By Patricia Patula, Town Archivist
The Evening Star correspondent, who signed his article with his initials J. R. M., began his Aug. 8, 1892, newspaper report with a split, and unusually long title: “Everything’s Ready for the Camp Meeting – Directory of the Grove.” J.R.M. opens his narration in a similar manner as his Washington Post peers announcing “Rev. Richard Emmons of Washington preached in the tabernacle yesterday morning and evening. Everything is ready for the opening of the camp tomorrow, Tuesday, evening at 7:30 o’clock, when Rev. E. O. Eldridge will preach.”
The directory portion for the Washington Grove Camp Meeting lists ALL occupants on First through Six Avenues, South Avenue, Chestnut Avenue, the Circle, Park Place, Grove Avenue, Broadway, and even the Albany Hotel. There are at least 162 names, some counted as families and others as couples or singles. What motivated these newspaper reporters to write up an entire directory of camp meeting attendees? Was it required by their editors?
[After a closer look, it became clear why this particular newspaper article had been preserved for generations in a family archive and sent to the Town of Washington Grove as an historical artifact. It was from Sara Bettencourt, a descendant of the Jackson family whose names are listed on Second and Third Avenues thus providing verification of this family’s presence at the Camp Meeting in the Grove in 1892.]
Of equal importance to dedicated correspondent J. R. M., however, is the music event that involved camp attendees, but occurred outside the camp meeting itself. He writes: “Quite a large number of singers, under the direction of Mrs. J. R. Mickle, went over to Rockville yesterday [August 7, 1892] to assist in the dedication of the new Methodist Church there… Among those who went from the Grove to assist in the music were Mrs. W. H. Allen, Mr. E. Bergman, Misses Naomi Naylor Jennie Mickle, Ollie Travers and Ella Laurenson and W. J. Parmer, A. E. Middleton, Fred Allen, Emery Wilson, J. R. Mickle, Alfred Wood and James Houghton.”
Reporter J.R.M. acknowledged each participant: “Mrs. Mickle, Mrs. Buck and Messrs. Palmer and Middleton sang a quartet, ‘Give Praise Unto God.’ Miss Laurenson sang a solo, ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.’ Emery Wilson sang a bass solo, ‘Calvary.’ Misses Laurenson, Mrs. Buck and Messrs. Allen and Wilson sang a quartet, ‘Only a Beam of Sunshine.’ Mrs. J. R. Mickle was the precentor [sic] and Mrs. G. W. Offutt the organist.” [While we have no confirmation that these songs were also used at the camp meeting itself, there is a strong possibility that, due to the Methodist connection, they were sung at the services. This list is of special interest to church musicians.]
The correspondent continues: “Mrs. Ward and Mrs. Robinson furnished refreshments for the entire party, and a bountiful supply of fried chicken soon disappeared. The church was dedicated as ‘Moore’s Chapel.’ Rev. Robert Moore is the pastor, who has worked hard to have a church in this community. It is a pretty Gothic building and is located in West End Park. The party returned to the Grove in the wee sma’ [sic] hours of the morning and made the walkin [sic] ring with their sweet songs.”
The narrator was surely present to hear the “sweet songs” of music in the early hours of the morning and to see that the singing was done while walking. Was it done under starlight or did some have a lantern to carry? It is approximately five miles from Washington Grove to West End Park [a subdivision] in Rockville, so most likely wagons of some sort provided transportation, for at least part of the way. What light sources were there for safe travel? There were no street lights at the camp – that did not happen until 1914, and even then, after PEPCO’s installation of the lights, few cottages had lighting. One wonders how the other campers felt about these exuberant musicians, obviously in a party spirit, coming back at that time of night.
In other articles of this series, some of the Washington Post writers mentioned music at the camp meetings. For example, on August 20, 1883, the correspondent recalled both the band’s presence at the Temperance Day event and Miss Annie Fieldmeyer’s singing which was “one of the most attractive features of the day which unfortunately was one that was disagreeably warm.”
In an August 6, 1897, Post article is written “. . . At night an impromptu choir makes the woods resound with music until 9 or 10 o’clock, when all retire and silence reigns supreme.”
“In the evening [of the camp meeting Aug. 1, 1901] the Rev. Dr. Huntley, pastor of Jefferson Street Church, Baltimore, preached to a large congregation. A pleasing feature of the evening service was the music by a large choir, of which Mr. James Dyer, of Washington, is conductor. The camp meeting will continue nine days.”
The Washington Post on June 23, 1903, announced that “Col. George A. Pearre, who will deliver a patriotic address on the Fourth of July, will meet with a hearty reception. Delegations will be in attendance from Rockville, Gaithersburg, Laytonsville, and Damascus. Music will be sung by the Grove chorus choir of fifty voices, under the leadership of P. S. Foster, of Washington, D. C.”
Over the years, the camp meeting tradition of hymn singing became replaced with a more varied repertoire as expressed in this excerpt from the report of the Association’s Board of Trustee’s President, Edwin A. Swingle [April 30, 1925]. He wrote: “The Washington Grove Band will entertain at 5 o’clock today with a public concert to be given at the Circle, and tonight at 8:00 P.M. will present a drama in the Auditorium. On June 20, 1925, the Choir of the Church of the Covenant will give a recital in the Auditorium. All of these concerts merit your attendance and hearty support.”
The valued tradition of music in Washington Grove was off to a good start!
i Edwards, Philip K. Washington Grove 1873-1937(1988), p.250
ii The Washington Post (1877-1922) Aug. 21, 1883; Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. 3
iii The Washington Post (1877-1922) July 3, 1880; Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg.2
iv The Washington Post (1877-1922) Aug. 2, 1901; Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. 4
v The Washington Post (1877-1922) June 24, 1903; Proquest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg.4
vi Washington Grove Archives: Annual Report of the President (Edwin A. Swingle) April 30, 1925