The History of Centennial Olivet Baptist Church                                                                                                                                                                                                       Back          


The Harvey Street Church, which later became known as The Centennial Olivet Baptist Church. 


Many years ago, in approximately 1807, two devout deacons, Lee Smith and Calvin Shipp of the York Street Baptist Church, now known as the Calvary Baptist Church,  learned of a Sunday School being held in the home of Washington and Margaret Harris.  This couple would gather people in their home teaching them to read and teaching them about God.  Smith and Shipp organized the Harvey Street Baptist church. 


The late Layman, William Steward was instrumental in the development of the church as he was educated and able to help.  In the early days he was a postman inCalifornia, and he knew the people intimately.  Freedom and a chance for knowledge made fertile soil, so large revivals were common after which candidates for baptism would be taken to the Beargrass Creek for baptism.  


One year an evangelist commonly known as “Big Foot Davis” conducted a fruitful revival and in the excitement of the day that was decided on for baptism – it was the pastor’s Sunday for his salary; the group went against the pastor’s protest and when they returned they found the church locked.  The disgruntled part took shelter onPrentice Streetand later joined the group onNinth Streetwhich finally became theWestChestnutBaptistChurch.


The Harvey Streetgroup continued as such until they finally went to 14th and Broadway.  While there the town was astir with a Centennial celebration. In the meanwhile, a prominent undertaker, a Mr. Taylor was paying the pastor’s salary for another group.  The leaders decided to consolidate the two groups and have them to become known as theCentennialOlivetChurch.  Before long, this group returned to Harvey Street and worshipped in a little wooden structure where many happy souls were converted.   


Centennial always had a good Sunday School and a good choir. She has had only a few superintendents because they have all been persons sold to their tasks. The late Mrs. Mary V. Parrish and Emma Dortch were among the early teachers.  Deacon Dan Dorsey was the last to survive of the early deacons.


The organizing committee of the church was Abe Pope, Adline Butler, Lucinda and William Fields, Margaret Roberts, Puss Marimen and Nelson Roberts.  Abe Pope purchased the lot at 1519 W.St.Catherine from Mr. Ormsby and presented it to the church.  Lumber was purchased from the old Taylor Barracks to erect a small structure.  When partly completed they entered it and gained as new members Sophia Mills, Edmond Thomas, James and Dave Wilson and Nelson Holloway. 


They ordained as deacons, Abe Pope, Dan Dorsey, James Wilson, Edmond Thomas, James Simmons, Nelson Roberts, Ben Mills and John Spruce, later John Dorth.


Among the next converts were Kate Dean Shipp and George Roberts.


Pastors of Centennial were Reverends John Hightower, Nelson Bruitt, Benjamin Franklin, J.W. Lewis from 1884-1919, Thomas J. Lewis from 1919-1927, C.E. Starnes from 1929-1938, L.H. Woolfolk acted from 1938-1949 and W.F. Wilson from 1940-1974.


Sunday School Superintendents were Washington Harris, Henry Harris, Eleanor W. Starks and Effie Wilson.  The first Sunday School used the Blue Back Speller as literature.


Presidents of Missionary Society:  Eleanor W. Starks, Daisy Lee, Josie Crumes, Agnes McDowell, Reella Alexander. 


Great club leaders:  Katie Shipp, Emma Dortch, Mary Gilliard, Addie Duff, Estella Brannon, Malinda Johnson.


BTU leaders: Alice Dortch, Peter Pincham.


Modern deacon board:  John Valentine, George Alexander, Henry Johnson, Almond Stieger, Arthur Redd, Ben Allen, Delean Cowherd, Arlanda Gazaway, Edward McDowell, Lee Crumes.


Trustees:  Joseph Kilpatrick, James A. Redd, James Day, Clifford Jackson, Fred Johnson, James Bell.


Ministers ordained – E.W. Reed, J.W. Brady, John Anderson