Photo: Benjamin M. Adams, from the Official Journal: Minutes of the 104th Session of the
New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1903).
When I was attending graduate school at Drew University in the early-mid 1990s, I wrote a paper for Dr. Leigh Eric Schmidt’s class “Holidays and Holy Days in America.” I had the opportunity to dig into the journals that were part of the newly-arrived papers of Rev. Benjamin Matthias Adams (1824-1902). My paper was focused on which holidays and holy days were important to Adams and how he observed them.
Throughout his life, Adams used his journal to record important life events, pastoral activities, and the state of his spiritual life, which included attendance at camp meetings.
I quickly saw that camp meeting time (usually held during the months of August and September, and in July later in the century) was particularly important to Adams. He was an individual with an intense spiritual life, which may or may not be surprising, since he was born to Methodist parents and had a father who was a local preacher.
Adams’ journals begin in 1846, when he was a 22-year-old school teacher. In November of that year, he married Amanda M. Lockwood. In April 1847, Adams began his journey into the Methodist ministry when, after being examined at Quarterly Conference, he was given a license to preach.
The first reference he makes to going to camp meeting occurs 7 September 1847: “Started for Camp Meeting at White Plains.” It is likely that this was not Adam’s first camp meeting, given his family’s background. Attending these two-to-three-week outdoor revivals was part of the rhythm of Adams’ life. Being in an environment of prayer and preaching nourished his hunger to become closer to the God he loved. In response, he began preaching and exhorting in order to inspire and convert others.
In 1850, Adams was ordained as a deacon in the New York Annual Conference. That September, while at the camp meeting in Salisbury, Adams felt called to preach at the meeting. He revealed his calling to a pastor friend who then laid his request before the presiding elder. His friend soon returned and reported, “The Elder is going to have you preach tomorrow at 8 oclock [sic]. Now don’t you flinch.” Adams wrote: “I felt somewhat relieved at this and looked to God for help – I have no text and now at 11 oclock [sic] satisfied that God loves me and I love him I retire to rest [.] God of all peace help me to do my duty[.]”
Adams preached at his first camp meeting on 12 September. In his journal, he notes that he got up that morning at 4:30 and struggled to come up with a text and inspirational words. (Frankly, I would have done the same thing if I were told I had to get up and preach the next morning). A cheerful little verse - Ecclesiastes 9: 10 - came to his mind: ”Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (King James Version). Today, we might be saying, “what the what?” about his choice of a text; but, hey, it was the nineteenth century and illness and death were always at one’s elbow. They couldn’t mentally, spiritually, or emotionally avoid it the way we do now.
Adams’ first preaching attempt at camp meeting evidently went well. His summation of the sermon was self-effacing, and he gave all the credit to God: “Suffice it to say that ‘The Lord’ did the preaching.” He further noted that “if we had only had faith” the whole gathering “would have been slain I think.” In other words, they would have been moved to conversion or repentance or greater spirituality.
From that point on, Adams preached at camp meetings on a regular basis.
I’m going to cut the blog off here because I have discovered something that I need to research a bit more before I continue with Adams’ story. There appears to be a connection between Adams and Methodist evangelist and writer Phoebe Palmer. Palmer was one of the founders of the Holiness Movement of the mid-to-late 1800s. I think she had something to do with where he went next in his life as a pastor.
This only goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find when you start doing research. I’ve always thought the endeavor was like pulling on a piece of yarn and finding that another piece was tied to it. Then you find another piece tied to that and another and another. You never know where it all will lead.
I’ll sign off now.
Yours in total geekiness,
Benjamin Matthias Adams Papers, 1846-1902. United Methodist Archives and History Center, Drew University, Madison, NJ.
Note: The Archives is a collaborative effort between Drew University and the General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church (GCAH). The website URL is https://www.drew.edu/library/special-collections-archives/umahc/
Monthly Echo of the Original Five Points Mission, 20 May 1903, p. 4.
Official Journal: Minutes of the 104th Session of the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, p. 116 (New York: Eaton and Mains Press, 1903).
 Quarterly Conference was a gathering of clergy and lay representatives that occurred four times a year.
 Deacon – Up until recently, the process toward full ordination and membership in an Annual Conference was 1) to state your intention and call to the congregation to which you belong; 2) be examined and approved as a “Certified Candidate” by one’s District Board of Ordination; 3) be examined and approved as a deacon (probationer) by the Conference’s Board of Ordination; and 4) finally be examined and approved as an elder by the Conference’s Board of Ordination. The front part of the process was slightly different in the 1800s, but then, as it was until 1996, deacons were a transitional order on the way to ordination as an elder. Deacons are now a separate order within Methodism with vocations that differ from the elders’ call “to Word and sacrament.”
 In the world of Methodism the word “Conference” means two things. First it refers to a now-annual meeting of pastors and lay representatives that set polity, mission focus, and other organizational items, and sends representatives to a larger, worldwide gathering called “General Conference.” The word “conference” also refers to geographically determined administrative organizations. For instance, the church I serve is included in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, which covers the entire state of New Jersey, and a few small, contiguous areas in Pennsylvania and New York state.
 Or, as the Common English Bible puts it: “Whatever you are capable of doing, do with all your might because there’s no work, thought, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave, which is where you are headed”
My dog, Tippy.
I have not written a blog post since November 14. Although most of us who produce blogs know that we need to be consistent, there are times when consistency just is not possible. The last 13 days have been like that for me.
My dog, Tippy, a 12-year-old miniature American Shepherd, has been limping off and on since August. The vet and I both thought it was arthritis located in her hip. When I returned to New Jersey from visiting my sister in Provincetown, I decided something was really wrong and made an appointment to have Tippy’s leg x-rayed. The x-ray revealed that she has bone cancer in her knee and further down toward her ankle.
The good news – as far as I know at this moment – is that the cancer has not spread into her thigh bone, and the x-rays, blood test, and urine test have not revealed any other abnormalities.
I’m taking Tippy to a pet oncologist today to discuss treatment options. One of those I’m sure is to amputate Tippy’s left leg, which, with any luck, might curtail the cancer’s spread. It also makes sense. The leg hurts, she’s on pain medication, and the cancer is weakening the bone and making it subject to fracture.
For those of you who don’t have a pet, let me just say that humans and animals do form close bonds. I love my dog and I believe she loves me. This is not exactly the same as having a human family member take ill, but it is close. I vacillate among feelings of grief, anger, and hope. But I also know doggie lifespans. Our family had a cocker spaniel mix, appropriately named Lady who, despite occasional seizures lived to be 16. My other dog, Gremlin, whose photo adorns the Squeaking Pips logo, lived to be 14. I always figure anything after the age of 12 is pure gravy for a dog. That means from age 12 on, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Those of you who have a pet know what I mean.
Thank goodness I am busy as Assistant Pastor, Director of Christian Education, and Director of Communications. My three jobs (all in the same church!) have kept my mind occupied. The other thing also occupying my mind is looking for that dang file on Benjamin Adams.
As you may recall, I mentioned my research on Adams in my last blog. I just didn’t know where the file was, so it meant going through four cartons of papers from my years in theological school and graduate school. The past few days I have thrown myself into the search and in the process threw out stuff I no longer needed, which came to one and a half cartons of papers for the recycling truck.
Did I find the missing file in all that? Nope!
Frustrated, I looked around the family room this evening and noticed two files sitting on a pile of books for research. The first file contained a paper I had written about religious literature for nineteenth-century children. I decided to keep the essay. Grist for the mill, so to speak.
Ah, but what about the second folder?
Bingo! It was missing file. Isn’t that usually the case? The very thing you’re looking for is sitting nearly under your nose.
I’m glad I did all that work cleaning the storage cartons out, though. It needed to be done.
Now I will be able to keep my mind busy going through Adams’ file and finding the information about his visits to the camp meeting in Eastham.
Thank you for bearing with me during my silence. I plan to be more regular with my posting now that I’m over the initial shock about Tippy’s health. I’ll let you know what the prognosis and treatment will be, and then this blog will be back to normal – even if Tippy and I are living in our own “new normal.”
Later, gentle readers!
Image from Eastham Historical Society, Local History Collection
Welcome to my Friday blog on Saturday! I was in transit on Saturday (returned home to NJ), so although the blog went up early on Friday, I wasn't able to promote it until today.
On to our topic!
Camp meetings - religious revivals that were held anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks - seemed to pop up everywhere in the United States during the 1800s. Since I was up on Cape Cod and visiting my sister, I thought I'd give you a little information about some of the Cape's camp meetings.
My sister lives at the very tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown. Methodists - who were one of the primary movers in the camp meeting movement - had trouble getting established there. Pam Tice, who has a blog site about the history of South Wellfleet, wrote a well-researched piece on Methodists and camp meetings, She notes that Methodists applied to build a church in Provincetown, but the Town Meeting rejected their proposal. Apparently, this group of Methodists were a wee bit - shall we say - persistent? According to Tice, "When the Methodists tried to build anyway, a mob burned the structure. Several families left for Maine to gain their religious freedom. Eventually the Provincetown church was built, kept under close guard, and, over time, the Methodists were accepted." To this day, there is a Methodist presence in the town in the form of Provincetown United Methodist Church, located on Shank Painter Road.
The history of camp meetings on the Cape is a bit confusing, especially since some of the locations are hard to determine. Local histories indicate that the first camp meeting on Camp Cod occurred in 1819 in South Wellfleet. Just where in South Wellfleet is the question. One source claims it was near the house of a man called J.K. Lewis. Other sources say it was held in Paine Hollow on Isaac Rich's property during 1819-1821. Tice notes even though the name of the homeowner and the property owner might be different, the location actually might be the same place. (Tice)
At the same time, other Wellfleet histories indicated that there were camp meetings on Bound Brook Island during 1823-1825, which was then moved to Truro. (Tice)
The map below gives you an idea of the location of the towns I am mentioning. Bound Brook Island, by the way, is not actually an island but a mountain in the Wellfleet area. The beach located near it is supposed to be beautiful. Not that I'm a travel guide or anything, but it might be worth checking out.
Other Methodist camp meetings were held in 1828 or 1829 up Cape in Eastham at a place called "Millenium Grove." Tice says that these "became fairly large multi-day events."
The reading about the camp in Eastham brought back memories of reading about this camp meeting in the diaries of Rev. Benjamin Adams. His journals had come into the United Methodist Archives Center at Drew University in the mid-1990s, when I was a graduate student there. Sadly, since I'm on vacation and my research is lodged somewhere in a box at my house, I can't get too specific about Adams. I hope I can clear this up when I get home.
Let me tell you what I remember, though, Adams was a clergyman who served in the New York City area in the mid-nineteenth century. His journals indicated that he traveled up to Eastham, MA to a camp meeting held in or near the town. As I read through his writings, I realized that the man was a camp meeting fan who also was minor player in the Holiness Movement. The Holiness Movement is a mid-late nineteenth century movement with roots in the theology of John Wesley. Wesley, as all Methodists in the know will tell you, identified several kinds of grace (unmerited love of God).
age from Library of Congress: Religious revival meeting at Eastham, Mass., 1852: Prayer meeting in a tent
Benjamin Adams was so moved by his camp meeting experiences that he was supportive of the 1869 creation of a camp meeting by the ocean in New Jersey. This site was called Ocean Grove. The quaint camp meeting "tent city" is still there (and used today) and religious revivals and services are still held in the Great Auditorium during the summer.
Adams' journals indicated that he "took the cars" (the train) to get to the Eastham Camp Meeting. Tice notes in her blog post that "The Grove was located near the Bay so that participants could arrive by boat, since the roads on the Cape were difficult to travel on." At this point, I suspect that Adams took the train closest to Eastham and then traveled by boat to the camp site.
Image from the Library of Congress: Religious revival meeting at Eastham, Mass., 1852: Landing at Eastham...
Tice says that another campground was established in Yarmouth in 1862. Once the train line reached Yarmouth, it most likely led to the demise of the Eastham camp meeting. Obviously, if it was more convenient to take a train directly to camp meeting in Yarmouth, then why go through all the trouble to reach Eastham? I do not recall whether or not Adams attended the Yarmouth camp - and this is another thing I hope I can uncover.
Although originally designed to be a campground, people with means would go on to build little cottages on established sites so they could return year after year without having to be bothered with setting up a tent. This, according to Tice, happened in Yarmouth.
Now... here is a really interesting sidebar. Tice writes: "Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker purchased and moved six of the distinctively shaped Yarmouth structures to Wellfleet, locating them on the hill near the Town Pier where they became known as 'the Lemon Pie cottages.'" You can see the original buildings in the images below. Sad to say, the Lemon Pie Cottages are no longer there. They were torn down and replaced by individual condos in the twentieth century.
Wellfleet Historical Society & Museum, Left: Milton Hill and Boat Yard Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Cape Cod; Right: Lemon Pie Cottages on Milton Hill
Hope you enjoyed this little journey into part of Cape Cod's camp meeting history. We didn't even cover the development of the camp meeting in Oak Bluffs, on Martha's Vineyard, which is another story unto itself.
Have a happy weekend!
South Wellfleet Methodists and Camp Meetings, Pam Tice, pamticeblog, August 27 2012. Downloaded 11/15/2018
The Methodist Camp Meeting (1819) By Jacques Gérard Milbert (1766-1840) - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-2497), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=376417
Perhaps one of the stranger things someone encounters in Saint Maggie is the Methodist camp meeting. Most contemporary readers – and especially those who do not have a relationship with a church, much less a Methodist church – will wonder why a group of people would trek out into the wilderness, put up tents, and participate in worship services and hear preachers for a week or longer.
As I wrote in the “Definitions and Bible References” section of Saint Maggie, a camp meeting is “an event usually held in the woods or a field provided by a farmer. Participants camped out for one to three weeks, listened to preaching and exhortations, sang hymns, and took part in prayer meetings. Some camp meeting grounds still exist, and some are still in operation, such as the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in Ocean Grove, NJ.” (Saint Maggie, p. 271)
Camp meetings grew out of “spontaneous all-night camp meetings” that sprang up in what is now the state of Kentucky in 1799.” https://southwellfleet.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/south-wellfleet-methodists-and-camp-meetings/ This was the beginning of what is known as the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that swept through the young nation. (In case you’re wondering, the First Great Awakening is a series of revivals that caught fire in Great Britain and its the colonies during the 1730s and 1740s.)
These long-form revivals were events that happened usually late in the summer (August) to coincide with the farming cycle and were attended by churches that had an evangelical orientation, such as the Methodists. In the 1800s the term “evangelical” meant someone or some church that focused primarily on preaching and trying to live by the “Good News.” The “Good News” is that Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected to save humans from sin and evil, and justify them (aka, line them up) with how God’s wants them to be and live.
Maggie is this kind of an evangelical. In Saint Maggie, and during a camp meeting she becomes convicted that she will live by the “law of love," something that comes from Jesus’ statement that the two greatest commandments – on which all the other commandments are based – are 1) loving God with everything you’ve got, and 2) loving others as you love yourself. This is what Maggie strives to do, sometimes with greater success, and sometimes flopping miserably on her face.
In short, camp meetings are meant to revive and refresh the faithful.
While I was writing Saint Maggie, I found a handbook on Camp Meetings. Oh, those nineteenth-century folk! How they loved handbooks and manuals. This one is called A Camp Meeting Manual, a Practical Book for the Camp Ground; in Two Parts, by Rev. B.W. Gorham, published by H.V. Degen in Boston, 1854. I used the book to write the description of the camp meeting Maggie attends. I went into a great deal of detail in the novel, but I wanted to paint a picture of what a camp meeting might have been like for today's readers. The excerpt is below.
Since I’ll be up on Cape Cod this week, I think I will make a visit to at least one location where camp meetings were held. Years ago, I did some research on a Methodist pastor who lived in the New York City area. I immersed myself in his journals, and they revealed that he took several trips to the Cape to attend camp meetings there. In fact, that fellow was a camp meeting fanatic! It would be fun to visit the Eastham location or the South Wellfleet location to get some photos, if I can.
Anyway, I hope I’ll have a fun blog on Friday, gentle readers!