Morrison Campground occupies a special place in my life, and I have written this history as a narrative. History is comprised of people and people are what Morrison Campground is about. For one hundred and thirty-eight years now Morrison Campground has existed, and it continues to bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ in the world.
Two very special people in my life are the people to whom this narrative is dedicated. They are my great-grandmother, Emmie Kerce McClellan, and her childhood schoolmate, Minnie Hulcherson Glenn. As a child I remember sitting and listening to them reminisce, and in my mind I would travel back in time to share their lives with them.
I want to thank the Board of Trustees of Morrison Campground for asking me to put this narrative down, and I want to thank my good friend, Gayla McLean, for helping me make this writing a reality.
Then to the generations of Morrison Campground kids who as of yet are not born, may this narrative serve to show them that their roots lie deep in the history of Georgia, Floyd County and the Christian Church.
May we wrap our memories around us and lie down to pleasant dreams to awaken in a House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
~ Gil Watson
What is so special about Morrison’s Campground? The skeptic might respond that it lacks the modern conveniences and even creature comforts we have grown to appreciate. There is no air-conditioning or automatic dishwasher. Washing machines and dryers are non-existent. Stereo systems and Jacuzzis are woefully lacking. And most residences don’t even have a television. It is primitive at best. Tin roofs, barely basic indoor plumbing and outdated refrigeration are the commonplace. Furnishings are antiquated and out of fashion. Yet for 125 years the faithful have made their August pilgrimage to set up housekeeping and find their way to worship under the crude wooden arbor accompanied by outmoded musical instruments, while sitting on painful home-made wooden benches.
Camp meeting time creates memories and the memories draw us back just as surely as the candle flies are drawn to bright lights under the arbor at evening time. When the old bell rings beckoning the tenters to “come to service,” years may separate the time when last you came, but the memory makes it appear that nothing has changed. People we love may not be here in the flesh, but their spirit never leaves. Each new camp meeting brings us back again to join the “Communion of the Saints.”
Camp meeting time means getting to see old friends. Or as the members of the Carwile family shared, “it is continuing the family tradition and remembering big family dinners as the family came together in reunion.” The Melvin Grogan family built their “tent” in July of 1985, and Margaret Grogan shares, “I was saved here and my son Doug came to know the Lord here. I love having the big table in our kitchen filled with people sharing food.” Nancy Lanham Snow reflects, “We started tenting in a tiny two-room cabin which Daddy (Forest Lanham) purchased from Mrs. Jewell Selman. We used to play ping pong in the recreation room that is now Mr. and Mrs. Beard’s tent. I remember playing steal-the-bacon and crows and cranes at the end of the children’s service and the happy memory of youth services on the rocks.” Nell Lumpkin Gross Davis remembers the time of the young people’s services on the rocks, too, and playing in the spring as a child and most of all the fellowship.
The McGinnis family remembers that Mr. C. E. Millican built their first tent of wooden planks in 1909. Mamie McGinnis recalled, “Pappa (J. L. McGinnis) gave the tent to my husband and me. He built a block cabin. We had lived there with the old tent until Lester built a block cabin in 1966. He died in 1988. So I camped a year and wasn’t able to camp anymore. Now my children and grandchildren are camping.” Margaret Millican McCurry reflects one of the sad memories was “the first camp meeting after Gene’s (Eugene McCurry) death.” But she continues to come, and the McCurry tent has housed five generations of Millican descendants. The Buster McGinnises (J. L. McGinnis, Jr.) remember with love the devotion of the generations of McGinnises - now three - who have served on the Board of Trustees. They are appreciative of the “peaceful atmosphere and feeling a nearness to God.”
Doris Ward Goddard says she appreciates “knowing that my grandparents came in horse and buggy and that we go a long way back in the history of Mormon’s Campground.” Tracey Goddard Fair, her daughter, shares, “Getting to be with my family again and to be with my extended family in Christ” is her happiest memory of camp meetings.
Sue Wiseman Todd reflects over her parents, Laura and Oscar Wiseman, and remembers when her father helped build the host preacher’s tent. She remembers “courting in the swing on the front porch, the Vesper services on the rocks, going to the creek, bringing the grandchildren back to the tent with Grandmother and Granddaddy Wiseman.” Peggy and Norman Wiseman remember “The eleven o’clock services with cool breezes blowing close to heaven; Mr. Herbert Carwile’s long good prayers; putting our watermelons in the creek to cool before cutting; singing after church under the trees; seeing our children and grandchildren enjoy the fun and fellowship together; remodeling the arbor; the year our cabin was in charge of Bible School.” And then there were those “other” memories. “Eva Ransom was to have her ladies from Second Avenue United Methodist Church for supper in the basement of the Youth Building. We had a good shower of rain so Danny Wiseman, Steve McGinnis and Steve McCurry decided they would reroute the water to come through the basement. It was really fun until Eva found out what was going on. She blew up, and while she admitted ‘boys will be boys,’ we all got together and cleared it up before her group came. Fortunately her food and supper went well.”
Tommy Lawhome said “I’ve never been able to adequately explain why I come to camp meeting and why I love it. I love the people so, but I also love the place. I know that for me the ten days of camp meeting are my favorite days of the year. I don’t think anything comes more strongly to mind than the many hours we all spent around the horseshoe pits. I can still see Ralph Watson and Uncle Jim (Fincher), Gil (Watson) and Sid (Ransom), Wendell (Fincher) and Charles (Williams), Jerry (Lumpkin) and Andrew (Lumpkin), Wanda (Burgess-Ramsey) and Griffin (Ransom), and Judye (Williams) and Ludye (Fincher) and on and on and on with dust on our bare feet and hands either pitching horseshoes or waiting our turn.”
The times change but the memories last. They even grow fonder as the years go by.
Morrison’s Campground was born in the wake of reconstruction in Georgia. Floyd County had known the ravages of war, and this little area nine miles from both Rome and Kingston was plundered by scavenging raids of Yankees. Mrs. Johnson, wife of one of the prominent plantation owners just a few miles away, had worn her silver wrapped in cloths and sewed in pockets to her petticoat. Mrs. Alien, whose plantation house is now the Overseer’s house at Stone Mountain Park in the Antebellum Plantation area, rushed out other house and into the dirt road we know today as Highway 293 between Rome and Kingston to greet the YANKEE INVADERS WITH THE SWIPE OF HER BROOM. My Granny (Emmie Kerce McClellan) used to give the motions and an animated swing as she would declare, “And the Yankee captain said, ‘Madame, don’t you know that you can’t beat the entire union army with a broom?’ To which Mrs. Alien responded, ‘Yes, but I don’t want there to be any doubt whose side I’m on.’”
Rome was rescued from invasion on one occasion by the daring General Nathan Bedford Forrest who captured a large force of Yankees, but “Like kudzu, they just kept comin’.” The war dealt harshly with Floyd County in many ways. The Mizpah Church was burned to the ground. Smoke houses and farmyards were stripped of their holdings. Chickens were slaughtered and hogs as well. “An army moves on its stomach,” and move through Floyd County it did on its way to Atlanta and then to the sea.
The people suffered. They were “as sheep without a shepherd.” Churches had to be rebuilt but not in the opulent style of the columned Greek Revival architecture. Where once they had worshipped in lovely chapels before the war, now they were confined to plain-style houses of worship. Their carved pulpit furniture gave way to simple pine construction. Benches were heart pine boards built as cheaply and as quickly as possible. Their one-room white-framed structures were a constant reminder that even on the Sabbath, the hand of the oppressor had laid its weight heavily on the defeated.
To this land ripe for revival came the camp meeting.
It was a time to gather, sing the old hymns of faith, hear the gospel message and “get right with the Lord.” Many a sinner was convicted of sin and fell before the mourner’s bench. The summer air was sticky and the summer air evoked a tearful repentance in the heart of the soldiers who had come home to a land parched with drought and stripped of bounty. Only through looking to a Higher Power was there any hope at all.
Families at those first camp meetings did not provide permanent dwellings for themselves. They pitched tents. That euphemism “tent” has carried over into today, and the cabins that surround the arbor today are still called “tents.” Those who live in them for the days of the camp meeting are called “tenters.” Some folks lived out of their wagons. Cows and chickens were brought to the camp site and cooking was done in groups. Large black cast-iron kettles were heated to hold the stews and vittles that provided sustenance for the body while the services provided nourishment for the soul. Friendships made during camp meeting time were sometimes not renewed until camp meeting time again the next year. The spark of love was kindled in couples at camp meeting that led to their marriages and their rearing of children to follow in their own footsteps and find future mates at camp meeting too. Camp meeting served both a spiritual and social need in the life of reconstruction in rural Georgia, and Floyd County was no exception. That is why even today many of the families who tent are related to other families in the Campground family.
The spot where the Morrison Camp Meeting began was originally selected by some good people of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South of the Forrestville Charge. Later this became the North Rome Charge. Presently each of the churches that composed the charge - Mizpah, Rush Chapel and North Rome - are charges of their own. The site was about six miles from Rome, and the first meetings were held in 1868 under a brush arbor. A brush arbor was so named because it was a frame of timbers covered with dry brush. The dry brush kept out the hot sun and some of the rain, but it had to constantly be repaired and re-brushed. The pine needles from the native Georgia pine provided a scent of freshness, and as limbs were broken and added on top of the old limbs, it made a thatched roof. The years of 1868 and 1869 were years of brush arbor meetings at Morrison’s. I am not absolutely sure, but I can be reasonably certain that with the preponderance of redbugs that frequent pine straw, there continued with the worshippers a constant reminder of camp meeting long after the services had actually ended.
It was during the brush arbor meetings that Mr. E. R. Morrison of Edinborough, Scotland saw the good that these meeting accomplished. My Granny said that Mr. Morrison was converted at one of the meetings. There is actually no written evidence of this, but the decision on the part of Mr. Morrison to continue the camp meeting for future generations of worshippers is definitely linked to something that happened during this time. Perhaps, in the words of John Wesley, he too "had his heart strangely warmed." Whatever happened, it was his desire to have a permanent campground.
The Morrison family lived in a large farm house that stood on the exact spot where the arbor now stands. Mr. Morrison was willing to give up his home so that an arbor could be built, and the lumber for the first arbor was sawed from the huge trees which stood nearby. They were sawed by Mr. Morrison's own sawmill. On the lovely knoll which it now occupies, in place of his family farm, Mr. Morrison gave a sacrificial gift that continues to give hope to people who come to worship during camp meeting time. Houses in the South were not just dwellings, they were repositories of family history. They reflected the love and the beauty which has made the South famous for its historical homes, and when we think of Mr. Morrison giving up his family home, we must keep this in perspective. From that house Mr. Morrison had sent his son, Travis, to the War Between the States. After Travis returned from the war, he was married there, and it was in this grand old house that his first child, Addie Morrison Barnett, was born.
To walk on the grounds today is to sense that deep love that Mr. Morrison had for the land and for camp meeting. Morrison's Campground was founded on love, and love has been the element that has held it together for these one hundred and twenty-five years. The walk up to the arbor from the Morrison's Campground Road is tree-lined. The oak trees were planted about sixty years ago by Mr. W. E. Kerce, and they form a canopy of intertwined branches and leaves that provide cool shade all the way to the arbor from the road.
Mr. Morrison's grandchildren, Mr. H. M. Morrison, Miss Nettie Morrison, Miss Kate Morrison, Miss Grace Morrison and Mrs. Olivia Morrison Griffin, all bore witness that their grandfather gave the four acres of land that was the original plot for Morrison's Campground out of love for the Methodist Church and the community. Before the deed was signed though, Mr. Morrison sold his place to his son, A. C. Morrison. It is thought that the sale was made with the understanding that a certain amount of land be donated for an arbor and tenting grounds. The deed for the four acres for camp meeting purposes was signed by A. C. Morrison on August 31,1870.
The arbor was soon built by people who were members of the various churches in the surrounding area. Some permanent board and batten dwellings were erected to house the tenters for that first camp meeting which was held under The look of the original building was maintained though, even to the installation of wooden shingles on the roof. However, our newly installed roof of 1993 has asphalt shingles.
On November 11, 1904, a fire swept through the row of "tents" on the east side of the arbor. The fire came in the night and lit up the sky as the old timbers of heart pine burned like kindling. The caretaker at that time was Mr. John Moore. He and Mrs. Moore had a new baby, Horace Moore. They lived in one of the tents, and Mr. Moore had the responsibility of looking after the grounds during the time when camp meeting was not in session. In their haste to get out of their tent in the wake of the approaching fire, they hurried to bring items out into the yard. The baby, still in his bed, was removed from the house and accidentally fell to the ground. Fortunately a good neighbor rescued the unsuspecting infant and returned him to his anxious mother. By camp meeting time in 1905, the people had rebuilt their tents and were ready for camp meeting.
The B. C. Kerce family, from whom I descend, came in a wagon the three miles or so to the camp ground to attend the meetings. Sometimes they would come in the late afternoon. Sometimes they would come on early Saturday morning, and our grandmother would pack a picnic lunch for the day. Granny used to say, "Pa would hitch the mules and put fresh hay in the wagon. We children would pile in. We'd play 'hide the handkerchief in the hay' or we'd sing all the way to the camp ground. Sometimes we'd have straw battles. There were nine of us children not counting Ma and Pa. Sometimes we'd stay with a family that had a tent. We'd sleep on straw mattresses which were laid on plank frames and nailed up against the wall. They might be ten or twelve feet long. We called them bunks. The girls and women slept on one side of the tent, and the boys and men slept on the other side. There were partitions made of curtains strung on wires that kept you from seeing one another. Nothing kept you from hearing what was going on the other side. Talking and giggling would last long after the lights were blown out." That is the way I remember the recollections from my Granny (Emmie Kerce McClellan). She spent hours recounting the stories of her childhood as we would swing in her porch swing on the front porch of her house in Atlanta, and she would tell me of how things used to be "when I was a girl." Granny was my great-grandmother, and since I am an only child, she was my best friend.
I have gone to Morrison's Campground for camp meeting ever since before I was one year old. Its history and its fellowship hold a special place in my heart just as it has for five generations of my family before me. One of my fondest recollections is sitting on the old wall which encloses the spring and listening to my Granny talk with the local historian, "Miss" Delia Blackstock Andrews.
Miss Delia was a small-framed lady of precise words and a drawl that was long and slow, fairly dripping with the enunciations that could paint pictures with words. Her hair had that certain "too" dark tint that made you think that her vanity was still present even at an advanced age. Granny said that Miss Delia was so sensitive about her age that she actually took a nail and scratched the birth date off her twin sister's tombstone to keep her well-guarded secret. Whether that actually happened or not, I really do not know, but if you go to the Mizpah United Methodist Church's cemetery, you will discover that the birth date on Miss Delia's sister's tombstone is scratched off.
The two of them sat on the wall while I waded in the creek that flows from the spring. "Remember, Emmie, when folks used to bring their milk and butter down here and put them in the spring to keep cool?" Granny acknowledged that she did, and she remembered that as a prank they would move jars around so that they would be exchanged with the products belonging to other people. They talked of watermelons chilled in the flowing waters and how they remembered breaking them open on the rocks and partaking of their juicy meat along with their friends. They talked of courting right there in the evenings sitting on the rocks. They reminisced of singing rounds and laughing together. In the recesses of my mind I can still hear their laughter as they talked about the friend who slipped on the wooden bridge and fell into the creek as her white shirtwaist dress clung to her body. The girls were horrified, and the boys thrilled at the sight. It made camp meeting unforgettable.
Miss Delia recounted how the" old arbor that had graced the hill had fallen down under the weight of the "snow of 1886." She talked of how the folks worked together to build a new arbor that was of strong timbers and how the oxen pulled the great logs that were sawn to build it. I could almost see those dedicated working farmers hauling the logs, splitting the shingles and working together as they finished the place of worship. She mentioned Aunt Virey Starks who had been a slave and remained a faithful member of the Mizpah congregation how she baked a caramel cake that was stacked a full ten inches it seemed. Granny continued, "and she always brought it in a basket, remember that?!" Yes they remembered. They remembered that and much more. They lived in the remembrances of those days, and the memories made such a lasting impression on me that I have treasured them always.
Many changes have been brought about at Morrison's. Electrification was perhaps one of the greatest. But to my way of thinking, in-door plumbing has to be right up there near the top. I can remember when we had the path to the two outhouses. Kudzu, wasps and spiders were your constant companions. Then we added a concrete bathhouse and a shower. Now there was a real touch of the modem. The only problem was that the water that flowed from the shower head came directly from the spring at the bottom of the hill by way of a pump house. We were never able to have hot-water heaters, so the showers were a little nippy to say the least. The art of taking a shower in a spring-water shower was to soap up first and then jump in the shower and rinse off without ever really taking time to breathe. A shower at Morrison's was an invigorating experience. Wood stoves have given way to gas or electric models. But nothing can take the place of the memories of home-made fried apple and peach pies in the warmer of a wood stove.
Most of the tents are built of concrete blocks now. Some of them still have the trappings of the old wooden tents, but they all have concrete floors, hot water and bathrooms. Only two of the old wooden tents remain, the Fincher Tent and the Sam Lawhorne Tent on the east side of the arbor. The Bennett Tent on the west side of the arbor was razed last year. Some of the tents are two-storied, most of them have fans for cooling and some of them even have glass windows and air conditioning. Our forebears would scarcely recognize our brand of "tenting."
Ping pong is played in the youth building, and the upstairs housed a cafeteria where meals were provided for a nominal amount. In 1992 the cafeteria ceased to exist, but the building provided not only food but a place for fellowship. This building was originally constructed by the Rome District as the R. Parks Segars Youth Building, a youth retreat for the youth of the district. The building was later sold to the Trustees and has become a permanent part of the function of camp meeting. A new softball field sees constant action from the youngest to the oldest. Everyone is able to play, and there is a concerted effort to involve anyone who wants to participate. The caretaker's house is a four-room house with all the modern conveniences, and George Brandon is presently serving in that capacity. Horseshoes are pitched in the main campus area, and the favorite pastime is still sitting on the porch or under the shade of the trees and catching up on what has happened in the year that has separated us. We hold a Memorial Service during the three o'clock worship service on the last Sunday afternoon, and we have done this for the past eleven years. I began this service and continue to lead it. It is one way that I can repay all that Morrison's means to me and help her never forget the people who have made her worthwhile for all of us.
Various functions have occurred during the year on the campus. The Trustees have held a Flea Market and Bake Sale. The Adorations Quartet held a Labor Day Weekend Gospel Singing, and other denominations have used the arbor for revivals. There have been numerous youth groups and retreat groups who have used the youth building and held special services, and the Trustees hold two yearly "work days" to keep the campus clean.
In recent history the camp meetings are held for ten days beginning on the Friday night before the first Sunday in August. However, that has not always been the case. Years ago the meetings were held in September. Perhaps that was because it was cooler. Later the meetings began on a Friday and ended on the next Thursday. This allowed the housewife time to cook enough food at home to last over the weekend and then go home to re-bake the necessary items to finish out the week. I can still remember when we had ice-boxes in the tents, and the ice man came each day to bring us our much-needed supply. Refrigerators have taken the place of the ice-box, but we still have coolers to hold crushed ice.
Fellowship has been important in the life of the Morrison's Campground family. Once a week during the ten days, we have a watermelon cutting after an evening service. Every tent is supposed to bring a watermelon, and we gather after an evening service and have a great time together. One night during the week we have an ice cream night. Every tent is supposed to churn a homemade chum of ice cream. Then we have an "ice cream bust." You eat so much ice cream that you nearly "burst." There is every imaginable flavor and some you wish you'd never heard of. I'm still partial to Georgia peach ice cream but there is something to meet every taste. The Dessert Night is something else. That is the night when every tent holder is supposed to bring a special dessert. Everybody brings a dessert that would rival a dessert can in a fine French restaurant. My Mother's banana pudding is still my favorite, though. Fellowship is singing in the choir for the adults too. The Camp Meeting Choir is composed of anyone who loves to sing. There were times when guest choirs were invited for the evening services, but it was decided that the Camp Meeting Choir was ourchance to be together once a year and sing. We do make a joyful noise and take great pride in our choir.
The children's program is another area that is of special importance. The program is designed to go through the week beginning on Monday morning and continuing through Friday morning. The children gather for songs, stories, crafts and refreshments. For several years the Mizpah United Methodist Church's Bible School was the impetus for this time of fellowship and learning. The crowds are very large. The highlight of the week is a scavenger hunt held on Friday morning, and where they come up with some of the items on the list is a secret known only to the leaders. On Friday night the children present a program during the evening worship service.
Transportation has changed in these one-hundred and twenty-five years too. In the years after the War Between the States, people either walked or came in carriages or wagons. Now they come in automobiles and some even in campers or other recreational vehicles. Where once there were young black boys to take care of the horses and carriages for a few pieces of change, now there are modem hook-ups and tie-ins to electricity and plumbing.
The first lights used to provide illumination for the services were made from pine knots brought in from the forest. Four sticks of short limbs would be driven into the ground, boards would be placed on these, sods of dirt would be placed on the boards and then the pine knots were put on top of the sod. These provided a bonfire effect and arbor and grounds were lighted. Next came candles. The candles were placed on the beams and lighted to provide the light by which to see. Larger kerosene lamps with reflectors were attached to the side timbers which held up the roof. Later, incandescent lights were strung throughout the arbor, and now the arbor is lighted with fluorescent lights. Ceiling fans are our next step.
The preaching and singing were always outstanding at Morrison's. Before instruments were added, the tunes were pitched with a tuning fork. The song leader would sing a line of the hymns and then the congregation would answer in the antiphonal manner. This was necessary since in the beginning there were no hymn books. Then the piano was added. Song leaders have been Ministers of Music from churches or lay persons who have led the singing. We have even had tent holders lead the singing.
Preachers preached for an hour in those early meetings. Later when benches were added and straw or shavings placed on the floor of the arbor, small children could be kept busy in the floor while the preacher exhorted the people to repent and follow Jesus! Prayer vigils were held. Cottage prayer meetings began many mornings as the people sought the Lord's direction for the camp meeting services. One of my fondest remembrances is of a prayer vigil that took place my junior year in high school (1962). Every half hour was filled throughout the entire night. My own family's time was two-thirty in the morning. My father, my mother and I all knelt together at the altar (Mourner's bench) in the straw for a full thirty minutes. That was perhaps one of the most memorable times of my life. At present the Reverend Jim Ransom, retired United Methodist Minister who also grew up attending Morrison's, leads a 7:30 AM prayer service. In past years the tent holders attended Grove Meetings which were held in wooded areas near the arbor. Youth services were once so heavily attended that you could hear the young people singing all over the campground. Their services were held on the rocks overlooking the spring.
There have always been many visitors to the services. People in the community would attend the evening services with great regularity. The now familiar ringing of the bell would beckon people to come to service. In the early days, though, the bell was preceded by the blowing of a bugle by Mr. Ed McCurry to call people to service.
The arbor was the setting for the wedding of Wendy Ann Fincher and then Lt., now Capt. Bradley Robert. I officiated at the service, and the couple rode off in a horse-drawn surrey. I'm sure all those old timers would have been glad to see a child who had grown up going to camp meeting, as did her mother, father, grandfather, grandmother and great-grandparents, begin her married life under the arbor at this sacred place.
Things have changed a good bit since my earliest remembrances of Camp Meeting, but then in other ways things have hardly changed at all. We still hear the bell ring out the service times. We still worship under the old wooden arbor. Young people still play softball. Older folks still wile away the hours remembering days past and sharing family stories. You can still get a drink of water from the spring across the road and double-dipped ice cream cones are the fast sellers at the stand. The old oak trees shade the walk to the arbor, and occasionally you will see a family picnicking or cutting a watermelon in the shade of the oaks on the grounds. The choir is still comprised of tent holders.
Death robs us of the company of so many of our loved ones with whom we shared our camp meeting days. For six generations now our family has come to camp meeting. In the forty-six years of my life I have never missed coming, and my children join that long line of the faithful who have made the pilgrimage back to the "old time religion" that is entrenched so deeply within us. When my Granny (Emmie Kerce McClellan) was in the nursing home in Marietta, Georgia in 1978, she barely knew one day from the other. But along about mid-July, she looked at Mother (Virginia Hubbard Watson) and me and said, "It's about camp meeting time." How could she have known, except that the time clock of memory buried deeply within her summoned all these recollections and turned her thoughts homeward?
Why though? It is rustic at best. It is downright primitive to most outsiders and is considered fanatical by the overly sophisticated. Yet, to those of us who love it, getting ready for camp meeting comes as naturally as the corn that tassels or the hay that is cut in August.
When I was a little boy, we "tented" with our cousins Judye (Williams), Ludye (Fincher) and Ann (Jones) Kerce. Their mother. Donna Barton Kerce, died and their father, Nolon Kerce, asked mother to stay with the girls. Those were such festive days. What a rush in the maddening pace of trying to get dressed for services with what I somehow surreptitiously thought of as three older sisters. Ann (now Mrs. Bob Jones) was in charge. She always told everybody else what to do and ratted on you when she caught you straying. "Virginia, Gil's bothering us. Virginia, Gil slammed the door again." That wretched screen door did have a tight spring, but I now admit I would shove it a little just to provoke Ann's response.
How we slept people in those days was somewhat akin to stacking cord wood. There were only three bedrooms, and yet we always had a tent full of people. In addition, we all had black women who lived with us and cooked for the ten days. There was a single bed in the front room with a curtain suspended by flimsy wire to provide a protected cubicle for sleeping, and David or Spencer Willis usually slept on it.
Sundays were so chaotic that I am sure hell is a fair comparison. There was no shower in those early days, so everybody had to bathe in a pan. You would get hot water in an aluminum wash pan. The water had to be heated on the wood stove. You would get your pan and go back to your room. The floor was covered with straw, and the smell always made me think of a bam. Many are the socks and underwear that were lost in that straw. When you got back to your room, you would strip down to your underwear and wash down as far as the elastic in your jockey shorts. Then you would wash up as far as the leg bands. Quickly, to be sure no one was watching, you would step out of your BVD's and wash in between. Then equally as quickly, so no one would catch a glimpse of your nakedness, you would dry off and slip into your clean undies. Whew! It makes me sweat just to remember how hot those tiny curtained rooms were.
You could hear everything everybody said. You knew what everybody was doing and you "made do." That was the secret. Interestingly enough, that was precisely what our forebears had to do in the years after the War Between the States when Morrison's Camp Meeting was begun in 1868.
Shorts were the usual attire, though I do remember one particularly stodgy minister who thought they should not be worn on campus. On Sunday you had to wear Sunday clothes to the Sunday School and service.
Service began when the bell would ring and you would see the steady procession out to the arbor. The visiting worshipers were easily distinguished from the tent holders because we all carried cushions with us. Generations of sitting on those wooden slat benches schooled us in body part protection. After all, your mind can absorb only as much as your derriere can endure. A cushioned derriere made a more attentive worshiper. I think that's why pews in our churches are upholstered today.
The singing always thrilled me. The tent holders guarded jealously the specials in music. But the girls (Ann, Ludye and Judye) had a trio and the Ward sisters (Josie Kerce, Elizabeth, Doris Goddard and Joy) had a quartet. Sometimes Donald and Barbara McClain would sing. In later years, Reverend Bob Jones, The Adoration Quartet, Diane Brown Boone, Jane Mundy Threatt, Tommy Lawhorne, Eddie Lawhorne, Wendy Fincher Robert, Ward Williams, Laura Williams Dowdy, Charles Williams and the Morrison Campground Kids (comprised of all the elementary school age youngsters) have provided the music.
Mrs. Irene Beard (formerly Mrs. J. T. Leath) is the organist and Judye Kerce Williams plays the piano. But I remember that Mrs. Nonnie Smith was the pianist from the time I was a child all the way through my years in college. She wore large beaded necklaces and "ear-bobs." In those early days the piano stood on a wooden platform that sagged, and when she would pound the keyboard, the whole platform would shake. Now we have a concrete floor for the platform.
The choir was something special to me in those early years of my recollection. That's when Granny's brothers, Uncle John (John D. Kerce) and Uncle George (George A. Kerce) sang in it. I was so small I would stand on the pew between them. They would lift me up, and one or the other would hold his finger on the place in the Cokesbury Hymnal and I would follow along. Since mimicking their bass voices was an impossibility, I soon learned it was better if I stood next to Uncle Sid (Sidney McClain). He sang tenor and it suited my voice better.
Miss Beck Sproull, Miss Lula Carver, Clara Hutcherson Ransom, Eva Griffin Ransom, Nellie Wiseman Ward, Jane Fincher Lawhome, Eddie Lawhorne, Forrest Lanham, Mrs. Ethel Fletcher, Birdilee Fincher, Buster McGinnis, Jeanette McGinnis are just some of the people I remember now are singing in that Campground Choir. "Proclaim His Sovereign Power to All the World and let his grand and glorious banner be unfurled. Jehovah Reigns. Rejoice - Rejoice - Rejoice. Jehovah Reigns," we'd sing, and the very wooden shakes on the arbor roof would rattle, I'm sure. The "Amens" would sound by Herbert Carlisle, Uncle Jim McClain, Forrest Lanham. The choir would go down to sit with the congregation after this special. Usually this would happen at the offering and sometimes just before the sermon.
Those offering bearers - Oscar Wiseman, Henry Sherman, Eugene McCurry, Dewey Wiseman, Bill Parks, Mr. J. Lester McGinnis, ST., Herbert Carwile, Bob Ransom, Redmond Ransom, Forrest Lanham, Sidney McClain (they are all gone now) shuffling down the straw to the front of the congregation. They would receive those metal cake pans that are still the offering basins and then file through the congregation to receive the offering. Just a few years ago, when the plates were passed, young Robert Ransom (about 4 then), a fifth generation tenter sitting with his grandmother, Eva, decided it was better to receive than to give. Of course, grandmother soon rectified the situation. For most of my life, his grandfather. Bob Ransom had served as Treasurer. Handling money just came naturally.
There were those M.Y.F. times. Reverend James Mitchell, Reverend Jerry McCurdy, Reverend Larry Green, Reverend Julian Brackman are some of the ministers I remember, but there were a host of youth workers too numerous to list who would lead us in the Vesper times on the rocks overlooking the spring. The water rushed by and the birds would sing sweetly. The green leaves of the trees made a canopy of evening shade which would rival the cathedrals in Europe. We made sling shots out of the stems of the grasses and flip the blooms over at the girls. There was Jerry Lumpkin, Grover Brinson, George Barton, Sid Ransom, Barry Lanham, Tony Eberhart (while his father. Reverend J. W. Eberhart, was the host Pastor), Tommy Lawhorne and me. We were the young ones behind Judye, Ludye and Ann, Sue Wiseman, Libby Nell Lumpkin, Lynda Jane Stripling, Ellen Jane Favor, Dudley Stripling, Clayton Mathis, Wendell Fincher, Charles Williams, Spencer Wiseman, Thomas Wiseman. Reverend Jim Ransom would do the programs.
The program seemed meaningful then - "Do You Love Jesus?" "How Can You Be a Christian in Today's World?" I still remember some of those topics. After services the older young people would "court on the rocks." This was an intergenerational ministry even before the term was coined. I can remember older people going down to the spring like pilgrims to the Fountain of Youth. And in some ways it was a Fountain of Youth - their youth and its memory. The cackle of Forrest Lanham's laugh as he wore those Panama straw hats seemed a flashback to a "sportier" day. He always wore brown and white shoes too. He was a sport! And Uncle George Kerce wore those glasses that rode on the bridge of the nose without side pieces. He would come to visit and when he'd leave, he'd say "Toodle de doo." He was a sport too.
They must have been dapper as they would sit on the wall by the spring and contemplate life when it was less complicated. Granny would talk to Jessie McClain Dempsey and Fannie Mae McClain Russell. They would laugh until tears would roll down their faces as they thought of pranks they'd played or coming to Camp Meeting sitting on a bed of hay in a wagon and singing all the way home. Yes, the water of the spring does take one back to the youthful years. I remember our doing "the twist" in the water to Chubby Checker's song - Judy Carwile, Joy Ward, Sid Ransom and me. I see little children now and think of my own Geoff, Chip and Emy. They would wade in the water until their feet turned red and their toes got numb - ferreting out tadpoles and periwinkles. Even a crayfish or two can be captured if you're quick and cautious. Occasionally, one child will throw a cup of ice cold water on another child, and then the water battle begins. Nothing changes - just the faces of the children. I would go with Wanda Burgess-Ramsey and watch her. Now she goes and watches my children.
Granny remembered one visit to the spring when girls in corsets couldn't bend over to get a drink of water. One tried but she was "bound" so tight that when she reached down, the corset cut off the blood flow to her head and she fainted. Girls would take off their shoes and stockings and tuck the tail of their dresses between their legs (but never higher than your knees that was indecent).
A gentleman always offered to fetch a cup of water for a lady. Maybe he'd expect a little peck on the cheek for a reward. Jessie M. Dempsey said one boy who fetched her a cup of water and then puckered up for a kiss heard her say, "Why I'd rather kiss a toad frog." Granny laughed, "Well, who was that toady boy?" "It was Jule Dempsey himself." They both laughed. Jule was the man she later married. "Oh, me, Emmie - them was the good old days, warrent they?" Granny agreed, and I regretted that I'd missed them not realizing that these would be the days I'd remember as the "good old days" when I tell my children of camp meeting.
Oh, if those rocks could only talk! They'd have a story to tell - of Indians stopping to water their horses, of early settlers to Floyd County filling up their barrels, of Mr. Edmund Mormon's family drawing water for the farm, of countless children, youth and adults who had drunk the water that runs from beneath them, of hearing those youth groups sing "Kum Ba Yah, My Lord, Kum Ba Yah."
The rocks became off limits a few years ago. Mr. Morrison intended for the Campground people to always have access to the spring. For years, the very water used in the tents was pumped directly from the spring through pipes that neatly rested on the rocky bottom. Before that, there was the bucket brigade who brought the water to each individual tent for its use then. The present owners aren't so charitable with the spring.
Somewhere during the early 1960s there was talk of some half-crazed person who would take pot-shots at folks who frequented the spring. That was during my teen years. A whole group of us went down to the spring one night aftermost people had gone to bed. We didn't perceive any danger, and we stretched out in the road in opposition to the "Stay Away from the Spring Ruling." There were about ten or fifteen of us shoulder to shoulder, body to body. It was about that same time that my mother and Eva Ransom began to search for us. Eva was in her gown and robe and stamped around the campus like a storm trooper. As timing would have it, a car coming down the road backfired. Topping the hill, Eva saw us stretched out in the road. She yelled back at mother, "Virginia, come quick! That fool woman has killed the children." Such a stir as ensued afterwards should have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Mother and Eva ran down the hill screaming. The start of all the noise, weeping and wailing, scared us and we sat up. When they arrived to find us well, they threatened to kill us just for "scaring them to death." Of course we didn't know what was going on, but I never would accuse us of being innocent. We certainly tried our best not to be.
We teenagers on the left side of the arbor seemed to stay up late - sometimes past the proposed curfew. But mother and Eva always stayed up with us. The hours we spent sitting under the oak trees in front of the Fincher, Ransom and Wiseman tents are too numerous to calculate. And the lights in the Watson tent have burned early into the morning. Young people coming home from dates have stopped in to have a honey baked ham sandwich or mother's left-over banana pudding well past 2 AM. Granny was always there too, but the fact that she allowed us to laugh, joke and carry on without chastising us or becoming irritable is a testimony to her love for young people and her determination to "adjust" to the situation. So many times she would say, "You just gotta adjust. Life's too short to be mad all the time." Not everybody was so willing to have their sleep disturbed. Many of the older men went home because they had to get up and go to work. Bob Ransom almost always did. In the days when we tented in the Kerce tent with the girls, I'm afraid we made the Bradfords' lives miserable. They went to bed at 10 PM and we got started about then. We'd make homemade ice cream, have a front porch full of laughing young people, and Mr. Bradford would knock on the wall of the tent, beckoning a return to civility and peace and quiet.
They no longer tent at Morrison's, but I remember Mrs. Bradford's father, Mr. Oilie McCurry, as a wonderful old gentleman. The Bradfords had two sons, Marion and Wyatt. Marion was a lot smarter than we were. He was a genius. We were more interested in telling jokes, playing pranks, having ball games, pitching horseshoes and courting girls. He read books and made scientific experiments.
We all had to use the one set of public bathrooms which were beneath the Recreation Building. The Recreation Building was not the new one, but was located where Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Beard now tent. Everybody had to use those facilities and showers were taken there too. One day Marion went to the shower. We watched him, and before you knew it someone, though now for the life of me I can't remember who, slipped down and put a stick in the hasp that held the door to the bathroom locked when camp meeting was not in session. That meant that when Marion tried to get out, the door was locked. He screamed and pounded, and it took the greater part of an hour before anyone actually rescued poor Marion. Maybe that's one more reason why the Bradfords don't tent anymore. You do have to "go with the flow."
Jane Fincher Lawhome and Joyce Fincher would make coffee, and wow, what delicious half-moon fried peach and apple pies they would make! They still have the shavings on their floor while most of us have concrete floors now. Birdilee Fincher went on to be with the Lord this past year, but she was one of those folks who just accepted whatever came her way too. She was a lovely lady of faith.
Aunt Frances Barton and Judye and Ludye would always have coffee and many times some homemade cake. I think I have eaten in nearly every tent on the campus. Jerry Lumpkin and I were inseparable as children and young people. Either I was in his tent or he was in mine. Connie and Mebine Lumpkin had a precious little child, Debbie, who died, and I remember going with them to clean out their cabin one time before camp meeting. Connie made Debbie a bed on the hay, and as I looked at her then, I knew that's how Jesus must have looked in the manger in Bethlehem so many years ago. Andrew Lumpkin loved fried pies and Connie would bake them for him. She'd always call me over to have one too. Andrew is gone now, but his son, Phil, bears a striking resemblance to his father who too quickly left us. And Libby Nell's husband Dr. David Gross died all too soon too. The Grosses still come back from North Carolina and our camp meeting family is reunited.
When Jerry and I were about twelve we all had cooks who lived in our cabins and prepared our meals. The Lumpkins' cook was named Elvira. She was a large, heavy- set lady and a great cook. Jerry and I would have to cut the stove wood. We had wood stoves, and the only way to keep the fire hot is to have a lot of stove wood. Elvira was afraid of insects. She hated "those nasty flies a-litin' on my food," and she dressed in a peculiar way for bed. Since she didn't want anything to crawl on her, she tied her feet up in newspaper. She had toilet paper wrapped around her head. She tied kerosene-soaked rags around her wrists and sprayed her room with fly spray. It was one of those old-fashioned metal hand pump-operated sprayers. She would fog up the whole tent in her nightly vigil.
One day Jerry and I found a bug I mean a large wood beetle and put it on her pillow. We carefully made up her bed. We speculated as to what would happen. Finally bedtime came and Jerry and I were the first to bed. We could hardly keep from giggling out loud and giving our plan away. We watched through the cracks. Elvira slipped into her long white seersucker gown with long sleeves. She meticulously wound her head in toilet paper. She fastened her wrists with kerosene-soaked rags (I think this warded off mosquitoes and evil spirits) and sat on the bed to tie up her feet in newspaper. As I look back on this sight through the eyes of memory, it was a dirty, rotten thing to do. But as a preteen, it was the height of fun. She carefully sprayed the air - fogging the whole tent with insecticide and doused the straw floor underneath her bed. Having put the spray away, she turned down the cover - "Oh, sweet Jesus! God help me. Lawd save my soul!" she screamed to the top of her lungs. She fell out of her room and through the curtain which separated the bedroom from the hall. She tumbled head first out in the straw, and our laughter gave us away. We stood on the bed in Jerry's room and looked over the wooden partition. Since there were no ceilings , we had front row seats for the performance. Connie and Meb were not amused. Elvira cast an accusing glance upon us and said, "Why for you scare old Elvira like that?" We both felt guilty. We removed the ugly culprit, and the next day I apologized to Elvira though I think that might have been her last year to cook for the Lumpkins.
If the trees around the campus could talk, what a message they could share! I remember, as far back as I can recall, seeing folks sit under the trees or on their front porches in groups reminiscing about the past or involving themselves in the national pastime of the South - talking politics. Sometimes they roasted the preacher's sermon. They liked or didn't like the way the preacher closed the service. "He's a nice person, but he's just not a camp meeting preacher," I've heard them say. The conversation under those trees would range from a general theological question about something the preacher said to whether he used proper grammar or not. I still remember a preacher reciting a poem from the pulpit after he had been the brunt of much discussion on his abuse of "the King's English." He said, "I'd rather say I seen it when I should 'a said I saw it, than to say I saw it when I ain't ever seen it." Admittedly there is a great truth hidden here. Preachers come in all shapes, sizes and from all educational levels. I have seen healing services with the "laying on of hands" and I have witnessed baptisms. It was under the arbor that my own wife, Carol, first joined the United Methodist Church on transfer of her membership from the Baptist Church. It was under the arbor that I first felt the call into the ministry at age ten. It was under the arbor that I officiated in the wedding of my cousin, Wendy Ann Fincher, to Lt. Bradley Robert. It was under the arbor that I baptized Derek Bryant. It was under the arbor I preached for camp meeting. I look at the arbor now which has been changed and remodeled numerous times. I've worshipped on straw floors, wood shavings and now concrete.
When Mizpah Church was rebuilt after the close of the War Between the States, its altar rail and pulpit were part of a new white plank structure. In 1959 a new brick church was built and brand new pews, altar rail and pulpit furniture installed. The old furniture was painstakingly saved by Mr. and Mrs. Redmond Ransom, and when the arbor was remodeled in the 1960s, they were brought to the campground and added. The cross behind the pulpit is made of numerous layers of wood and was crafted by John Wiseman in the 1980s. For several years now the musical instruments have been donated by Gilreath Piano and Organ Company of Calhoun. But prior to that time I remember hauling the piano from Mizpah United Methodist Church and the organ from the home of Mrs. J. T. Leath (now Mrs. Melvin Beard).
We always celebrated Eva Ransom's and my Daddy's (Ralph Watson) birthdays at camp meeting. Eva was born August 17. Daddy was born on August 18. Ludye baked Daddy a German chocolate birthday cake his last camp meeting before he died March 4, 1971. Presently my Emily has a camp meeting birthday. Hers is August 16. So her very first birthday was celebrated in our tent in 1981 with all the "Morrison Camp Meeting Kids" sharing in it. It's that sense of family that makes camp meeting special. When we cut watermelon together or have a special night of homemade ice cream, it's just one big camp meeting family - the family of God you see coming together. That's a forerunner of heaven, too. "Oh what a homecoming that's going to be."
My camp meeting friends are special. We see each other only once a year, but when we are together, it is like we have never been apart. I never have been a very good swimmer. I don't swim well in water over my head. In fact, I really prefer to have one foot on the bottom. I remember those hot afternoons after the 3 PM service when we would gather up twenty or thirty young people and go over to Dykes Creek. A rope hanging from a tree limb provided a swing. You would climb up on a platform, up a red clay bank to stand on a 2' x 6' board that was nailed to a tree stump. Then you'd jump for the rope and swing across the creek. The experts would do Hips or somersaults not me. It took all the courage I could muster to swing and drop, holding my breath until I could get to the edge where I could touch bottom again.
Jerry Lumpkin and I would crawl between the tents after the evening services and shine flashlights on the teenagers who might be trying to steal a little kiss in the dark. The more serious courters went down to the rocks over the spring. I was too chicken to go down there in the dark even with a flashlight. Besides, they threatened to drown me if I did. These were the days before the sexual revolution I guess. There was always such respect for each other. No one ever tried to be anything more than a friend.
There were no televisions on campus when I was a child. There were only a few radios. I can remember the black women who cooked for us gathering in a circle and talking or asking for a transistor radio. We made playhouses out of pine straw. We dammed up the creek every day. We hunted crawdads (crayfish) and periwinkles. We chased frogs, made ice cream, sang songs and in the rebellious days of the 1960s marched in defiance of one certain minister's pronouncements of a bedtime and dress code.
I remember when I was little that someone put a frog down Lynda Jane Stripling's back, and she went into hysterics. She was about 18 or so. In fact, she broke out in hives. More recently I remember my mother out in the night with our oldest child, Geoff (now 23), when he was just 4 or 5, trying to coax a frog into a mason jar. We'd catch fireflies and tie strings around June bugs. Eva Ranson taught us how to play "smut." We played "Monopoly" during the 3 PM services. And later on the young people played "Wahoo," "Pictionary" or "Win Lose or Draw" or some other popular board games of the day. Ping pong was always popular, and when the Rome District erected the Youth Building, that meant we had a long space for games, gathering, telling ghost stories or playing 4-square or shuffleboard. We always had horseshoes, badminton and regular afternoon softball games. Then there was the children's time in the mornings prior to the 11 AM worship service and U.M.Y.F. on the rocks in the evening. You hardly had time to eat. The concession stand had to be run, and hymn books and fans had to be placed in the pews. Now there is a midweek cleanup time. Just when you'd be having the most fun, the bell would ring and it would mean time for service.
Ladies sewed, strung beans, cut up apples, shelled peas or butter beans. And some very industrious folks like Aunt Fayne Barton and others, made tatting, crafts, quilted or did counted cross-stitch.
The memories of Camp meeting are always of people. The late Eugene McCurry was a great man of God. I can still see him stand during the service with a quiver in his voice and a tear in his eye and call for people "to pray for revival." Buster McGinnis and Namon and Peggy Wiseman have always been examples of Christianity at its best. We enjoyed teasing Eva Ransom about everything - especially her age.
The Fincher - Lawhorne tent was always a fun place to go. They always had lots of children, and at our regular daily softball games it was good if you could get them to play on your side. My own father was an outdoorsman who loved Camp meeting, although he seldom frequented the local church we were members of in Atlanta.
Annie Laura and Oscar Wiseman were a great part of camp meeting. Many are the nights we'd sit on their front porch and talk until 2 AM telling stories and besting each other's jokes. Uncle Wint and Aunt Frances Barton had the cabin where canasta was going on. I never have learned how to play so I have just observed it. Presently in the Tommy Lawhome or Charles Williams tents there will be the riotous laughter of someone scoring a point in "Pictionary" or in years past "Wahoo." Coffee is always brewing at the Ludye Kerce Fincher or Margaret and Melvin Grogan's tent, and my mother is still the last one to retire on our side of the campground.
The west side of the campus is a quieter side. The Beards go to bed fairly early. Nancy Lanham Snow's mother and father, Forrest and Lena Lanham, were pillars of the camp meeting. And Mr. Herbert and Miss Julia Carwile were a special breed of people. Mr. Herbert was a beautiful Christian, but as a child I thought he prayed the longest prayers I had ever heard in my life. The Bennetts' tent was next to the Carwiles', and Amy Bennett and I have always been great friends. She is perhaps the age of my grandmother, but once she even helped me build a pig trough for a certain preacher neither of us liked. Mr. Lester McGinnis always wore suspenders. I admired those suspenders even though I don't think he needed them to hold up his pants. The Wards' tent is the next tent and then the McClains'.
The McClains are relatives of ours too. Aunt Minnie McClain used to tell me that God called me to be a preacher. She wanted me to be the best preacher I could be, and she'd pray for this so that I would be. " I figured with a saint like Aunt Minnie praying for you, you couldn't go wrong. Jessie McClain Dempsey tented with them as did her sister, Fannie McClain Russell. I always called them "Aunts" although we're only distant cousins. One day Granny was seated on their porch and Aunt Jessie said, "Emmie, you remember that sweet potato custard that crazy friend of yours brought in?" Granny said she wasn't quite sure. Aunt Jessie continued, "She didn't have any vanilla flavoring so she just used bananas." They laughed. I never did understand the joke.
In wintertime to sit underneath the heavy wooden timbers and shingled roof of the old arbor and look at the modem cottages that surround it, one can scarcely imagine what camp meeting at Morrison's is like. The silence is deafening. It seems to be a world all its own waiting in limbo until by some miracle of transformation it will be brought into life. After the close of camp meeting the rocking chairs and porch swings are brought inside, the windows are closed and locked, the shutters are boarded up and an eleven month sleep begins. Hymn books are put away along with the "funeral home fans" to be brought back out next year. The electronic organ, piano and public address system are returned to rental places or businesses that have generously donated their use.
The stand where cokes, ice cream. Cracker Jacks and various other sundries are purchased between services is closed now. The unsold stock has been returned and the profits are counted. The Activities Building where cafeteria-style meals used to be provided to campers and laughter reverberated is deathly quiet. Morrison's Campground is asleep.
In the days of Biblical history, the Israelites erected an "Ebenezer" to note that something special had happened in a particular place. It could be a pile of stones at the crossing of the Jordan. It was a tent in the wilderness where God dwelled. It was a place marking the dream of Jacob and his vision of the angels ascending and descending a ladder. Morrison's Campground is our Ebenezer. It is our special place to mark the spot where God becomes real to us and returning to our Ebenezer we come home together. Around this arbor and grounds we are surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses." Some have outrun us to the Father's house, but their memories are here. When we stand together to sing the hymns of faith, they stand with us. When we pray, their spirits cry out to the Lord with us. When we walk to the spring, the memory of their laughter there in days gone by mingles with the noise of the rushing stream, and we chuckle to remember them there too.
What's so special about Morrison's Campground?
Maybe you have to be a part of it to really understand. Maybe it's because we love this place - because so many of our ancestors loved it too. Maybe it's because we share a common bond to preserve it for our children and our children's children. Maybe it's because there are so many happy -memories here. Perhaps it is because here we first met love - our family, our friends; here we first experienced the forgiving love of Jesus Christ; and here we learned that only in loving are we able to return God's love. We still sing it, "Love lifted me. When nothing else could help, love lifted me." As Judye Kerce Williams summarized it, "Camp meeting is a place where people come not only to renew friendships, but to renew their spiritual bodies. Many of the 'tenters' take their vacations during the week of camp meeting in order to attend all of the services. There is something special about worshipping in the great outdoors that draws one closer to God."
The sun rises on a new day at Morrison's Campground. What that day will be remains for future generations to write.
Someday we will join that long line in eternity looking back on our camp meetings as a past experience. So "from beyond the shining river in that far off sweet forever" I too will join their voices, and we'll be a part of that heavenly campground choir singing together the songs of faith we learned at Morrison's Camp Meeting.
"Praise Him, Praise Him Ever in Joyful Song."