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Johnson Olive, 1816-1885
One of the Wonders of the Age, or, The Life and Times of Rev. Johnson Olive, Wake County, North Carolina
Raleigh: Edwards, Broughton & Co., 1886.


Johnson Olive was born in 1816 on his father's farm in Chatham County, North Carolina, the oldest of eight children. He became a devout Christian in the months following his eighteenth birthday and began helping the Reverend P. W. Dowd at his services. In 1841, Olive married Martha Hunter. Five years after their marriage, he was ordained a Baptist minister and began preaching regularly, which he continued to do until his oldest daughter died. Overwhelmed by grief, he was unable to work for five years. In 1866, Olive returned to his calling and began writing a manuscript about his spiritual turmoil. His son, H. C. Olive, edited and completed the work, publishing it in 1886 under the title, One of the Wonders of the Age; or, The Life and Times of Rev. Johnson Olive, Wake County, North Carolina. Johnson Olive died in 1885, the year before its publication.

In his narrative, Olive describes his spiritual development and his struggles with depression and alienation. Olive tells of his visits to camp meetings, his religious study, and his call to preach. He recounts how his plans to move his family west were curtailed by the ill health of two children and the death of his oldest daughter. The autobiographical portion of the text ends around 1863. However, Olive's son continues the account with information about his father's despondency and mental illness during the Civil War, which prevented him from serving in the army. H. C. Olive includes several of his father's poems and hymns, closing with a series of brief commentaries written by friends and family as testimonies to Rev. Olive's character.

Work Consulted: Knight, Lucian Lamar, comp., Biographical Dictionary of Southern Authors, 1929, Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1978.

Armistead Lemon
Harris Henderson

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