Camp meetings are open-air religious revivals that began in the late 18th century in the backwoods of Georgia and the Carolinas, lasting as long as one week. Camp meetings were initially held by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, but are most closely associated with the latter, who perpetuated and expanded the tradition after the others abandoned the practice. One of the most well-known and successful camp meeting grounds, Wesleyan Grove, was established on Martha’s Vineyard in 1835 (I featured Wesleyan Grove in a previous series). Boston-area Methodists would have had to travel to Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard to attend a camp meeting association, until local interests purchased land in Hamilton for a new campground. The first camp meeting at Asbury Grove was held in August of 1859. Approximately 2,000 people attended the first public service. According to some reports the number of attendees had grown to roughly 12,000 by the end of the week, many attendees staying in tents. This was a major event for Hamilton, a town with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants at the time. A focal point in the camp, the chapel, was constructed in 1884 in a the Victorian Gothic style, it is clad with a combination of clapboards and decorative patterned wood shingles.
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