Clergyman. A Methodist minister and gospel mission founder, Oliver was born June 9, 1833, in Edgefield District. He was admitted to the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1863, in time becoming a recognized leader of the Holiness movement as it spread through South Carolina Methodist circles.
In 1871 Oliver was appointed special agent by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to start an orphanage. After raising $15,000 he purchased the campus of the Spartanburg Female College for the orphanage, becoming the first superintendent of the Carolina Orphan Home. Funding was a challenge, however, and the orphan- age closed in 1874.
Oliver is best known for a rescue mission he later founded in Columbia to serve as a refuge for homeless and troubled men. He purchased a lot at the corner of Assembly and Taylor streets in Columbia in 1888, for what became the Oliver Rescue Mission. The following year a gospel tabernacle was constructed.
By then Oliver had come under the influence of the Holiness movement. In 1890 he announced his plan to launch a Holiness periodical, Way of Faith, with the subtitle and Neglected Themes. The prospectus promoting it proclaimed that articles would emphasize “Justification, Entire Sanctification and Divine Healing,” as well as tithing and Prohibition. The editorial office was in Columbia, with the Reverend L. R. Pickett of Texas serving as editor, while Oliver was both assistant editor and superintendent of the mission.
At Oliver’s death in 1891, the mission property was deeded to a group of trustees to continue the work. J. M. Pike took over leadership of the mission and editorial responsibilities for the Way of Faith. The periodical and the mission underwent independent, but related developments after Oliver’s death. The Way of Faith relocated to Louisville in 1931 when it merged with the Pentecostal Herald. The mission continued its humanitarian work, offering a soup kitchen and housing for men. Under the leadership of the Reverend Eli Alston Wilkes, Jr., resident superintendent from 1959 to 1963, it inaugurated a program to serve recently released prisoners that in time became its own organization, the Alston Wilkes Society. Meals on Wheels in Columbia also had its start at the Oliver Gospel Mission.
Oliver was married to (Mary) Frances Thompson, a well-to-do Charleston native whose financial means may have helped the gospel mission get under way. There is no record of children. Oliver died on August 2, 1891, near Cherokee Springs in Spartanburg County. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Spartanburg County.
Betts, Albert D. History of South Carolina Methodism. Columbia, S.C.: Advocate Press, 1952.