Popular Springs Campground

Franklin County
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Org 1832
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Photography by Randy Clegg

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. Poplar Springs Methodist Camp Ground is one of these, having been established in Franklin county in 1832 on 50 acres of land that was purchased for 25 cents per acre.

The very earliest camp grounds were held outdoors with attendees 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. Poplar Springs would be well represented in both categories and thusly named. There is a good history of the Poplar Springs campground published in honor of their Centennial Celebration that refers to the springs and the poplars. ‘The campground derived its name from the six big poplar trees which grew at these springs. The springs are still in place but hardly so good and cold as then, while the big poplar trees are felled and gone.’

One of Georgia’s first recorded camp meetings was held in February of 1803 on Shoulderbone Creek in Hancock County and the resulting attendees were said to have numbered in excess of 3,000. Tradition called for multiple services each day and the meetings lasted for five days. According to the history, a typical day began as ‘The trumpet blowed at 8:00 am and at 11:00. And at 3:00 pm and at early candle light. The tent doors were opened at the sound of the Trumpet and all went to the Arbor to hear gospel by the old veterans of the Cross with the old time religion in their hearts. And God was in it, and some were saved at every service’.