Olena is the oldest township in Henderson County and was for many years its political center.
After the Black Hawk War in 1832 settlements were quite rapid. The settlement of this township dates back to the arrival of John Gibson and family in the year 1833. The family consisted of the following: Mother, father, three sons, Samuel, Thomas and James and one daughter Sarah Gibson Lant. Until the next spring his was the only settlement in township 9, Range 5.
During the Black Hawk War his daughter, Sarah Gibson Lant, was with other women in a block house near Monmouth for protection from the Indians.
Mr. Gibson died in 1858. His son Andrew, by his second marriage, was the first white child born in this township. During the spring and summer of 1834 John Dunn, Robert Kendall, John Shull, J.B. and T.J. Fort came into this section. John Dunn is buried in the Watson Cemetery.
Robert Kendall, another of this group, came from Ohio bringing with him considerable capital. He entered the land on which Olena was located.
Cyrus Steele erected a steam saw mill on his farm west of Olena in 1835. At first the town was located on the south side of the road.
Robert Kendall opened the first store and built a double log cabin on the site of Mr. C.H. Curry's former residence. (This is east of the present village across the road to the north from the grain bins now owned by Mrs. B. Galbraith.)
In 1843 he put up a two story brick building which was used alternately as a store and dwelling and was later used as a hotel until it came into possession of Ira Putney, Sr. It was then taken down and the brick put into the foundation of a two story frame building used for store and post office. It was destroyed by fire.
About 1870 George Detrick and Repass were largely engaged in making wagons and buggies. Minnick & Son, and L. Johnson made and repaired boots and shoes.
Olena also contained a good harness shop, two blacksmith shops, a dressmaking and milliner shop kept by Mrs. Margaret Finney, a general store, and a good drug store. It also maintained a first class brass band, a literary society, a good singing school and gave two public concerts each year.
Olena at one time supported two resident ministers and two or three resident doctors and a good school.
About the beginning of the Civil War a flag staff was erected in front of the brick hotel and the colors for the first time floated over Olena. People from far and near came to see the flag raised.
Many of the boys answered their country's call.
The first school in Olena township was opened in a log cabin, 12 feet square opposite the Watson Cemetery east of Olena. This school numbered 20 pupils. This building was abandoned and a frame building erected opposite the Frank Pearson residence. (This where today Roger Wolford's house is located.) After several years Ira Putney moved this building to Olena and later to Stronghurst, using it for a store until it was destroyed by fire.
The Olena Post Office was closed in 1904. Andrew Gibson was the last postmaster. Rural route one extending from Olena to Gladstone and east five miles to South Henderson, was established in 1904, and Albert Hult was the first carrier.
The M.E.Church of Olena was organized in the year 1836 or 1837. In 1855 the Methodists built a substantial edifice which was dedicated in 1857. Among the first members were Joseph Watson, Nathanial Marsten and William Cowden.
The first Associate Presbyterian congregation was organized about the year 1836. members from this congregation united with others at Olena and were organized into the United Presbyterian Church of Olena in 1859. The church was built in 1862. (Land was purchased from James Dean.) Prominent among its members were the Rankins, Kendalls, Whites, Andrews, Gibsons, Best and Lants.
The Methodist church has sent out four of its young members to preach the Gospel, Rev. W. Mark, Rev. James Cowden, Rev. Wm. Watson and Rev. Joseph Watson.
About 1916 the U.P.congregation disbanded and the M.E. and U.P. congregation exchanged properties. The M.E. congregation now worships in the church built by the U.P. congregation.
(No original date is given for this article, but in 1964 the building was the Olena community church.)