Holbrook Campground

Cherokee County
Org 1838
Photography by Tom Reed

As early as 1838 congregants from local churches were gathering here for the annual camp meeting, held at the end of the Summer when they could take a break from crops. These farmers were looking for rest, fellowship, and spiritual revival after a long season working the land. They would come by wagon and many would bring their chickens and cows for the week-long gathering.  Originally, the camp meeting was held in the center of the campground under the trees and attendees would set up their own sites encircling the revival space. In those early days before they had permanent structures, women would sleep inside the wagons while men would sleep underneath.

 In 1839, an official campground was founded here when a local blacksmith named Jessie Holbrook donated 40 acres to the Methodist Conference for use as a campground. Mr. Holbrook was reportedly such a talented blacksmith that he had earned the 40 acres for the work he did on just one horse. A site at the center of the campground was identified to erect an arbor where congregants could gather for the two or three times daily services held throughout the meeting week. Wooden beams were milled from trees nearby and an arbor was erected with a shingle roof that stood here until a storm in 1889 brought the arbor down. By the annual meeting in 1890, a new arbor had been erected from wood salvaged from the original one. This 1890 arbor is still in use today.

As time went on, people began to build rustic structures called ‘tents’ which were made of wood with straw shavings or sawdust floors. Back then, meetings were lit by kerosene oil lamps and ‘tenters’ could get water from one of two wells or the small spring on site.

Since its beginning, few updates have been made to the meeting site to help remind visitors of the old days of worship. Of course, the oil lamps have been replaced by electric bulbs and fans now help to keep worshippers cool. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that both fixtures are attached to the original wooden beams that were salvaged after the 1889 storm. 

Over the years, the campground has continued to host families each Summer and has expanded to 75 ‘tents’ including more contemporary structures built of cinderblock. Many of today’s attendees have been going for their whole lives, and today, they bring with them their children, grandchildren, and homemade ice cream recipes which are a favorite to share with other ‘tenters.’ And while the campground has grown and modernized as needed, the fellowship and revival that brought people together in 1838 are still bringing people together today. 

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