Shingleroof Campmeeting

    

Ten Generations of Worship in the Pioneer  Tradition
Located in Henry County, Georgia U.S.A
Documented by Gene Morris Jr.
Henry County Historian
A Local Legacies Project Submitted to
The U.S. Library of Congress in 1999

 

Chapter Two

 

The Founding

The deed for Shingleroof Campground was signed October 12, 1831 and is recorded in the Henry County Courthouse. Wade H, Turner (1786-1865), William H. White, William M. Crawford, Henry C. Merett, Francis E. Manson, Roderick Harper (1782-1866), Samuel C. Dailey (1800-c. 1881), James Pattillo (1781-1860) and James Coker purchased the property as trustees appointed by the Methodist Campmeeting Ground for a sales price of $280.00. The location of the property was the "west half of land lot fifty nine in the seventh District of said county of Henry and being the place where the present campground is now situated and containing one hundred one and a fourth acres more or less". Since the beginning, Shingleroof has been owned and operated by this independent Board of Trustees. The legal description verifies that a campmeeting was held on the grounds prior to October 1831. This site was centrally located in Henry County, had good access to the major pioneer roads and met the necessary test of an adequate water supply, with two strong year-round springs on the property to serve the needs of the large population which would congregate to camp on the grounds for one week each year.

Charles Hardy, writing in the December 12, 1834 edition of the Christian Advocate reported, "regular meeting took place in Henry County, McDonough Circuit, from the 28th of August to the 5th of September. Here good order generally prevailed and great grace rested upon the congregation - 50 souls were freed from the guilt of sin, and justified by faith in the Son of God, and 32 united with the cross-bearing followers of the blessed Jesus."

An article by Henrietta Lambdin Turner (1893-1976) in The Henry County Weekly in August of 1931, during the Shingleroof Centennial celebration included some reminiscences of the old timers about the early days she said, "Campmeeting was the event of the year. To the early settlers, scattered throughout this vast county, seventy miles square, without any roads worthy of the name, and faced with the necessity of converting forest land into fertile farms, it was a task to travel any distance or to stay away any length of time. Consequently it was the custom to meet annually at one of the campmeeting grounds for fellowship and worship. The stand was a brush arbor and crude tents, little more than huts, accommodated the families. A few servants ministered to their wants and the time was spent visiting, comparing experiences and worshiping." This article mentions the existence of other early campmeetings in Henry County.

An article by Mrs. Turner in The Macon Telegraph on August 17, 1930 tells us "several camp grounds sprang up at scattered places in the county. Old Concord, Timberridge, Mt. Bethel, Sardis and Shingleroof. Shingleroof Campground owes its name to the fact that the tabernacle or stand was changed from a brush arbor to a durable frame structure covered with shingles before any other camp ground in the county was so dignified." Of these campmeetings: Concord, Mt. Bethel and Shingleroof were Methodist, Timberridge was Presbyterian and Sardis was Baptist. Shingleroof is the only one of the five that survives. It is also worth noting that four other nineteenth century campmeetings survive in neighboring counties within a twenty-five mile radius of Shingleroof. Mrs. Turner records a story told to her by Ophelia Fargason Green (1854-1941), the daughter of one of the pioneer campers, herself an elderly woman in 1930; " ofher mother being carried there as an infant in arms in 1835. The baby, Margaret Turner (1835- 1914), was acclaimed as being the prettiest baby there and won further fame from the fact that she stayed six weeks. Her father, Levi Turner (1809-1889), was stricken with typhoid fever soon after camp meeting started and had to stay until he recovered." Death and disease were common aspects of pioneer life.

By the 1830's the campmeeting tradition was well established: however, it remained controversial, as can be seen from the following article in the Southern Christian Advocate, September 16, 1837. "These meetings, ever since their introduction, have been, to their friends, objects of the warmest praise, and to then" enemies, objects of the most unlimited censure. Methodists generally have considered them as among the most efficient means of grace, and have looked on them as a source from which the church might hope to derive not only great additions in number, but also that spiritual benefit which saves the soul. The enemies of Camp Meetings, on the other hand, have loudly denounced them as scenes of confusion and disorder, worse than are to be witnessed in a mad house. But after all, we believe they are destined to outlive and to live down all the prejudices of foes and cavilers, and to justify the warmest praise of their friends." History has proven this 1837 observer right; campmeetings survive. The July 7, 1843 edition of the Southern Christian Advocate reported that the Campmeeting Schedule for 1843 in Cherokee District: New Hope-McDonough Circuit announced a starting date of August 2nd.

Over the past two centuries campmeetings have had many doubters and detractors. In 1854, Rev. B. W. Gorham published the Camp Meeting Manual - A Practical Book for the Camp Ground. This book covered his ideas and opinions on how camp grounds should be organized and how camp meetings should be conducted. In the introduction I gave a brief description of the 'tents' people dwell in at Shingleroof. These rustic structures are dear to our hearts and memories; however Rev. Gorham was strongly opposed to the construction of, what he termed, "board tents". His objections were centered on his opinion flat: "Their appearance is calculated to excite a class of low and ludicrous ideas, since they give a spectator rather the idea of a huddle of Irish railroad shanties, than of a worshipping people, 'dwelling in the goodly tents of Jacob'. They are dark and unpleasant within, as well as unsightly without. They do not afford as thorough protection from rain as a cloth tent, properly constructed. And, They are more expensive than cloth tents." We take exception with the criticisms, voiced in 1854, and counter that without these rustic, semi-permanent, structures campmeeting would likely have disappeared as an institution during the many long periods of economic hardship and disaster we have passed through over these first 170 years.

The people of Henry County and specifically Shingleroof have always been an agricultural people. We are not now, nor have we ever been great record keepers. In light of this the existence of the antebellum and wartime journal of Margaret Helen Dailey Turner (1842- 1904) gives us some unique insights into life in Henry County and Shingleroof during this important period. Miss Dailey was raised on her father's plantation at Dailey's Factory on Walnut Creek in Henry County. This excerpt from the journal is from the introduction, in which she describes the events, which occurred in her life prior to the time she began keeping the journal in earnest. Margaret Helen Dailey wrote of the role of campmeeting in her religious conversion experience as follows: "In one of my dreams, the Judgement Day had come, and I was found a guilty, condemned sinner, fit only for the companionship of the wicked, and all the fallen angels, with Lucifer for our chief tormentor, and the 'worm that never dies' preying upon my immortality. I woke to find that I was still out of perdition and Oh, how thankful was I that it was a dream! But the impression never forsook me... I commenced praying for salvation, determined that if I were spared until our Camp Meeting, then two or three weeks off, that I would then seek until I obtained the 'pearl of great price'. And right there I fell into an error; I thought that a person could not efiectually seek the salvation of his soul at any other place than at church. I still attended Camp Meeting, and on the night of the 11th of September 1853, I was converted to God. The next night I had a clearer sense of my conversion, after uniting myself with the Church." We know the meetings continued through the 1850's because Albert Gray wrote in the Southern Christian Advocate on October 7, 1858: "From McDonough Circuit: We have just closed our campmeeting, in the good results of which all the churches more or less have shared. At this campmeeting we had few, but zealous laborers. The last two days of the meeting were specially favored with the presence of God. 19 joined the church and there were about as many conversions." 

End of Chapter Two

 

 

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