Rock Springs Campground
We read in Joe Beason’s journal that, back in the 1880’s and 90’s, he attended camp meetings at the Rock Springs Campground. Where was this place? we wondered. Now we’ve found out, and it was not far from the site on which Cliffside would be built.
From The Forest City Courier, October 16, 1930
OLD CAMP GROUND REMINISCENCES
Mr. H. L. Carpenter Writes of Old Rock Springs Camp Ground−Always Opened in October.
The following article, on the old camp grounds in this county, was written by Mr. Horace L. Carpenter, of Rutherfordton, and is very appropriate at this time, as the camp meetings at old Rock Springs camp ground always opened on Thursday before the second Sunday in October of each year. Mr. Carpenter’s article follows:
There was a day in old Rutherford that the people did not have the privilege of attending church worship unless they went a considerable distance. God must have spoken to spiritually minded men and woman, and instilled in their hearts the importance of gathering together and hearing the gospel, and encouraging the wayward to forsake their sins and turn unto the Lord. So there were established several camp grounds in the county, some of which were Irvin’s, located about one mile Northwest of Highway No. 20, just beyond Mountain Creek; Center camp ground, one mile Northwest of Forest City; and Rock Springs about one mile East of Floyd’s Creek Baptist church.
The last named is the only camp ground of which I have any recollection. There was an arbor. about 60 x 90 feet covered with boards, only one end of the building being enclosed; this as a protection to the preachers, and to break off the cold East October air. The seats were rough planks which rested on lines of large logs, running the entire length of the arbor. Usually there were held three services a day; eleven, three and at dusk. For lights there were stands around the place about four feet high with tops about thirty inches square covered with several inches of dirt upon which rich light wood was set afire. Only one hymn book was used, that in the hands of the preacher or someone appointed to lead the singing, and he would line it out from two to four lines at a time depending upon the familiarity of the hymn to be sung. Almost the entire congregation would join in singing praises to God.
In a circle around the arbor were tents of different sizes, the largest being about 20×20. Beds were a kind of platform, heavily covered with straw, on which at time as many as twenty persons would sleep. For floor the earth was used with plenty of wheat straw. The cooking in most cases was done in the open under a shed outside the tent. Mountain wagons furnished, at a moderate price, apples, chestnuts, ginger cake and cider.
I regret that I do not have a correct list of those who tented each year from Thursday before the second Sunday until the following Monday, but some of the families were: Gee, Alexander, McDonnell, Suttee, Bedford, Butler, Vassey, Trout, Hopper, Haynes, Hicks, McDowell, Wilkins, Lee, Doggett, Miller, Harris and Carpenter.
The preachers ate with the tenters who felt honored to have them. Sleeping quarters for the preachers was a frame building resembling a small church. I have been told that, under this house during the War Between the States, a deserter spent something like two years, and escaped the hardships of the terrible conflict, but received in after years the ridicule of the friends of those who bore the brunt of battle.
Eminent divines of the day dispensed the bread of life in a very convincing manner, and many souls were born into the Kingdom. Among the preachers were: Christenberry Lee, born within a few miles of the camp ground; Robert Hoyle, considered by many the most original preacher ever known in this section; Sharp, May, Pruett, Rogers, Detwiler, J. B. Carpenter and a host of others of whom I am unable to name. It is thought that old Rock Springs was established in the early part of the nineteenth century, but did not receive a deed to the land until 1843, and reads as follows:
Know ye that I, John Gee, let to Trustees of Arrangements of Rock Springs Camp Ground-For the consideration of the Good Faith and Will that I have for the Methodist Episcopal church, a certain piece or parcel of land as laid off by M. R. Alexander. Containing three acres within the lines surveyed with privileges to build tents on same ground as laid off. The timber to be cut on the South side of the branch that runs down by said Rock Springs. Also the use of the water of said spring, and passway to it in any direction, above, below it or through it as suits the inhabitants of said Camp Ground, which said ground with all the privileges of water and timber as aforesaid, the said John Gee do agree to warrant, and give unto the said Trustees as hereinafter mentioned (ie) George McDaniel, Joseph Suttle, John H. Bedford, John Vassey and Elias Alexander and the successors in office as long as the Trustees or Committee of Arrangements or the Wesley church may continue to use said Rock Spring camp ground, or for ninety-nine years if Miller’s prophecy does not come to pass.
John x Gee.
M. R. Alexander,
John W. Robertson.
Camp meeting was held at this point until in the nineties when it was decided that it had served it’s time and purpose, and owing to much misbehavior all services were discontinued. No automobile ever rolled upon the sacred ground mentioned; but in the old days many fine horses and carriages were there. The owners being dressed in the height of the fashion of the day with a retinue of slaves to answer every call. As to the great good accomplished during the existence of old Rock Spring many there be who know from information, gained from Christian forebears long passed to the Great Beyond. In the late 90’s Berry Wall bought the old arbor, and the tents, and sold the waste material at Henrietta for wood, and a reputable citizen told me that it would not burn. Was it a desecration or sentiment for most of those who bought for wood held precious memory for the old camp ground, and it may be that they would not try to burn that which seemed hallowed to them.Read more about the campground.