The History of "The Olive Branch"
Nestled on the corner of E. 11th St. and Chicon St. is one of East Austin’s finest houses of worship, the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. But few people know the story of just how Mt. Olive came to be. It was on that faithful day on March 3, 1889 during an “old fashioned camp meeting” held on a hillside campus of what is now known as the Huston-Tillotson University. That a group of eager followers of the word of God under the inspired leadership of the legendary Reverend James H. Harold formed the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The first official church edifice was built at 1103 East 4th St, in a section then called "Mason Town". Mason Town was one of Austin's earliest African American settlements and was named for the prominent Ralph Mason Family who owned a great majority of the property in that area. The Mt. Olive Church prospered and grew under the leadership of Pastor Harrold for a period of 46 faithful years, where it served as an oasis of community activity and a “well spring” spiritual experience and reflection. The next 6 years Mt. Olive was led by the late Rev. Anthony H. Brown.
During this period, the church was relocated to 1113 Leona St., directly behind what is now called “Blackshear Elementary School”. Having been moved to a new location and a new building, the name "New Mt. Olive" was coined by its membership. The next Pastor was Reverend L.J. Griffin who served a short by effective 2 yrs. before being called home to Grace. In October of 1945 during the years of turmoil and the unrest of WW II, the Reverend Herbert A. “H.A.” Sneed became the 4th pastor and successfully doubled the membership while yet maintaining the "old style flavor" of spirituality which the church had become known. Under Pastor Sneed’s leadership, innovative programs were developed which included a music department which was "second to none, and included a 65 voice Radio Choir whose talents and gifts were displayed on a weekly church radio broadcast which could be heard every Sunday morning over the airways of KVET Radio. The choir’s theme song: "It’s My Desire to be like the Lord" would usher in the morning worship experience with angelic chords of gospel singing for the hundreds of loyal East Austin listeners, and it was Mt. Olive’s desire to spread the word of God to as many listeners as possible! Fueled by Pastor Sneed’s vision to move the Mt. Olive church to an even larger venue, Mt. Olive moved for the third time from 1113 Leona St. to our present location at 1800 E. 11th. St. Rev. H.A. Sneed served well and labored hard at Mt. Olive for 26 yrs. until he was called home on March 5, 1972. Through the Sovereignty of God goodness, the Reverend Raphael C. Smith was called to be Mt. Olive’s 5th Pastor. Rev. Smith continued to emphasize that "There is no plan but God's plan" and focused those energies on Evangelism, Mission and Education. Mt. Olive continued to grow and prosper under his leadership and Pastor Smith’s was given a Godly vision to erect the current edifice, which was completed and dedicated on September 14, 1986 at a 3:00 pm service presided by Pastor G.V. Clark of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church. This building like no other of its kind in East Austin was fashioned and built with the assistance of Pastor Smith and the Mt. Olive Deacons. Valued at well over $1 Million this “Jewel of East Austin” was a testament of commitment and obedience to God’s goodness. For 27 years Pastor Smith was the Shepard of God’s flock until his retirement in 1999.
Which brings us to the present, Reverend Richard E. Carter became the sixth in the linage of the great Godly leadership here at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in February 16, 2000. Under his watch, Mt. Olive has grown both in numbers and in spirit. Pastor Carter placed special emphasis on biblical growth from the youngest member to the eldest saint. His continued commitment to “sharpening the irons” of the membership lead to the creation of energetic ministries such as G.O.S.S. “Growth Oriented Sunday School”, a fully functioning Youth Church, “First Impressions” Guest Ministries” just to name a few . This coupled with his unmistakable humble walk and inspiring style of preaching and teaching has given credence to the Mt. Olive Baptist Church moniker of “Spiritual Leadership through Up reach, In reach and Outreach”! As we look at Mt. Olive past, its present and its bright future we can say with confidence that “All things truly do work together for those who love the Lord and who are called for his purpose”!
To God Be the Glory and Let Mt. Olive Rejoice!