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By Patricia Patula, Town Archivist

We pick up again the lengthy article in The Post titled “Many People Attracted There—A Picture of Rural Loveliness” which described the events at the Grove camp meeting on August 17, 1886.

At 2 p.m. the children’s service was conducted by Dr. Laney. The Post narrator described the children’s recitations of Bible verses beginning with the same letter of the alphabet as “one of the most interesting meetings we have.” Note the use of the word “we.” Could the writer have been one of the camp meeting attendees really interested in spiritual development or was he just participating to get the scoop? The practice of reciting Bible verses beginning with the same letter of the alphabet is still in vogue today. An example is: C–Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Eph 6:1. One can just picture the children in their “tiny camp chairs gathered around the platform” and singing with “a zest that is worthy of example.”

The religious services at the camp meeting dominate the article receiving serious comment by the news reporter who noted the Presiding Elder to be Dr. Reily. The position of the Presiding Elder for a camp meeting is an onerous one as described in a “how-to-manual” written in 1854 by Reverend Barlow Weed Gorham. This book was titled The Camp Meeting Manual: a Practical Book for the Camp Ground, in Two Parts and is assumed to have been used by Methodists because, as is written in it, “camp meetings were a favorite means, especially among Methodists, to spread the Gospel.”

Quoting from the manual, which is still available in print and as an e-book, are these observations about the Presiding Elder:

“. . . woe to the Camp Meeting, and to the luckless Methodists on the ground, if the said Presiding Elder should happen to be a lily-fingered gentleman, who will handle the whole thing at arms’ length, and with his finger-ends, instead of putting himself where he belongs, in the very fore-front of the hottest battle. Of course, he should oversee the preparation of the ground, and be present, and order all the services, from first to last. . .”

The Presiding Elder should also arrange for proper police regulation and make sure rules of order were posted.

Just consider the logistics of coordinating the many speakers and ten-day camp meeting activities without cell phones and texting. The telephone, having been invented in 1876, might have provided some assistance for those progressive enough to own one.

While there is no available confirmation that the ministers serving at the Grove on August 17, 1886, used this manual, the handbook is an intriguing read for the modern mind.

In addition to Dr. Reily, the Presiding Elder, were these gentlemen with their given time slots for religious endeavors. The Post writer did not hesitate to provide this category of details which most likely would not be found in modern day newspaper reporting.

“At 9 o’clock, the regular hour for prayer service, Rev. Mr. Foard presided at the meeting. There was a larger congregation than usual, and the growing interest gives promise of a successful camp meeting. At 10:30 Rev. Dr. Edwards preached from the text: ‘And Moses made a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived.’ His sermon was one of great power. Taking the serpent as a type of Christ, he preached a most eloquent discourse, pointing to the ‘Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.’ Rev. Dr. Price followed with an earnest exhortation, and the congregation was dismissed with the benediction. Addresses were made today by Revs. D.A. Ford and W.C. Griffith, and the singing was conducted by Prof. Glen Poole. At 3 p.m. a consecration meeting was held under the direction of Rev. Charles Baldwin.”

The article concludes with “Camp Notes” mentioning Rev. William Rogers, T. J. Cross, Dr. Laney, and Mr. W.H.H. Smith as other ministers at the Camp. “Wednesday will be missionary day and Rev. Dr. Butler, formerly missionary to India and Mexico, will preach at 10:30 a.m. The afternoon meeting will be in charge of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society.”

The Post writer must be admired for his dedication to acquiring such detailed information to report to the readers of the newspaper.

The Washington Post (1887-1922); Aug. 18, 1886; ProQuest Historical Newspapers; The Washington Post p.4

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