A summertime revival in the country

I’m just back from CampWoods Grounds in Ossining, where a century ago thousands of Methodists and other Protestants would gather each summer to hear preachers and pray several times a day.

Imagine: They took a steam boat up from the city and then a trolley to Ossining. The men wore suits and the ladies long dresses. At the end of the day, they slept in tents or simple cottages.

Boy, they must have been hot.

I have before me a post card written in 1911 from the camp by Ethel A. Uhlson to Ellen Erickson in Wilmington, Del. She wrote: “How lovely this camp is. You can not imagine until you have been here.”

Another fellow wrote: “Dear wife, We arrived safe and having a good time. Henry”

It was a different time.

I’ll be writing more about CampWoods Grounds — including who lives there now — for LoHud/The Journal News over the next week or so.

Old Methodist campgrounds still standing in Ossining

Methodists used to have the run of this region.

Around the turn of the 19th century, Methodist circuit riders roamed the country, including the Lower Hudson Valley, to visit churches and preach just about anywhere.

The most famous circuit rider, Francis Asbury, the founding bishop of American Methodism, traveled about 275,000 miles on horseback in the East and the Midwest. He is said to have preached 16,000 sermons and to have started countless churches, such as the Crestwood church known as Asbury United Methodist Church.

Even Bruce Springsteen’s adopted home, Asbury Park, has his name.

During the same period, Methodists founded many camp grounds for evangelism and prayer revivals. One of them, I recently learned, is in Ossining.

It’s known as CampWoods Grounds.

A group of Swedish Methodists organized their first meeting there in 1854. According to a history on the CampWoods website:

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The pre-Civil War period of the camp meetings at CampWoods maintained its character as a religious jubilee in the countryside.  During the 1850’s, the atmosphere on the boats, trains and wagons coming to the 10-day meetings in the woods of Ossining and during the religious retreats themselves were jubilant and celebratory.  A typical camp meeting in August 1868 attracted an estimated 15,000 attendees.

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Later, cottages were built in place of tents. Some people would stay for months.

The grounds were eventually winterized and secularized.

CampWoods is still there, home to 45 families that live there full time. The board that oversees the place still tends to the main church and summer services are open to the public.

In fact, for the next few Sundays, through July 5, CampWoods is hosting a Vesper Series at 7 p.m.

This Sunday (June 14), Jaime Rickert, a self-described “wandering minstrel,” will perform.

Next Sunday, on Father’s Day, the Rev. Gordon Anderson, the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Ossining and a veteran evangelist of radio/TV ministries, will preach, as he has done in summers past.

On June 28, the Emanuel Ringers, a bell choir from Emanuel Lutheran Church in Pleasantville, will perform.

And on July 5, there will be a “bluegrass blessings” sing-a-long.

I hope to get to CampWoods over the next few weeks and write something about the place.

The pictures are from the CampWoods website.

The top one, I guess, is from back in the day. The bottom one is the “Swedish tabernacle” as it currently looks.