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 Four

 

The First Revival

Henrietta Turner wrote in The Macon Telegraph on August 17, 1930 and in The Henry County Weekly in 1931: During the strenuous war year of 1864 camp meeting was abandoned at Shingleroof. It was not until 1873 that conditions authorized reorganizations. In that year sufficient lumber was cut and sawed from the property for complete rebuilding. The individuals who desired to camp built the tents, paying for the cost of sawing the timber and for the construction of the cabins. The lumber and shingles were furnished by the trustees of the camp ground. At this time the length of the camp meeting was extended to a week. Among those who rebuilt tents or built new ones that year, and subsequent years, were members of the Turner, Harper, Stewart, Fargason, Carmichael, Criddell, Upchurch, Wilson, Elliott, Dailey, Harris, Pair, Watterson, Copeland and Jackson families. Tents were put around the four sides of the square enclosing the tabernacle. Campmeeting life went on as it had before the war. Again cooks, the "water toters" to bring water from the two large, free-flowing springs on the ground, and nurses reigned in the cabins constructed behind the tents. The preachers occupied a separate tent on the south line. They had an individual servant to attend their wants. They were invited out for meals. It was the custom for each family to entertain the preachers for at least one meal. From this time also dates the use of the present horn. When the clear note of the call for services rings out, few realize that it is made by the horn brought by H. M. C. Turner (1844-1908) in 1875, who gave it to W. S. Fargason (1822-1896). From him, it has descended to his youngest son, C. C. Fargason (1872-1959), who feels it an honor and a privilege to blow this hallowed instrument.

The records of nearby Salem Baptist Church indicate that at one time a school was associated with the Campground in some way. Salem was originally organized in 1870; however it was not given the name Salem until September 19, 1874 in a meeting held at the "old Campground Schoolhouse." This is the only mention, which has been found of a "Campground Schoolhouse".

Mrs. Turner wrote that in 1876, following her death, the body of Mrs. Mary Dailey (1815-1876) was carried to the tabernacle and there, at the sanctuary to which she was so devoted, the last rites were read. During the late nineteenth century the preacher's tent was on the south line and the hotel, operated by Sam Dailey (1840-1912), was on the west side. During those years life at Shingleroof went on much as it had before the war. Rude, rough furniture was found in the tents and bonfires made of fat pine knots lighted the grounds. Oil lamps began to be used for light under the tabernacle during the 1870's. Cows and chickens were brought from home and fences were constructed behind the tents to protect the cooking shelter and the main tent from any marauding animal, since stock laws were unknown. In 1882 the Morris, Smith, Elliott, Johnson, Hightower, Brannan, Graham, Bunn, Rowan, Wilson and Nolan families built or rebuilt their tents. Among the tents built in 1886 were the Ward, Glass, Neal, Roundtree, Burch, and Elliott families.

Campmeeting has always been a very important occasion. In the 1990's, Dr. Randy Daniel researched the late nineteenth century issues of The Henry County Weekly and discovered that on September 5, 1879 Governor Colquitt visited Shingleroof on Sunday and addressed an audience of about 3,000 people. The article went on to say, "his sermon was greeted with a hearty approval on all sides, his warm words sank deep into the hearts of our people. Many of the men who had followed him in the wake of battle were present to hear him, and their hearts bounded again with wanton enthusiasm as his voice fell upon their ears. His allusions were chaste and replete with devotion to his Master's cause, and our people as with one accord unite in admiration of the man who could spare enough time from other duties to advance the cause of Christ, and justly win for himself the title of a Christian Governor." In keeping with the ecumenical history of Shingleroof the same issue reported that Dr. Mitchell, the pastor of the Baptist Church at Griffin, preached on Saturday evening and "was pronounced by competent critics to be a masterly effort... Our people seemed well pleased with him, and would be delighted to have him preach in our midst again."

Over the decades many prominent men of God have worshipped at Shingleroof. In 1881 The Henry County Weekly reported over 2500 people in attendance on Campmeeting Sunday; and the renowned Methodist evangelist, Sam Jones, "dropped in on Monday and spent a day or so." The same issue of the paper recorded that a new preacher's tent was constructed and "the most perfect harmony prevails, and the social relations constitute the encampment a very Eden." In 1881, there was a temporary drug store on the grounds housed by Dr. Nolan for the "relief of the afflicted, and his potions were eagerly sought after by certain imprudent gastronomists." This indicates overeating at Campmeeting is not a modern innovation. The following year, 1882, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad was constructed through central Henry County; somewhat reducing the rural isolation of this section.

Vessie Thrasher Rainer wrote in Henry County, Georgia: The Mother of Counties that from 1879 to 1888, Mr. Samuel E. Dailey kept the public tent or hotel In 1882, Mr. Humphrey Tomlinson operated a hack line from the Depot in McDonough to the Campground during meeting. Things seemed to be going well at Shingleroof; however, signs of difficulties began to appear. The Henry County Weekly in 1891 reported that Campmeeting "was as successful in all respects as could have been expected under the circumstances.... All the tents in sufficient repair were occupied throughout the week... . It may be truly said that old Shingleroof has added one more good one to the long list of her enjoyable campmeetings." From these comments it appears that the Campground was suffering from deterioration and neglect. Then on August 12, 1892 The Henry County Weekly reports: "The Shingleroof camp-meeting has been quite a pleasant one this year, both religiously and socially. People do not seem to take as much interest as of yore out of tenting on the old camp ground. It's a time-honored custom of our forefathers and in our humble opinion it should be kept up. Many go for pleasure alone but some good is almost always sure to result and we trust much ever will" The hope was to save a beloved institution.

Then one week later the paper reported a plan for saving the Campground: "The Trustees of Shingleroof Campground have decided upon a plan for the improvement of the premises, which meets the hearty approval of all interested in the meetings and associations of this sacred spot. It is to lease a portion of the land to the highest bidder, and devote the proceeds each year to renovating the stand, beautifying the grounds, etc. There is land enough for an excellent farm, with plenty of room left for camp ground purposes. This is the best plan to permanently maintain the camp meetings there. Now let every friend of old Shingleroof, who has hallowed memories clustering around it, do his or her part and it will continue a source of pleasure and blessings for all time to come, as it has been in the past. Many are the happy days spent by our forefathers within its sacred precincts, and loathe should posterity be to abandon it while hope is held out for a repetition of the same beneficent scenes and incidents. Long live old Shingleroof." We can see from these comments, a century ago, that the themes of religious devotion, love of heritage and cultural preservation were firmly established at Shingleroof. 

End of Chapter Four

 

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Created by Scott Rowan    Copyright (c) June 01, 2000.  All Rights Reserved.