Image from the Library of Congress: Religious revival meeting at Eastham, Mass., 1852: Landing at Eastham...
Note: I have taken the liberty of inserting punctuation into the material from Adams’ journals. He often did not use it and I suspect was hurriedly making notes late in the evening or early in the morning. Adams’ journals usually are jottings of impressions that do not include much in the way of explanation. While some journal writers were conscious that their work might be available for posterity, others wrote in the moment, jotting brief notes as references or memory-joggers. Adams was a jotter throughout most of his life, although as I said in a previous blog there are exceptions.
Now that we are past Christmas day - but still in the season of Christmas! - let's return to the information that I have gleaned about 1800s pastor Benjamin M. Adams and his love of camp meetings.
In my November 16 blog post, “Camp Meetings on Camp Cod,” I noted that the meeting in Eastham was held at a place called Millennium Grove and that the Grove was located near the Bay. In 1854, which is when Adams visited what I believe is the Eastham camp meeting, the main form of transportation to the site would have been by boat.
Once again, I made a mistake, as I was recalling what I had read. I thought Adams might have taken a train from Boston to the town nearest Eastham and then taken a boat. WRONG! And this is why it is good to have the actual source material on hand. Memory can and does fail.
In his journal entry for Monday, August 14, 1854, Adams notes that he “went to Boston.” Since he reports that he left the next day for camp meeting, he obviously took the fastest form of transportation from New York City, which would have been a train. On August 15, he writes, “Arose in good season and made preparation for camp meeting. 1200 passengers went off on the Steamer St. Laurens [sic: probably St. Lawrence].”
In 1854, transportation from Boston to Eastham in 1854 involved taking a steam boat. Traveling by road was rough and, although the railroad had reached all the way to Hyannis by 1854, it would not come near to Eastham until 1865 when it reached Orleans. (MA Historical Commission, 114.) Additionally, the camp meeting at Millennium Grove was still a going concern, as it had not been supplanted yet by camp meetings at Yarmouth and at Wesleyan Grove on Oak Bluffs (Martha’s Vineyard). (MA Historical Commission, 120.)
As far as I can surmise, the boat trip over was rough. Adams makes mention of a “sick woman” and that he did “light preaching." Apparently, he was suffering from motion sickness, and could not lay a heavy sermon on his listeners, observing that the experience was “God tried in the fire.” He also makes note that it was a “windy afternoon” and that they had a “Heavy landing. Very wet.” This is not the first time we hear of a conflict between Adams' stomach and a boat ride.
At first, Adams seemed to be having trouble getting into the spirit of the camp meeting until he made his way to the preaching stand for a prayer meeting, where he told the group of listeners about his own spiritual experience and listened to others exhort. He finally wandered into another prayer meeting in the “Roxbury tent” where “Bro. Laysdell had a good time in preaching about the gold tried in the fire.”
Most of Adams’ camp meeting journal entries are filled with details about how many times he spoke or exhorted in prayer meetings and preached. He also makes references to the scripture passages on which his fellow clergymen preached and whether the sermon was “good.” “Good” seems to indicate that the sermon moved him and the other congregants. Here is an example from his August 17, 1854 entry: “Bro Gorham exhorted and it was good - His theme was This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” He does not describe, however, what the sermon meant to him. It may be that Adams understood the sermon to be a confirmation that he was to be present with those who needed spiritual healing and conversion. But since he does not elaborate, it is difficult to be certain.
On Monday I'll report on the remainder of Adams' time at the Eastham Camp Meeting.
Benjamin Matthias Adams Papers, 1846-1902. United Methodist Archives and History Center, Drew University, Madison, NJ.
Massachusetts Historical Commission State Survey Team . Historical and Archaeological Resources of Cape Code & the Islands: A Framework for Preservation Decisions. (Massachusetts Historical Commission: 1986, PDF version 2007.)
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