass windows were dedicated with Rev. Bill Johnston officiating. Mr. Blowers was present, as well as representatives of all the families who gave a window.”
--Stella Hagemeyer, 2005
In 1994 we had a new parsonage built that included 5 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, and a basement at the cost of $232,277.80.
In 1999 air conditioning was installed in the church. The church pews were refinished and upholstered at a cost of $11,115.42. The original pews were purchased November 18, 1891 for $308.76 plus $6.34 for freight.
Since then the hardwood floors have been refinished in the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. New carpeting has been put in the sanctuary of the church as well. In May of 2003 both rest rooms were refurbished.
In 2004, the church got beautiful vinyl siding, new outside light fixtures, and updated landscaping.
In 2006 extra parking was added on the west side of the church.
In 2007, a new front entrance ramp was designed and built to be handicapped-accessible. It was a gift from the Largent family, in memory of Mary Jane. Also a new asphalt roof was put on the 1948 and 1963 additions.
A memorial garden was added that year at the base of the ramp in honor of the Millard family.
From 1842 to present (2010), Olive Branch United Methodist Church has had 60 pastors total.