The congregation of Bedford County’s Olive Branch Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1881, though the current building dates to circa 1896. Sitting atop the charming frame T-shaped building is its original bell tower, topped by an unusual tin fixture resembling a fleur-de-lis with a spire reaching skyward. The original four African American trustees, from the Pullen and Broad families, all born before Emancipation, received the land from the Meads, the former white owners of the land. The church’s original membership was drawn from the farming families of the surrounding area. It is evocative of the Black Baptist Missionary movement, known in Virginia from about 1815, which held as its most important traditions home missionary activity and Sunday school instruction. Olive Branch is the home church of the Reverend Noel C. Taylor, Roanoke’s first and only African American mayor, and is where he delivered his first trial sermon in 1955. A small cemetery is on the Olive Branch Missionary Baptist Church grounds, containing six post-1960 graves, as well as several other unmarked fieldstones no longer in their original positions.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark