Cherokee’s 178-year tradition is thriving.
It is an oasis of green space in north Cherokee, east of Canton and 1 mile south of busy Ga. 20, toward Cumming.
More accurately, it is a 40-acre, heavily shaded link to the past.
Each summer since 1839, the faithful ignore the heat and make the pilgrimage to the Holbrook Campground for a 10-day outdoor revival.
Just across the street from Macedonia United Methodist Church is an open-air arbor on a wooded lot where visiting pastors deliver nightly sermons. The arbor is surrounded by a circle of 75 cabins, known as “tents,” ranging from small buildings with sawdust floors and no bathrooms to air-conditioned cottages with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.
Children ride their bikes or swing on tire swings on the property while the adults, often several generations of families, relax in rockers and porch swings after home-cooked meals.
It’s a tradition that’s repeated at historic sites, some 200 years old, across North Georgia this time of year. Camp meetings have played an important role in the history of Methodism. In the early church, there was typically only one preacher, known as a circuit rider, to serve various congregations. For many years at camp meeting, the preacher’s only compensation was board for himself and his horse. Collections were not taken.
Holbrook got its start when Jesse Holbrook, a blacksmith, received 40 acres of land in exchange for shodding a man’s horse. He donated the property to the Methodist Conference to be used as a campground, and the first services were held in the open under the trees. The first arbor built was too small, and a second one that took its place was damaged in a storm in 1889. The current structure was built in 1890.
Camp meetings were traditionally a time of repentance, revival and reconnecting with God and neighbors. Generations later, worshippers no longer tie their cows to horse-drawn wagons to make the journey to camp meeting. In many cases, the campgrounds are surrounded by upscale neighborhoods and pricey retail centers. And, most camp meetings have their own websites.
Virtually everything surrounding these campgrounds has changed dramatically since their inception. But, the message, and the purpose for gathering, remains the same.