The sturdy pioneers were loyal to their God and were not willing for their children to grow up without the blessing of their church about them. And thus the Camp Grounds came into being, where all might gather together to refresh the souls of the saints and call sinners to repentance.
In 1837 the Marietta Camp Ground was established. It is located four miles from Marietta on the Roswell Road, on a tract of land containing forty acres.
This land was bought for $40. Four men, Isaac Sewell, Samuel Sewell, Wisdom Gober and William Mayes, each gave $5 and the remainder was secured in small donations. Chappell Groover rode horse-back to Meriweather county to secure deeds.
The first meeting was held under a brush arbor. At this meeting the men carried guns to protect themselves from the ruffians who declared they would drive out the worshippers.
The original tenters at this first camp meeting were: Wisdom Gober, William Mayes, Jessie Olsin, Samuel Sewell, Isaac Sewell, Jesse Gober, Walter Manning, John W. Allgood, Jimmie Gaines, and others. These tenters moved by wagon, ox-cart and horse-back from miles around with their families, household goods and a few slaves for servants. The cooking was often done in front of the tents over a bed of coals. Roasting-ears were cooked on the cob in a big iron pot swung over the coals.
For months before, the tenters were busy preparing for camp meeting. In the early days, spinning and weaving and making cloth into garmets consumed much time, for there were no sewing machines and all this was done by hand. Water buckets were of cedar, many of them home-made. They were scoured with soap and sand until they were bright and the brass hoops looked like gold
The tenting was kept up each year by these families. As the older ones passed away, their children and grand-children continued the custom. New names were added through the years.
During the Civil War the camping was discontinued, but services were held at appointed times, if only a prayer service. The ladies brought basket dinner, and often soldiers were in congregation. In the letters written by the soldiers to their loved ones, they would refer to the camp ground in relating their religious experiences. Edmund P. Gaines told of returning home after the surrender, stopping by the camp ground to kneel at the alter and rededicate his life to God. He later became a Methodist minister.
In 1870 the tenting was again resumed on the old campground, and during the following fifty years flourished.
A road was built around the encampment with the arbor in the center. Along this road the tents were built.
About forty families tented each year. Among this number were: Lewis Groover, Jake Groover, Samuel Sewell, Will Groover, Isaac Sewell, Jimmie Gaines, Larkin Groover, John Chandler, John Steele, Henry Sauls, I.A. Reed, John L. Carpenter, Sherwood Coker, Joe Gable, T.W. Garrison, Bud Scoggins, Bird Wallace, Mitchell McKee, John Gantt, Billy Hagood, Samuel Bullah, Columbus Sewell, Marion Manning, Bill Frey, Pink Power, L.M. Power, Tom Gober, Frank McGarity, Parks Manning, Joe Dunn, Charlie Sewell, Wiley Groover, Jack Medley, Riley Medley, Jim Ray, Virgil Hamby, Jimmie Murdock, Judge Hamby, Dock Allgood, Charlie Burtz, Zack Rodgers, William Sauls, Cicero Manning, J.P. Groover.
By this time they began to use candles for lights. The candles were the only expense, sometimes amounting to as much as $1.00. The preacher's only charge was board for himself and horse. A public collection was never taken.
Some of the preachers were Rev. Gad Pierce, Bishop Haygood, and W.D. Anderson. A text recalled by a tenter was " If the foundations be shaken wherewith shall the nation stand." Much of the preaching in the early days was done by local preachers, among whom was S.J. Bellah, Joe Gable and John Sanges. When S.R. England was made presiding elder of the Marietta district, Bishop Candler said: "Sherman, take care of the North Georgia Camp Grounds."
A trumpet is used to call every one to the services. Jack Medley served as trumpeter for twenty years. Mr. Harry Robinson also served in this capacity for many years. At present time, Theron Blackwell is trumpeter.
For many years Marion Manning led the singing and his daughter, Mrs. Mae Stephens, served as organist.
The atmosphere of camp meeting was one of spiritual uplift. Mr. Jim Ray moved his family from below Powder Springs and all knew when they arrived upon hallowed ground, for Mr. Ray came expectant of a blessing for he came shouting and praising God. Only the Recording Angel knows the many hundreds who, too, have been converted and received spiritual inspiration in attendance upon the services of old-fashioned songs and gospel messages brought four times each day, besides the sunrise and vesper meetings of groups held at the tents and out among the beautiful trees, in nature's great out-of-doors, close to the heart of God.
It was truly a time of "old-time religion," singing, praying and shouting. Between preaching services, prayer meetings were held in the tents and many conversions were made at these meetings. Sometimes in the late hours of the night we were awakened by the shout of a new-born soul and others rejoicing with them. Although all meetings were marked by simplicity, there seemed to be a deep devotion and reverence that is often lost in formalities. The campground became a sacred place to all tenters; many would bring their children back to the historic spot to be christened.
During the century many have been converted at camp meetings and their names have been added to the various churches. Thus, not only Methodist but other denominations have felt the power and influence of the Marietta Campground.
Between services the young people found time for pleasure, as they would promenade under the majestic oaks, down the path to the spring. Many romances begun here ended with wedding bells.
Honorable mention is here given to some who have served as trustees of the Campground. There are others, possibly, of whom we have not heard that too deserve credit for their untiring interest and support: Isaac Sewell, Tom Gober, John W. Allgood, Dock Allgood, D.A. Sewell, W.M. Gober, Will Allgood, C.T. Sewell, C.O. Sewell, W.M. Frey, B.T. Frey.
The trustees of the campground gave land on which to build a school house and the lumber was cut from the trees of the encampment. The Campground Church was also built on the encampment and much of the lumber used was secured there. Ground was also given for a large cemetery, with lots at no charge, for resident members of the community church.
The Campground Tabernacle - ca. 1838
For about thirty years the 3 o'clock service on Wednesday afternoon has been designated as a memorial to those who had passed away since thelast camp meeting. (In recent times, this memorial service has been held on the first Sunday at the 3:00pm service)
Only since 1919 have minutes been kept of the business sessions of the tent holders, presided over by the presiding elder, who was chairman of this committee. T.J. Hamby was elected as first secretary, serving until 1933. That year, Mrs. T.J. Hamby was elected to succeed her husband, and is now serving in that capacity.
The Centennial is being observed this year (1937), with a pageant, to be given the last night of the meeting, Aug. 11, 1937, which will portray the history of the campground. The characters will be descendants of the original tenters.
All Former ministers and presiding elders have been invited to attend. Of all former presiding elders only Rev. J.P. Erwin, Rev. H.H. Jones, Rev. Nath Thompson and the present elder, Rev. Willis M. Jones, remain.
Many of the fifth generation of the original tenters still tent on the old campground, or attend each year, with their parents and grandparents. Among these are Margaret and Frank Picklesimer; Kate, Sarah and Clare Foster; Leo, Julius and Billie Blackwell; Theresa Kemp, Jane Rodenberg, Sue Sewell, Rebecca Watson, Betty, Bill and Sallie Gober; Roy and William Manning; Richard Keefe, Harry Johnson, Edmund Gaines, Jr., Jean Hagood, Clinton Bowen, Mary Elizabeth Power, Katherine Power Jones, Marian power, Joan West, Dean Power, Jr., Irma Power, Larry Power, Robert Power, Jr., John Greene, Elizabeth Greene, and others.