White Oak Campground

Columbia County
Org 1832
Photography by John Kirkland

After the American Revolution, a Protestant religious movement referred to as the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival swept across the new nation, and especially so in the South. It fueled the growth of Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations across Georgia.  An outgrowth of this movement, the camp meeting ground, resulted in the establishment of many of these special meeting places across the state, which still exist and are going strong. Campgrounds were especially popular in the Methodist faith and White Oak Methodist Campground is one of these, having been established in McDuffie county in 1832 on 158 acres of land “situated on the waters of Greenway’s Creek”.

The campground was established by the congregation of White Oak Methodist, who can trace its roots back to 1796 when it is mentioned in Bishop Asbury’s journals.  The first meetings were in members homes but his journal of 1802 reports “Preached at White Oak and rode home to dinner with Capt. Ignatious Few”.  The campground prospered until the Civil War when The history of McDuffie County tells us that the campground was abandoned for religious purposes during the War Between the States.  It is referred to now as the Old White Oak Campground.  No meetings were held there for several years but in 1873, a New White Oak Campground was built “several miles further east, just across the line from McDuffie in Columbia County”.   An old 1872 newspaper article tells us “The building committee of White Oak Campground advertised for sealed bids for building an arbor, pulpit and preacher’s tent………In August the stand was finished and Camp laid off and the first meeting was begun Friday night before the 2nd Sabbath in Sept. 1873”.

Research for White Oak also revealed a dark incident which took place in September of 1899.  The McDuffie Weekly headline states “A SENSATIONAL TRAGEDY” with the subhead  “A Colored Preacher Killed.  Subsequent articles from The McDuffie Weekly and The Savannah Morning News speak to a sermon delivered at White Oak Campground by Rev. H. B. Battle to a mixed audience of blacks and whites.  Apparently the sermon addressed some of the inequality issues between the races that was considered incendiary by some of the whites.  Rev. Battle was subsequently murdered by an unknown assailant while working in the field at home.  Such was the nature of racial tensions at the turn of the century.  We mention this as a point of historical interest in that this is the first instance of campground sermons delivered by an African American preacher that we have seen….and apparently to an audience of both races.

These old campgrounds contain a lot of history and the fact that they have survived and prospered after well over a century of service is a tribute to the families and their stewardship of these sacred grounds.  Visitors welcome.  Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below for more insight into White Oak Campground.

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