Mount Olive Baptist Church

Mount Olive Baptist Missionary Church has enthusiastically been serving the spiritual needs of the Twinsburg Heights community for over 85 years. Within the three communities only the Twinsburg Congregational Church has a longer continuous history.

Not long after the Heights was established as an African American community within Twinsburg, a small group of residents met to form what would eventually become Mount Olive Baptist Church.

The small group, meeting in the home of John and Emma Mckinney, first organized themselves on May 25, 1932. The group included the Mckinneys, Hiram and Betty Studevant, Louise and Blanch McDonald, acting secretary Christine Golden and Rev. Wilder, who served as the initial chairman.

The congregation held their services in the Mckinney’s home until April 16. 1933 when they relocated to The Church of God in Christ on Eaton Street, where they continued to meet for the next year.

In 1933 though, Charles Brady of the Ravenna Building Co and the developer of Twinsburg Heights, had promised a church to the first minister who purchased a home in the development. Rev. John Ribbins, previously of Cleveland, purchased a home in early 1934 and was awarded a lot on the current church site at the corner of Oxford and Yale. Ribbins’ house, after several remodels, still stands.

Pastor Ribbins capitalized on the standing offer from Charles Brady of the Ravenna Building Company to provide land for a church to the first minister to purchase a house in the Heights.

The men of the community dug and built a basement for the church, volunteering their free labor during the W.P.A. era. On the fourth Sunday in April of 1934, the congregation marched from The Church of God in Christ to the new church and held services their for the first time. The church consisted only of a basement, which would be the congregation’s home for the next three years. And while it has continued to grow over the years, both spiritually and physically, The Church of God in Christ structure no longer exists.

In the spring of 1937 the membership started work on the framework for what was to become the upper sanctuary. It was completed by that winter. In the subsequent years a pulpit area and a choir loft were also added. In 1970 though a major renovation occurred when a front room, church office, choir room, restrooms and a pastor’s study were added.

Mt. Olive, currently led my the Rev. Wallace Thomas, continues to serve the Twinsburg Heights community. The Heights has always been well served by its churches, with six congregations currently residing within the community, but Mt. Olive is the originator.

For more information, check out Mt. Olive’s website.

History of the Heights

There is a another community (besides the Township, city, and village) with a rich if too often unspoken history: Twinsburg Heights. It is often referred to as simply “the hill” by its residents due to it being situated atop a hill. Though officially part of the Township it has always been something of an entity onto its own. It has since its inception been unincorporated. The small development spans all of seven streets, all of which are named after venerable universities—Oxford, Yale, etc. It lies all along and to the west of Hadden Road (previously know as Richner Road) between Darrow and Highland roads. An unusually close-knit and religious community, all the residents were familiar with one another and there was a church nestled on every street.

Land developer Charles H. Brady of Ravenna Building Co. created the master plan for the community. He bought the land and had it surveyed into forty-foot lots. In the 1920s families started moving into the new development. All the lots were sold to African-Americans, the reason for this is not known. The houses that were built were small, often with no basement and in outhouse out back. Driveways were dirt or gravel. It resembled African-American neighborhoods and communities in the deep south. Much like the deep south it was very rural and a number of residents raised pigs or chickens. Carlton Powers, current and long-time Deacon of Mt. Olive Baptist Church said, “I never was in Mississippi, but they tell me it was like they took a part of Mississippi and brought it up in Ohio and planted it there.”

There has always been a sense of family among the residents. Tania Johnson, Fiscal Officer for the Township and life-long resident of the Heights recalled, “even if you weren’t related…you felt like you were related.” Block parties, numerous church and social clubs, and the beloved community center were factors adding to the closeness felt by the residents.

Brady promised a church site to the first pastor to move to the Heights. This was eventually awarded to Reverend John W. Ribbins, who moved from to Cleveland to the Heights. The site for the new church was 2089 Oxford Street at the corners of Oxford and Yale.

The first church meetings in the Heights “ were held in a room rented from Emman Mckinney, and a little later the home of Lewis McDonald served as a meeting place,” according to a History of Twinsburg. May 25, 1932 is the date the church was officially organized with Rev. J. B. Wilder serving as Chairman and Christine Golden acting as secretary. They moved from parishioners homes to  Church of God in Christ, located on Eaton St. in 1933. In late 1934 the congregation moved again, this time to the new church built on Oxford Street, with Rev. Ribbins serving as the first pastor. At this time the church was named Mt. Olive Baptist Church, still active today and the longest running church in the Heights. It was the first of many churches in the community. Some of the other houses of worship that were founded in the Heights included the African Episcopal Methodist Church,  the Sanctuary of Praise, Seventh Day Adventist, Apostolic Church of Christ, and other non-denominational churches.

From the 1940’s, a Mt. Olive Sunday school class.

Though the Heights has been considered a great place to reside by nearly all current and former residents, it has seen its share of injustice. Residents of the Heights have often been the beneficiaries of racism and discrimination. The Heights was never able to establish equality with or independence from the Township or the City.  If the Heights had been incorporated into a village  in the 1960s as was attempted, greatly needed improvements and renovations the community greatly need would have occurred much sooner. Incorporation was always blocked by Township Trustees.

In the mid-80s The Plain Dealer ran an article citing numerous instances of African-American residents of the Heights being the victims of the discrimination. Incidents ranged from school bus drivers refusing to pick up or drop off students in the Heights to police profiling. There was also a rash of fires set to houses and other properties in the Heights.

One of the greatest injustices dealt to the residents of the Heights was the lack of running water and even electricity in many homes. Running water, a given for most Americans by the middle of the Twentieth Century, yet wasn’t commonplace in the Heights until the 1980s. Gas and water lines “came down Hadden, went up Cambridge all the way to Chrysler…but we were not allowed to tap in,” according to Carol Tate. Besides the water line originating in Akron that pumped water to the Chrysler Plant there was also a water line from Cleveland to the village of Twinsburg. Though both lines passed through the Heights, residents of the impoverished community were not allowed to tap into either.

Well into the latter decades of the twentieth century, paved roads were an unknown commodity. “Sometimes the roads were so bad that the bus couldn’t go any further than Hadden Road, so we had to walk from our home to Hadden Road, at least a 10-12 minute walk when conditions are favorable. Sometimes the mud would be over our shoes,” said Ms. Tate. Street lights were uncommon as well. Starting in 1980s a revitalization program happened in the Heights. Finally running water, electricity, sidewalks and paved roads became the norm. Modern homes have been built. It was a long process and immensely overdue.

The Heights has been on the upswing for years, but the difficult times should not be forgotten. Filmmaker Carla Carter, along with a group of high school students, brought the story of Twinsburg Heights to the masses with the documentary, Voices on the Hill. The film has played at a number of film festivals across the country.


Very few businesses have emerged in Twinsburg Heights through the years, but of the few that have existed Gaskins is the most beloved and fondly-remembered. It was a mom and pop store originally known as the Jones Store, as it was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jones. The Jones’, who were famous for verbally sparring in front of the customers, sold their store to Mr. and Mrs. Gaskins, who proved to be much more welcoming owners. Mrs. Gaskins, in particular was known for her generosity and civic-mindedness. She was responsible for getting the first street lights installed in the Heights.

Carol Tate recalls visiting the store as a small child, placing a handful of buttons, she believed was money, atop the counter and in return a knowing and generous Mrs. Gaskins would give her some penny candy. The store stocked necessities such as nylons, produce, frozen meat, luncheon meat and the aforementioned candy. Sadly the store would see its demise due to the redevelopment of the Heights, as all the older buildings were demolished.

Sanctuary of Praise International Ministries

In March of 1983 Bishop William B. Smith, Sr. joined the Apostolic Church on Stanford Street.  Over the next decade the church’s congregation, which was very small upon Smith’s arrival, constantly worked at renovating the small facility for it’s quickly growing membership.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is located on Stanford Street in the Heights, and was once the location of the Apostolic Church now known as the Sanctuary of Praise on Hadden.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is located on Stanford Street in the Heights, and was once the location of the Apostolic Church now known as the Sanctuary of Praise on Hadden.

In April 1994 they choose to break ground on a new facility still within the Heights neighborhood. The new facility, renamed The Sanctuary of Praise, relocated just a few blocks onto Haden Rd.

Over the next decade the Church’s activities continued to grow, requiring the Church to add 7,500 square feet to the original complex.  The expansion including a larger chapel, classrooms, office space and a hall. Now known as the Main Campus, to differentiate from the Southern Campus located in Akron, the new facility has served as the focal point of a number of international ministries, while still being led by Bishop Smith.

Their original facility is now home of the Seventh-Day Adventists and still serves as a Church for the Heights neighborhood.


Herrick’s Greenhouse Bombing

A bombing, a greenhouse, and political dissatisfaction: together, they might set the scene for a run-of-the-mill crime novel. This, however, was no dime-store rag, but a very real list of circumstances for the events that unfolded on February 12, 1969. Carl Herrick’s Greenhouse, once located at 8935 Ravenna Road (currently Kollman’s Greenhouse), was rocked when a strategically placed stick of dynamite tore through the glass and greenery.

Carl Herrick, greenhouse owner and operator, stands feet away from where a stick of dynamite ripped through

Carl Herrick, greenhouse owner and operator, stands feet away from where a stick of dynamite ripped through

“At approximately midnight last Wednesday, a bomb was placed at the base of the front wall of Carl Herrick’s Greenhouse. Mr. Herrick didn’t hear the dynamite explode. At 2:00 a.m. he was awakened by an alarm from the greenhouse indicating that the temperature was dangerously low. The glass windows covering the front wall of the greenhouse had all been blown out, and the freezing winds had killed all the vegetation within 15 feet of the wall. Friends worked with Herrick through the night to cover the wall so that no greater loss would be suffered. Most speculated that Herrick, a Twinsburg Township Trustee, was the target of this destructive action because of his views on annexation. Mr. Herrick doesn’t know. He feels that the only enemies he has are political, and he doesn’t feel that his political enemies would stoop so low.”

Reports from the Twinsburg Bulletin indicated that Carl Herrick’s views on further secession and annexation, pertaining to Twinsburg Heights and the Township, could have sparked the greenhouse bombing. No suspects were apprehended in connection with the bombing, and no additional violence against plants was reported.

Twinsburg Heights Community Center

The Community Center was the social epicenter of Twinsburg Heights. Many longtime residents, when asked to name their earliest memories of the area, spoke of its dirt roads and the Community Center. John Curry, an elder statesman of the Heights, has said: “My fondest memory is the Community Center.”

It was home to the Mothers Club, a social group of older women from the community with similar interests. According to Carlton Powers: “The Community Center evolved from the Mothers Club, as far as I can remember.” Once it became the Community Center it benefited not only the woman in the neighborhood, but all residents. The first building was just a very small brick building, constructed completely by the men in the neighborhood.

Every June through August, there was a summer youth program at the center. For almost all the children in the Heights, this was the highlight of the sweltering summer months. As they grew older, many of the former attendees of the summer program became volunteers, donating their time to the youngsters that followed in their footsteps. The center offered hot meals, sports activities, swimming, educational programs, and numerous other activities for the children.

Adults benefited greatly from the community center as well; WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs were offered, and a local doctor gave free examinations there. The greatest contribution it made to the community was as a gathering place. It truly provided a sense of community to so many residents. Sadly, the center closed down earlier this decade due to a lack of support and funding (many of the residents who previously frequented the institution had moved away).