From time to time I get requests for information relating to places in Rhea County which are no longer visible or remembered. The following is one of those places, which I found mentioned in the William Gibbs Allen papers belonging to the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society. This handwritten article was copied exactly as written by Allen, including all of his misspelled words and grammatical errors. The following narrative is the fourth of five articles written by Allen relating to the Seventh Civil District of Rhea County:

Back in the early fifties in the seventh district of Rhea County, old Richland Camp Ground stood where the deep gulch, or washout comes down from Kelly’s Hollow below and where the Salem or Mud Creek road leaves the Washington Road. The latter part of August each year the tenters would haul a few loads of straw and put it under a large shed or arbor, and in each tent or camp.

Old Uncle Lewis Morgan, James Allison, Bryant McDonald, John Whaley, John Jewell, Nicholas Keith, John Day, James and Miller Purser, Henry Fisher, Valentine Allen, Jacob Foust and John Howell. These camp meetings would last from 10 to 30 days, owing to the interest manifested in them.

About 1855, at one of these meetings, Taylor McDonald, son of Bryant McDonald, was a wild young man, became converted. Mr. McDonald had a Negro, George, who was very religious, and who could pray an able prayer, but could not count ten. When Taylor came to the anxious seat, his sister Mary and George became greatly interested. On Sunday night the meeting held late, when dismissed Taylor refused to leave the alter, his sister Mary, some of her school mates, Mary Gothard, Bettie Jewell, James Allison and others stayed with Taylor singing and praying after the preachers and campers had retired. Mary sent for my mother, Ann Frazier Allen, and old Aunt Haley Spence, they went to the arbor and sang and prayed for some time.

All of a sudden, Taylor rose to his feet shouting at the top of his voice. Mary and Negro George, Betty Jewell, and Mary Gothard. Soon the crowd gathered from the tents. The sainted Thomas K. Munsey and William Witcher came out of the preachers’ tent. My mother and Aunt Haley Spence were sitting side by side praising God. William Witcher commenced to sing: “What Wonderous Love is This, Oh My Soul.” My mother’s cup ran over and she and Aunt Spence rose and shouted hallalulah at the top of their voices. Mother commenced to warn sinners to turn, and then all commenced to warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come.

Mr. Editor, I have not turned preacher, but while I see and feel the effects of that glorious group of Godly women of 60 years ago, a scene that came to me often when lined up for battle, now why don’t we have such meetings at this day and time? Have we left the rock bed of our faith and gone into formality? Have we left off prayer and running after fashion? Are we seeking pleasures in the dance or in the pursuit of dollars? Let us return to the faith of our fathers and mothers. Those camp meetings did good. From those noble old campers came James Allison, a Methodist preacher, Thomas McDonald, Rufus and William Whaley, John Keith, Hickey Jewell, all ministers of the Holston Conference of the M. E. Church, South.

From a related article taken from History of Rhea County we are told that Camp Ground Hill was the area leading into Salem. It was given this name from the time of the Scopes Trial, when so many people came to Rhea County, and camped near the Lake Richland area in the Salem Community. Since accommodations for guests were limited, many had to camp out during the trial.

As you, the reader, can see, Allen had incomplete sentences, misspelled words and possibly other mistakes; however, the information is the way he remembered it. This information, written almost one hundred years ago today, allows us a glimpse into the life of Rhea County during the early to mid 1850’s, and gives us a view of the district as it was. Remember, we need to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net