Saturday, August 29, 2015

How the First Camp Meeting Ushered in the Second Great Awakening

 by Tamera Lynn Kraft
The year was 1800. Within the last 30 years, the United States had become a nation, adopted a Constitution, and had, within the last year, elected its second president, John Adams, when an unusual church service in Red River, Kentucky near the border of Tennessee ushered in a move of God called the Second Great Awakening that would sweep the nation for years to come.

A series of meetings was organized in June by Presbyterian minister James McGready, and many Presbyterian and Methodists ministers took part. Because many other congregations located along Muddy River and Gasper River planned to attend, it was decided the meeting would be held outside near the Red River Meeting House. This was the first “camp meeting” reportedly held in the United States.

The services were well attending and going well. On the last day of services, as William Hodge was preaching, a woman stood and started shouting praises to God. The service ended, but nobody was willing to leave. Mr. Hodge, according to an account by Methodist minister, John McGee, “felt such a power come on him that he quit his seat and sat down in the floor of the pulpit.” At that point McGee began to tremble, and the congregation started weeping. Revival broke out as people started shouting, and the floor was covered with those who had been slain in the Spirit.

A letter from McGready described the service.

"In June, the sacrament was administered at Red River. This was the greatest time we had ever seen before. On Monday multitudes were struck down under awful conviction; the cries of the distressed filled the whole house. There you might see profane swearers, and sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ There frolicers, and dancers crying for mercy. There you might see little children of ten, eleven and twelve years of age, praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress. During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, ten persons we believe, were savingly brought home to Christ."

After the Red River Camp Meeting, meetings where people would travel long distances and camp at the site (camp meetings) spread throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Southern Ohio in what became known as the Revival of 1800. McGready travelled well into October where even bad weather didn’t keep people away.

John Rankin also started camp meetings into Tennessee and North Carolina with many of the same results. Later he settled in Ripley, Ohio where he conducted an underground railroad station. He claimed over 1,000 escaped slaves that made their way to freedom went through his home.

In 1801, Methodist preacher Barton Stone attended one of the camp meetings near Red River. He decided to organize his own camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. 20,000 people attended, and revival broke out. Over the next year, more than 10,000 people visited Cane Ridge services where unusual moves of God were reported.

One feature of these camp meeting revivals was the presence and conversion of blacks, many of whom were slaves. Women, children, and blacks were also allowed to participate as exhorters, lay people who preached impromptu sermons encouraging others. Many who came out of the revivals became staunch abolitionists. Because of the expanded role of women, black, and children in these revivals and because of the exuberant expressions during the services, many religious leaders came out against these revivals. But the criticism did not discourage people from attending. Before long, a Great Awakening was sweeping the nation.

Soldier's Heart

Noah Andrews, a soldier with the Ohio Seventh Regiment can’t wait to get home now that his three year enlistment is coming to an end. He plans to start a new life with his young wife. Molly was only sixteen when she married her hero husband. She prayed every day for him to return home safe and take over the burden of running a farm. But they can’t keep the war from following Noah home. Can they build a life together when his soldier’s heart comes between them?

Available online:
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Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio. Soldier’s Heart and A Christmas Promise are two of her historical novellas that have been published. She has been a finalist in a number of writing contests including Frasier Award, Tara Writing Contest (3rd place), and NEOCW (2nd place). You can contact Tamera online at


  1. I remember attending several tent revivals when I was young. One was led by Kathryn Kuhlman. Thanks for the interesting post, Tamera

  2. This was interesting! I wrote about this and other revivals in my book, WHO GOES THERE?

  3. Thanks for the reminder of where we were 200 years ago. We need a revival like this again. I remember the old tent revivals we had when I was a youngster.

  4. Oh, Tamera, your post brings back so many delightful childhood memories. My father was a music leader - now called minister of music - at tent camp meetings. Thank you.