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 Nine

 

The Modern Era

While a student at the College of St. Francis in 1994, Nancy Paul Miller wrote a paper of her recollections of Shingleroof Campmeeting. She stated that in "1944 running water and electricity came to the tenters. I remember when we got our refrigerator - instead of an ice box, an indoor bathroom - instead of going across the road to an outhouse." The coming of electricity and running water added some comfort and convenience to campmeeting but they in no way changed the character of the institution. Going to the spring continued to be a major source of recreation and social interaction even though it no longer served a utilitarian function. A new two story Hotel was opened on the south side of the Campground in 1944 and was operated for many years by Union Methodist Church and others.

Shingleroof Campmeeting began a period of renewal and prosperity following World War II and the preceding two decade long depression. Sarah Myrick, wrote in The Atlanta Journal on August 21, 1954: "And the people who come to see their families and great old friends say it doesn't seem to change much from year to year - except that C. C. Fargason (1872-1959) moves his chair a little closer to the pulpit and Mrs. Minnie Fargason Wilson (1866-1963) doesn't hear quite as well as she used to. Mrs. Wilson sat in the pews throughout three services a day all week, although she says she "no more hears the preachin' than if there wasn't any preachin"'. But after all, she's been there ever since she can remember, so she says she pretty much knows what he's saying even though she can't hear too well. Mrs. Wilson has an important task at the meeting. She's the official hornblower, who calls the campers to the ancient shingle-roofed tabernacle for the services. Her brother bought the horn especially for camp meetings 75 years ago." Dr. Randy Daniel wrote in the Henry Herald on August 5, 1994 that until the 1950's Shingleroof tenant farmers operated a "two-horse farm" on the premises. Richard and Sylvia Crumbley ported in the Shingleroof Campground Sesquicentennial that the Bowens gave their tent to the youth group of Union Methodist Church in 1950. And in the same book the tenters in the Clint Crumbley tent recorded that their tent, which George Alexander and Jim Fields built in 1936, was sold to the Salem Baptist Church young people in 1957.

Through the decades the love of campmeeting flows on from generation to generation. The themes of religious devotion, love of heritage and cultural preservation continue and mature with the passing years. Betty Carrollton reported in The Atlanta Constitution on August 31, 1962, "the original charm of Shingle Roof Camp is as lasting as the clear water of the spring, which is still the favorite spot of 'courting couples'. 'Likely as not,' a camper observed, nodding toward a pair of teenagers trudging hand-in-hand toward the spring, 'their folks footprints helped form that path. There's been many a couple to get engaged while they were here during tenting time. Now those couples come back to camp - with their children'. One of Shingle-Roofs most enthusiastic campers, "Miss Minnie", now 96 years old, has been tenting "all my life". But two years ago she relinquished the honor of blowing the bugle to a member of the younger generation. Tenting is old hat to Mrs. Phil Callaway too. A talented pianist, the McDonough grandmother has been playing for services at the tabernacle for over 40 years. And she's played for some 2,000 consecutive services during the past 33 years. Mrs. Callaway is among campers who've witnessed changes over the years. She thinks tenting is "more trouble" now than in the old days. "Of course, years ago we brought everything we needed on the wagon with us. And if we forgot something or ran out of some particular kind of food, we just did without it. Now folks are always jumping into their cars, going back to town to get something they think they need." While tenting is a special treat for visitors, tenting is just one daylong adventure for the youngsters. Starting with a story hour each morning, there is a wide range of supervised recreation sandwiched in between services. It's lights out at 11 p.m."

The 1960's may have been a time of national Cultural Revolution; however, at Shngleroof they were a time of cultural nourishment, continuity and affirmation. The campground continued to be a central theme in the lives of the old families that had gathered there since pioneer times. In the Shingleroof Campground Sesquicentennial, Eugenia Price reported that their new family "tent was completed just prior to opening night of campmeeting in 1960. The tent has been the host to many social occasions through the years including family reunions, choir suppers, Sunday School class parties, 4th of July get-togethers, birthday parties, Halloween, and spend the night parties." Also the tent was the first home, for a few months, of her oldest daughter, Jane after her marriage. On December 24, 1964, a tornado passed across the Campground and porches were blown off several tents, roofs were damaged and several ancient oak trees were uprooted.

Mary Rowan Daniel wrote in her Shingleroof Campground Sesquicentennial that "early meetings were held by itinerant ministers and were quite Pentecostal with much emotional shouting and confessing from the mourner's bench. In the nineteen seventies it has evolved more to a nurturing of faith and renewing of Christian fellowship." And, Elsie Glass Rowan recalled that; "The testimonies given by my grandmothers under the tabernacle come alive in my memories as I watch the vapor trails of mammoth jets crisscross the beautiful sky above the encampment. It is as if to emphasize that the God for whom they testified still lives, all powerful, all loving, binding us to them although they long ago left this physical world. The sermons soon leave our memories, but the old familiar songs haunt us and bind us in sweet memories to those who shared them with us."

During the Henry County Sesquicentennial Tour of Homes in 1971, the lunch was served at the Shingleroof Hotel Dining Room on Saturday, April 24, 1971 to raise money for the Henry County Public Library Building Fund, the price was $1.25 and the menu was old fashioned vegetable soup, Talmadge ham biscuits and cookies for dessert. This was only natural considering the central location of the campground and the prominent role it has played in the history of Henry County. In 1972 Melissa Phillips Hensell began her career as official pianist when Mary Ammons Callaway retired. It is interesting to note that both Mary Ammons Callaway and Melissa Phillips Hensel began their tenures as Official Campmeeting Pianist while still teenagers. Mary Callaway played for over 50 years and Melissa Hensel has now played for 28 years. To achieve this kind of continuity you have to start them young. The enthusiastic piano playing at Shingleroof is a major part of the worship experience. During the 1970's the floor of the Tabernacle was concreted; prior to that time the tabernacle floor was dirt covered covered with wheat straw or wood shavings in the same manner as the tents. In 1977 the hodge-podge of old pews under the Tabernacle were replaced with new pews. The new pews were paid for by the families and as the program stated at the dedication ceremony in 1977; "These pews have been placed in the Arbor for the benefit of the many who shall come this way to worship. They are dedicated to the glory of God and in memory and in honor of those we love cherish and respect." In 1979 a new choir loft and new piano were added. It was not until 1984 that the springs ceased to serve as the sole water supply for the Campmeeting, in that year County water became available and was connected to the campground water system.

In an August 27, 1980 article in the Henry Herald, Donna Mote interviewed Sarah White Morris (1903-1993), who first came to Shingleroof around 1910. "Mrs. Sarah Morris explained one thing that makes campmeeting special to her, 'We don't dress up, the rich and the poor look alike and worship and are happy.' Mrs. Morris says that today's youngsters are not as rowdy as those before them since they used to need a bailiff on the grounds all the time. Some people ask, 'Why do you want to go out there in the heat?' Mrs. Morris names quite a few special things that justify her tenting each year. "The children have such freedom. There is always enough change from year to year to make it interesting, but Shingleroof is always the same. We older folks are always thankful for making it another year. It seems like the Lord is closer to us here, or we are closer to Him'." Donna Mote went on to report that those who tented at Shingleroof in 1980 were, as is customary, of many faiths and backgrounds; but the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians continued to predominate. The tally by denominations ran as follows: Primitive Baptist-I, Lutherans-1, Pentacostal-l, Roman Catholics-3, Christian-5, Assembly of God-6, Episcopalians-11, Presbyterians-142, Baptists-200, Methodists-229.

Over the years' the Big Spring fell into a state of neglect. Then in 1986 the Betty Elliott Davis Family rebuilt the Big Spring and built a gazebo over the spring in honor of Dovie Bryans Elliott (1894-1982), William Joseph Elliott (1879-1941), Walter Eugene Davis, Dorothy Elliott Paul (1919-1999) and Marcella Elliott Mote. Then Buddy and Betty Moseley Luce built a large picnic pavilion near the Spring in memory of Henrietta Trayhan Bryans (1855-1951) and Silas Greenberry Bryans (1854-1926) and Lollie Bryans Moseley (1882-1967). Dorothy Elliott Paul paved the walkway and the family of Melinda Lewis Clifford placed a small gazebo in her memory. The Eighties was the decade of monuments. In 1980, the Colonel Charles Zachary Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy placed a historical marker honoring Shingleroof Campmeeting for its important role in the War Between the States. Then on March 28, 1982 the people of Shingleroof gathered again, this time for the dedication of the State of Georgia Historical Marker which had been erected at the Highway 155 entrance to tell the historical significance of Shingleroof Campmeeting.

1980 marked the 150th Anniversary of Campmeeting at Shingleroof and was the occasion of much celebrating. Christy Crawford writing in the Henry Neighbor on August 21, 1980 reported: "Hundreds of Henry County citizens enjoyed the porch displays, the covered wagon parade, dinner on the grounds and evening services, which ware part of the 150 year celebration of Shingleroof Campground, held last Saturday. 1 guess we had about 1,000 people off and on during the day watching the parade or looking at the decorated porches,' said Shingleroof Historical Chairwoman Mrs. Harold Daniel. 'We just had a wonderful turnout for the parade of history where everybody that dressed for the occasion followed the covered wagon around the camp circle,' she said. At least 30 of the porches were decorated with old-fashioned household items and furniture. A covered dish supper was held at the end of the day. An evening worship service was the closing of the celebration. "The tabernacle, which holds 1,000 people, was almost full that night,' she said. 'So few things remain the same,' said Mrs. Daniel. 'But it seems that even today the children want to hold on to a part of their heritage'." Billie Cheney Speed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution Weekend on August 23, 1980 also described the sesquicentennial year: 'It appears to be a casual social gathering in rustic surroundings - that is, until a horn is sounded, calling the people to a good old evangelistic service at Shingleroof Campground's tabernacle. 'The preaching and old time hymns give us that spiritual renewal we need to carry us through another year,' said Mrs. John Cook, 85, who had come to have lunch with friends at the two story white frame house known as the Shingleroof Hotel. Mrs. Annie Brannan Rowan, 88, talked about the early days when her parents, George and Mary Brannan, first brought her and the rest of their family to the camp meeting. In addition to camp meeting, Shingleroof is used for social gatherings and weddings. It's booked each Sunday, April through October for family reunions with two often going on at the same time - one at the tabernacle and the other in the hotel."

The recurring themes of continuity and family wore described by Billy Lewis, Jr., age 20, in a 1979 letter about Shingleroof he said: "Life is full of change, but the campground doesn't actually change. I realize that I am no longer the little boy who played between the tents; a girl a few tents down got married. But there are other teenagers to take our places and there is another little boy to play between the tents. He will find basically the same campground I found. Lifestyles and problems outside will change but campmeeting remains simple. Living close, our family experiences each other in a special way. There is a fellowship not around doing. We are not pushed for time. People are concerned about each other." 

End of Chapter Nine

 

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