Rock Springs Campmeeting

200+ years of memories and still going strong...

Information is taken from Bethel Methodist Church

200 year history

organized about 1791

Rock Springs Charge

Camp Meeting Old Tradition

Meanwhile earlier churches were being established. In 1768 the Lutherans and Reformed obtained 50 acres of land for a church and school called Daniels. It served both congregations, and in other instances the two faiths co-operated in building churches for joint use, including Emanuels (Old White Church) in Lincolnton.

In the old Presbyterian Church located a mile west of Beattie's Ford, headstones date back to 1776, but the church (Unity) may date back only to 1796. Baptist organized a church in Long Creek between 1772 and 1777. It is now Gaston territory.

Listed as probably the first Methodist to preach west of the Catawba was a young preacher named Brown. He visited the colony of Virginia Methodists that settled near the village of Terrell, about 18 miles east of Lincolnton, prior to 1788. In 1789 Daniel Asbury preached in the territory. He established the first campground in America at Rehobeth. Later a log church was built there. After this a camp meeting was held at Bethel. Rehobeth was the first Methodist Church west of the Catawba and was built around 1791.

Located near the Catawba line about five miles west of Beatties's Ford, was Rock Springs Campground, which still draws residents from as far away as California.

It was founded by the Methodists in 1830 but attended by all denominations. A larger arbor in the center is surrounded by rows of tents. Some years ago, the average yearly attendance was listed as ten to fifteen thousand.

Other campmeetings were Tucker's Grove and Motz Grove, Negro campgrounds. Both of these are largely attended.

ITS BEGINNING

Rock Springs Camp Ground may owe its existence to an Indian's desire to have two blankets instead of one.

When a young lad, Daniel Asbury, of Halifax County, Virginia, joined Rogers & Clark's expedition against the British and the Indians. Young Asbury was captured by the Indians in his first battle. Because a live prisoner was worth two blankets while a scalp was worth only one, the captors traded him to the British, who released him.

Daniel Asbury became a Methodist minister, known in pioneer days as a circuit rider. Later he was sent to form the Lincoln Circuit, covering Lincoln County and several adjoining counties. It was near the village of Terrell in Catawba County that Asbury found a group of Methodists who had recently emigrated from Virginia. Living in the community was Nancy Morris, a devout young lady, whom the circuit rider married.

In that day, the preacher was zealous in fighting sin and was an evangelist of the first order. Religious services were held by Daniel Asbury and a young itinerant by the name of John McGee in a grove at the present Rehobeth of Terrell. Sometimes the services lasted all day and part of the night. The camp meeting was a direct outgrowth of these services.

The meetings were held under a brush arbor. The people slept in brush camps, cloth tents, and covered wagons. This camp meeting was held annually for three years, and it was then moved to Lincoln County. The new location was about nine miles south of Denver near Catawba Springs and was called Robey's Camp Ground. (Robey is also spelled "Roby" is some records.)

In 1828, the Third Quarterly Conference of the Lincoln Circuit appointed a committee and authorized it to lease or purchase Robey's Camp Ground or some other place that they considered suitable to establish a permanent camp meeting. The present Rock Springs site was chosen and for three years services were held under a brush arbor. Joseph Mathias Mundy deeded 40 acres of land to the Rock Springs Camp Ground trustees and their successors in office for the use of the Methodist Church. It is the oldest camp ground in this section of the state still used as such.

Some believe that the camp meeting was moved from Robey's Camp Ground in 1815 to Bethel near the present location, where it was held under a brush arbor for five years. It was then moved back to Robey's Camp Ground, and it remained there until the present permanent site was established at Rock Springs Camp Ground near Denver in 1829.

There are many descendants of Daniel and Nancy Morris living in the area.

SINCE 1829

Since 1829, families have been coming to Rock Springs Camp Gound where religious services begin the first Sunday in August and continue through the following Sunday evening. The meetings were first held under a brush arbor. WIth one exception, the meeting was held in July.

In 1948, there was no camp meeting due to the polio epidemic raging during the summer. It is believed that another lapse occurred in 1863 during the disturbances of the Civil War.

The first campers slept in covered wagons, canvas tents and brush tents. They came in covered wagons in the first years; later in wagons without cover, buggies and surreys. They hitched their horses near the spring for convenience in watering. An ample supply of hay and fodder for the horses was brought from home.

The ministers rode horseback in order to attend camp meeting. Some rode from as far away as Columbia, South Carolina to Rock Springs Camp Ground.

Since there was no refrigeration, they brought their chickens live in a coop from home. Chicken and ham were fried in a pan over an open fire. Cakes, pies, jams, and dried fruits and vegetables were brought in the wagons of the early days. While campers around the turn of the century cooked meals over outside fires, most of the meals are now prepared on oil or gas stoves or hot plates. For years automobiles have replaced the horse and buggy days. No automobiles are allowed in the arbor during worship services.

ROCK SPRINGS CAMP MEETING OLD TRADITION

The first meetings was so successful (there were 300 conversions) that next year another was held at Bethel, another church on the Lincoln Circuit. The idea spread like wildfire; soon nearly every Methodist circuit had its campground where meetings were held annually, and the custom was widely followed by other denominations as well. In the beginning union meeting in which several denominations were represented were quite common. This was especially true of the Methodists and Presbyterians, as might have been expected considering that the first such meeting was a joint undertaking of the two faiths. As time went on, the other denominations gradually dropped out, leaving the camp meeting entirely to the Methodists.

Today there are still a couple of these ancient institutions in existence in North Carolina, Ball's Creek and Rock Springs. Rock Springs is a lineal descendant of the first meeting at Rehobeth, thence to Robey's Church near Catawba Springs. In 1830 it was moved again to Rock Springs, where it has remained to this day.

Even in his old age Asbury never lost the flaming zeal which characterized his more vigorous years. In December of 1824, a few months before his death, he wrote his Conference a letter requesting to be superannuated. He closed with these words, "And if you, my brethren, in your wisdom, should think best not to superannuate me, you may dispose of me as the Lord directs. I think there is still room in the Catawba District for a missionary".

He died at his home in Lincoln County, April 15, 1825, and is buried in the Rehobeth Cementery. By a curious coincidence he was born on a Sunday, carried off by the Indians on Sunday, returned to his father's home on Sunday, was converted on Sunday, and died on Sunday.

ARBOR AT ROCK SPRINGS CAMP GROUND

A large brush arbor was used for the first two years. Then in 1832 the present arbor was erected with hand-hewned timbers. They were put together with wooden pegs, an almost unbelievable feat without the aid of mechanical devices. The entire arbor was covered with wooden shingles.

About 223 tents were built around the old arbor. They formed a quadrangle of two rows and part of a third row. The tents were mostly made of weather beaten boards and had dirt floors. Tent No.1, the oldest tent, was built of logs by Freeman Kelley and is still being used by members of his family. Eighty-one tents were sold in 1830 for a total of $167.01. All of the second row tents. Until 1868 the black and white families camped and worshipped together. In that year the blacks build a camp of their own called Tucker's Grove Camp Ground near Machpelah.

Rock Springs was incorporated in 1851 by an act of the General Assembly. The Camp is operated by ten appointed Trustees and the Methodist Minister serving the Denver Charge.

Since 1828 there have been only two years when the annual meeting has not been held. The first time was during the Civil War when Union troops were in the area and the second time was during the polio epidemic.

Eighty-nine tents on the north side were destroyed by fire on October 30, 1973, but all were rebuilt and ready for the next years meeting. -----JANIE KILLIAN

HISTORY And TRADITIONS

OF ROCK SPRINGS CAMP GROUND

Many families have summer homes in the mountains, at the beach, or on nearby Lake Norman; but none can compare with the one, two, or three week summer homes at Rock Springs Camp Ground located at the edge of Denver, North Carolina, in Lincoln County. These shortspan summer homes consist of approximately 225 wooden building called "tents." There are no windows. Just gaping, slat walls, weathered, and unpainted. The floor is of the good old earth.

The only modern convenence is one electric light bulb. If you are lucky, there is a water spigot in the tent. Otherwise, you get your water from the nearest outside faucet. Or you may "tote" the water in a pail from the clear, cool spring from which the camp derived its name.

The Rock Springs Camp is where camp meeting is held the first week in August each year. Living in one of the wooden buildings is called "tenting." There is an open-air arbor, built almost a century and a half ago, where worship services are held daily. The environment is one of religion and fellowship. ----LILY ESTELLE SIGMON

IT'S THE THING TO DO

If you are camp meeting born or raised, you just keep coming back. It's the thing to do. It's like the urge that brings geese back year after year to the same old pond. It is as natural to return to camp as it is for the golden rod to turn yellow in August. Families just pack up and move. Some families start moving in at least three weeks before time for the first religious service, and before the electricity is turned on. There seems to be a race to see who can be the first tenting on the ground. Soon all the tents are filled. It's a place to worship, to see friends and relatives from far and near that you have not seen since last camp meeting, to make new acquaintances, to court, to relax and rest, and to forget the tensions at work and at home. While worship should be the main attraction, many come mainly for the fellowship. For the newcomer -- just one camp meeting -- just once get your feet in the straw covered floor of the tent -- just once sit under the arbor during a service and join in the singing of "Amazing Grace," "Blest Be The Tie That Binds," or "How Great Thou Art," and you'll keep coming back. The beach, the mountains, and the lake will have lost their attractions for one week.

THE ROCK SPRING

The spring is located on one side of the public road which passes through the camp ground, and the tents are on the other side. It is at the foot of a steep, rocky hill and provides water for the whole camp site. According to legend, the spring was hewn from a rock by the Indians.

There are several levels of cement steps on the hill leading to the spring. Prior to cement days, there were wooden steps. Some people move to camp before the electricity is turned on, and it is necessary to "fetch" water from the spring in a pail.

An electric pump now operates in the spring, and water is piped to some of the tents and other areas on the camp ground. A wooden shed houses the spring. Before installation of the electric pump, water was pumped into a reservoir by the Delco Light System. The reservoir was located across the road from the spring on the south section of the camp ground. Tenters were able to get their water supply from a faucet attached to the reservoir. In former days, there were two other springs out of which tenters obtained water. These sources of water are located on the opposit side of the public road leading through the camp ground in the south-west section.

Mrs. Joseph Graham, in her edition of A PICTORIAL WALK THROUGH LINCOLN COUNTY, said that Rock Springs is a lineal descendant of the first meeting at Rehobeth. Moved first to Robey's Church near Catawba Springs. In 1830 it was moved again to Rock Springs where it has remained to this day.

When the lots were sold at Rock Springs Camp Ground in 1830, one of the east back lots was a present to a Mr. George Roby. It may have been that Robey's Camp Ground was on land owned by George Roby.

THE FAMOUS ARBOR

In the center of the quarangle of tents, nestled amid a grove of stately oaks, is the historic, famous arbor. The structure of this cherished old arbor was made from hand-hewn timbers and put together with wooden pegs. Some historians say that the work was begun on the arbor in 1832.

Until the permanent arbor was ready for use, services were held under a brush arbor. No doubt split logs laid at right angles on other logs served as seats in the brush arbor. The present pews are of the old-fashioned slatted wooden bench type. The open-air building seats more than 1,000 comfortably.

It is believed that black slaves helped build the present arbor, which was erected without mechanical devices. One section of the arbor was reserved for the blacks during the religious services. It was in the days of shouting that camp meeting was begun, and for many years preachers and laymen would get happy and shout all the way down the aisles.

In the early days the people were called to worship by the sound of a horn, which could be heard many miles away. The old fashioned rope type bell, suspended from the arbor on a rafter replaces the horn. The bell also rings out the midnight curfew for the tenters. Since 1961 a public address system has been installed each year for making announcements to the people in the camp area and for paging.

Stands with rocks or dirt in them were built and placed just outside the arbor in which pine torches were burned to make light in the early days of camp meeting. This threw some light under the arbor and on the campus. Candles and lamps were used inside the arbor. Lanterns also have served as a means of lighting the arbor. In recent years, the arbor, the tents, other buildings, and the grounds have been lighted with electricity.

According to records found by the writer, the present arbor has had three coverings. On August 2, 1833, Temple Shelton received of James Bivings for the Trustees of Rock Springs Camp Ground $5 in full for delivery of 2,000 boards. On August 4, 1833, A. Lowe received of James Bivings and Trustees $10.25 for boards;

William Cornelius received $12.37 for boards. The sum of $20.50 was paid for 3,000 boards for the arbor on August 7, 1835.

Thirteen years later there must have been a second covering. (Unless it was a completion of the first covering). Records show that 2,275 shingles were bought from Tillman Store on November 24, 1848 for the arbor.

The present tin roof was put on the arbor approximately 100 years ago. Mr. Jinks Goodson born in 1856 and whom many of the older tenters remember, said that he helped put on the roof when he was a very young fellow. (The roof received a fresh coat of paint this summer).

Judging from original receipts, James Bivings was treasurer of the Camp Ground Trustees in 1835; and was succeeded in that office by Henry Asbury, who was treasurer in 1848. Richard Proctor was chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1841.

ADDITIONS TO THE ARBOR IN 1835

Since the record shows that work was in the process on the arbor in 1833 and 1835, it stands to reason that the arbor was not completed in one year. In 1835, boards were bought for the arbor and a list of the names of men who donated labor; at 50 cents a day, cash price are. One day each, George Little, Robert Barkley, Carle Beatty, Thomas Brotherton, A.E. Forney, Joseph M. Monday, Charles Kelley; two days each, Meacon Shelton and Thomas Thompson. Thomas Beatty hauled shingles one and one half days.

SHINGLING THE ARBOR IN 1848

Shingles were purchashed for the arbor in 1848. Men hired and paid cash in that year to help with the covering of the arbor were Wilson Gabriel and John Robinson. Each worked four and one half days at 75 cents per day. George Howard, Freeman Howard, Daniel M. Asbury and John Asbury nailed shingles four and one half days each at 50 cents per day. There were men who gave labor on the arbor at 50 cents a day. Others turned in donations for themselves or others, ranging from 50 cents to a few dollars for each donation. An excerpt from the old record of the total cost of covering the arbor (spelled "harbour") in 1848 is as follows: Total amound of cost in covering the harbour and shingling $185.10. Work given on the harbour at cash prices $70.00 $255.00.

On December 31, 1830, Thomas McConnell received of Richard Proctor and Freeman Shelton, two of the camp ground trustees, $27.50 in full for work done on the altar and stand. In August of the same year, the sum of $2.25 was paid to James Bivings, another trustee, for 18 candle hangers for arbor use.

TENTS SURROUND THE ARBOR

No permanent tents were built until the second year of camp meeting, according to historical data. At the present time approximately 225 tents surround the arbor. It is said that at one time part of a row of tents was burned by the Indians, but were quickly replaced. During the Civil War, the Yankees camped in the Rock Springs Camp tents. Before they left, they set fire to some of the tents; and, as a result, destroyed all the tents on one side of the campus.

The tents form a quadrangle in two rows and part of a third row. There are two roads for inside camp ground entrance -- one on the north and one on the south.

The only division between the rows of tents is a narrow road, which is used for tenters moving in and out and for pedestrians. At intervals between tents, there are dirt paths.

Otherwise, the side walls of the tents in each tow adjoin. Inside the tent there is a living room-bedroom combination The partition is made by hanging bedspreads or sheets from poles and wires. A platform forms the basis for a bed on which straw or a mattress is placed. Clean straw is usually spread on the dirt floor. Some tenters use wood shavings. Upstairs there is a loft which serves as a bedroom. The roof slants over the kitchen and dining area. The tent has either a wide shed or an overhanging roof which shelters a wooden bench attached to the front. Usually chairs and an old fashioned slatted swing are brought from home to use under the shelter and it gives a porch effect.

At a convenient distance back of each row of tents is a row of privies. Each tenting family has a privy, which is kept padlocked to prevent a mixup of ownership.

Each tent is individually owned by the tenter or the family rents from an individual owner. It is occasionally that a tent if for sale or rent. Many of the tents have been handed down from generation to generation. The sound of the hammers making repairs on the tents are heard all during the spring and early summer months by those who dwell near the campground. Sometimes it becomes necessary to tear down an old aged, weathered-out tent, but it is immediately replaced by another of similar style. Two tents built in 1971 were painted. One of these replaced an old tent. Another tent built in 1971 was designed and constructed by two women, Mary Alexander Watson and Ella Alexander Gardner, twin daughters of the former Ingrid Mundy of Denver. It was their first attempt at carpenter work. Old logs fromtheir great grandfather's smokehouse were used in the foundation. The tent has a balcony from which they get a better view of the grounds. Only three other tents have a balcony. Six new tents were built for the 1972 session.