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History preserved

Traditions live on at campmeeting

POSTED: July 30, 2014 4:00 a.m.
Amanda Head Dawson Community News/

Mike Miller and Mike Little look over photos of campmeetings from years ago. One picture may have been from a time when Dawson County had other campgrounds, such as Amicalola, which was held at the bottom of the falls.

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Lumpkin Campground Campmeeting began more than 180 years ago, meeting for summer revival after local men paid $1 for the 40-acre lot.

That tradition has continued each summer since 1830 as a focal point for the religious community.

"They brought their wagons and they brought their animals and they brought their family with them about this time of year, maybe a little later," Mike Miller said last week during campmeeting. "It was time they really didn't have to be in the garden."

The meeting was a time for family and friends to gather while they waited for their crops to come in.

"They didn't see each other that often, so campmeeting was a way for people to be brought together. It was a social time as well as a religious time," Miller said.

In the early years, people brought their wagons and tents and set up around the campground. The male campers finally got together and built the arbor that sits in the middle of the campground in the late 1840s.

Today you can still see the original posts, some with smudges of smoke from oil lamps, still holding the structure steady.

As the years passed, instead of bringing tents, people erected permanent buildings, which today are still called tents.

Before 1900, the campground had so many tents that they went all the way around the inside and half way around the outside of the campground.

"My grandmother and others in that same generation remember getting up on a tent and walking on the rooftops all the way around," Miller said. They only left a gap in one area big enough to get a wagon through.

A fire consumed all the tents that occupied the campground in 1900, but missed the arbor. While the tents have since been rebuilt, there aren't as many.

Azalee Ladd, previously Hughes, has been coming to campmeeting since she was 2. That was 91 years ago and she has missed just a few meetings.

"We would bring the cow," said Ladd of her childhood visits. "She would ‘moo' when it was time to milk her, so we would have fresh milk and the ice man would come around."

Today, people still look forward to campmeeting and the traditions that continue to thrive. One that remains somewhat mysterious is the whitewashing of trees on the grounds.

"It could be that it was the custom of that time, it could be a way to keep the bugs off, it could be to keep people from walking into the trees at night," Miller said. "Whatever it is, it's a tradition."

As for campmeeting history, Miller encourages the next generation to get their past down on paper.

"There are memories and I encourage you to write those memories down," Miller said. "A lot of groups have oral history and its rich. Take your families oral history and start writing it down."




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