A mile north of the original village of Pickensville (now near the spot where Highway 123 and Highway 8 intersect), Methodists erected a brush arbor and began worshiping in 1846 at a spot called Happy Hollow. This was the first church of any kind in the village, and was named Mt. Olivet.
In 1847 the church was officially recognized as a Methodist Church. Our founding pastor was the Rev. George Moore, and the Rev. Barnet Smith assisted at the first service. The Easley Democrat newspaper records that at the very first service “Rev. Smith was preaching under the power of the Holy Ghost, something in the form of a dove mysteriously appeared upon the left shoulder of the preacher, and passing from one to the other, disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.”
In 1848, Joshua and Mabala Mansell donated five acres of land in what is now the city of Easley —though Easley was still more than 25 years away from being born — and the church moved to land that is now the West View Cemetery. From 1846 to 1874 the congregation held services in an open-air shelter. It’s said that attendance greatly dipped during the winter months. They continued to hold camp meetings back at Happy Hollow until 1878 when “drunken rowdies from outside the area” made holding those services intolerable.
Big changes for the area came in 1874 — especially for the Methodists — as the railroad came and put tracks right through part of the Methodist property. The result was a financial windfall for the church, which was able to erect a white building with white columns and a wide porch. Green shutters adorned the windows on the outside, and colored paper was glued to the window panes inside to give the effect of stained glass. As the railroad expanded over the years, the church again benefited financially, though its property was slowly being whittled away. In addition to serving as the Methodist Church, that building also served as the first school, and the meeting place for the area Baptists.
Later the congregation changed its name to Easley First Methodist, not only because it was the first Methodist church in the area, but also because it was the first church, period. The church sold that property to the City of Easley in 1928 and moved to its present location on West First Avenue. This move was partly due to the noise of the trains.
In 2021, it will be the 175th year of formal Christian worship in this area, and 2022 will be the 175th year of our official church. This is a gift not just to us in this church, but also to every Christian congregation in this town. We have much to thank in the hardy pioneers who started Mt. Olivet Methodist.
(All citations are from “A History of First United Methodist Church, Easley, South Carolina, 1846-1996” by Broadus Hopkins and Carol Ann Hoxit.)
Mt. Olivet Methodist Church circa 1878