Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Old Time Camp Meetings

My husband and I were at his work Christmas Dinner and we had the privilege of sitting across from his boss, Paul. Paul is a huge history buff and an encyclopedia of information. During our conversation, a fire at Balls Creek Campground came up. Balls Creek is in Catawba County, NC.  The camp meeting campgrounds is used specifically for just that, camp meetings, which are usually held in August. After some questions about the 'tents' that had burned at the campground which are actually buildings, my interest was spiked. 

I think most of us have heard the term Camp Meetings and visualize something in our heads of what they were like. Surprisingly there are still camp meetings today in some areas, NC having two in their state. And surprisingly they are still somewhat the same considering the difference of one hundred plus years.

So what were they, really? Presbyterian minister James McGready is credited for the first large Camp Meeting in America in the late 18th century. 

                                          By Dubourg, M., engraverMilbert, Jacques GĂ©rard, 1766-1840 , artist -, Public Domain, 
Camp meetings came about due to the mass amounts of Americans who flooded out west in the late 18th century. Although the west population grew immensely, western America had vast amounts of land and people didn't live close to each other or for that matter many didn't live close to a town. This is what brought about the circuit riders of the mid 1700's to the frontier and to the rural areas of the south.

These pioneers who took on settling a wild west longed for fellowship and worship. The circuit riders were clergy men assigned to geographic territories that they would travel to. They'd minister to the people of those areas. But this still didn't fill all the needs of the settlers. The Camp Meetings helped fill that gap. The meetings were always held at a time when families could leave their farms, crops, and work to spend several days away in travel, fellowship, and worship.

Circuit Riders
By Edward Eggleston - Illustration from The Circuit Rider: A Tale of the Heroic Age, Public Domain,

Word of mouth, newspaper ads, flyers, and posters were ways the word of Camp Meetings got out. As many as 10,000 to 20,000 people would show up at these events. Many would travel long distances to gather and worship. The settlers would pitch tents, and camp out for days as the outdoor Church Camp Meeting continued for up to a week. The service would go all day and well into the night. There would be lots of preaching, prayer meetings, singing, as well as weddings and baptisms. This week long of fellowship helped to revive and renew the spirits and the settlers. 

Public Domain,
1839 Methodist Camp Meeting
The powerful preaching that took place in these Camp Meetings is credited with help starting the Second Great Awakening. Not only the desire for fellowship and the yearning for worship brought people in, but also curiosity. During those compelling sermons, many souls were saved. This caused churches to grow in the west.

How about you? Did you know what a true Camp Meeting was? Have you been to a real Camp Meeting before? How about your family, parents, grandparents? 

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.

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  1. I didn't realize that "camp meetings" would be separate from the "tent revivals" I've heard of before. It makes sense, though. What a wonderful idea to spend a week of fellowship. As a family, we went to some camp weeks for instruction and strengthening of our faith. It is a wonderful experience! Good to see you here, Debbie Lynne!

    1. Hey Connie! Thanks for sharing. I've never gone but after talking with Paul about them I really want to go to one! They sound like they would be an amazing experience drawing one closer to the Lord as well as great fellowship!

  2. I attended several tent meetings as a kid. The most memorable was when Kathryn Kulman held a camp meeting in a tent set up in our church's parking lot.

  3. Vickie, I'd love to go sometime. I've been to a camp revival one time when I was very young and can barely remember it. But these were week long meetings that went on all day long. Wow! I guess in some ways like our conferences today only they never moved around and were always in the same place.