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The foundation for the Piney Grove Campmeeting was laid
in 1908 when S.C. Hodges donated a parcel of land for the
gathering. The first camp meeting was organized the
following year in 1909 by the Rev. A.H. Butler, and the
tradition was born.

When plans were drawn up to build a meeting place for the outdoor services, the congregation decided on a structure measuring 60 by 70 feet, with a ceiling height of just over 11 feet in the center. It is interesting to note that the ceiling height around the outside of the building varies as much as a foot in places. For years, the camp meeting tabernacle was a simple structure with a roof and open sides; while the openness assured those in attendance of fresh breezes, there was also the problem of gnats and mosquitoes. But the congregation was sheltered from inclement weather by canvas sides that could be put into place for protection from the rain. In the beginning, anyone at the worship services sat on plain wooden benches placed around the sawdust-covered floor. Later, a cement floor was poured and the benches were replaced with folding chairs. Over time, the congregation gradually made renovations to the camp meeting tabernacle. Concrete block sides were built and windows and doors installed in the early 1950s.

In 1965, the congregation and the mosquitoes were at last
separated when window screens were put in place, but air
conditioning didn’t arrive until 2005. Previously, the
building had been fitted with exhaust fan and ceiling fans,
but those old standbys — funeral home fans — were still
valued by those attending services. New foyers and doors were constructed by William Henry Mayo in 1980.

In 1991, the congregation — with thoughts of holding future camp meetings in more modern surroundings — investigated the cost of constructing a new, metal frame building. That idea quickly died when it was learned the venture came with a $100,000 price tag, and the Piney Grove Camp Meeting stuck to its time-honored roots.
In the “good old days,” attending camp meeting was a vacation for some. Small camps, or cottages, were built on the grounds for those who traveled a distance to join in the services, which at the time were held over a 10-day period. The memories of that time are priceless. Although the camps were indeed primitive — none had running water or bathrooms and most were without electricity — the campers enjoyed the opportunity for fellowship. Music from guitars, banjos and harmonicas filled the air between services and meals were shared picnic-style.

During that era, the camp meeting offered a restaurant-style service that provided breakfast, lunch and dinner at reasonable cost. Church women volunteered to do the cooking, with down home, “stick to your ribs meals” being the mainstay of the menu.

Two women are singled out for their tireless contributions to keeping the restaurant up and running over the years. One of them, Anise Mae Tripp, was known as a laid-back individual who planned the menus. Tripp is the subject of a humorous side note to the history of the camp meeting. She had her own alarm system — an old-fashioned cow bell — that was rung by one of the youngest children in attendance. The youngsters would rush forward to be the one chosen to be the day’s “ringer,” and they would walk under the towering pine trees signaling that the food was ready. The other restaurant “angel,” Ruby Mills McRoy, took on the task of getting groceries and produce donated by local residents; she also lined up workers and helped keep everything — and everyone, apparently — on schedule. With the number of campers on the decline, the restaurant was discontinued after the 1996 campmeeting. Then the local church youth group opened what is now called the “Canteen,” which provides hot dogs, sandwiches, cold drinks and homemade desserts.

There were other individuals who helped make campmeeting a memorable experience over the years. For instance, the Rev. J. Doner Lee, who served at the camp meeting for 21 years from 1965 until 1986, was well known for his whistling ability. He’d begin softly, accompanying the pianist, but by the time the song finished, his whistling filled the tabernacle. In 1987, the Rev. Farron Oliver stunned the congregation when he quoted a long list of genealogies of the Bible from memory — never once stumbling on the pronunciation of the complicated, tongue-twisting names.

Over the last three years, the doors were closed for the first time in our long history due to COVID, but now we are back! We are glad you joined us. Lord we ask that you come into our presence, Revival Is Here! COME HOLY SPIRIT COME!

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