The camp meeting, an outdoor continuous religious service, became a fixture of Georgia’s religious life in the early 1800’s. A crowd of 3,000 is purported to have attended Georgia’s first recorded camp meeting, held in February 1803 on Shoulderbone Creek in Hancock County not far away. For the next several years, camp meetings thrived in Georgia, setting the stage for a revival element that became a customary feature of religion in the state, especially in the Methodist Church. Trees served as the architecture of early camp meetings, with candles and pine-knot torches lighting the evening services and campfires illuminating the worship area. Large open tabernacles, or arbors, covered the preachers and worshipers during the services, while permanent wooden cabins known as “tents” housed the attendees during the encampment. Today most meeting grounds are managed by self-perpetuating boards of trustees that own the land, while individual families own the tents, which are often passed down through generations.
After the American Revolution, a Protestant religious movement referred to as the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival swept across the new nation, and especially so in the South. It fueled the growth of Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations across Georgia. An outgrowth of this movement, the camp meeting ground, became a cornerstone of the movement and resulted in the establishment of many of these special meeting places across the state, many of which still exist and are going strong. Fountain Campground is one of the earliest ones and is still thriving after almost 200 years.
The very earliest camp grounds were held outdoors with attendees coming from miles around with their families and camping on the grounds. Over time, camp ground meeting sites came to be distinguished by a particular type of architecture involving a large open tabernacle or arbor, surrounded by permanent ‘tents’ which are owned and populated by families who often hand them down from generation to generation. The topography of the land and location of suitable shade trees and water sources were critical in site selection and are often featured in the naming of the site, thus…..Fountain Campground. Camp meetings last for several days and involve multiple services each day. Families find this a good time to get away, enjoy each other’s company and reflect on the spiritual side of life. Georgia campgrounds are a wonderful tradition and a feast for the eye.