Greer Baptist Camp Meeting
This Camp Meeting is a rock,
an island, of stability in an unsettled, sinful world. It has not
changed at all in these 50 years. Think of that the next time you
pick up a magazine or see recently made Disney movies or shows on
television. Camp Meeting is a blessed refuge from the world for
sinners and for God's people. Why has this meeting not changed?
Because truth is here, as revealed in the Bible. Jesus said "I am
the way, the truth, and the life". And because His people have been
a people of the Book, you see New Testament Christianity here
exactly as it was when first proclaimed to a world as burdened by
sin and turmoil as our day now is.
If you come within these walls your life will be permanently affected, your son may be called to preach or to serve the Lord full time as a teacher or missionary, may meet his wife here, may carry on the old time religion we have given our lives to. And what could be better? How can you live a worthwhile life in this old world unless your steps, the smallest ones," are altered of the Lord".
A hundred examples of this good influence come to mind now. I wish we could recount them all...someday we will. Tom Leonard, saved at Pelham, taught me in Sunday school, pastored 30 years and now lives on the spot where the pasture prayer meetings were held...James Daugherty, whose family came here for years as he grew up, married a fine girl, Elizabeth, daughter of Brother Zeb McDaris, and now lives here and takes care of this place, made it look so good...Columbus Aiken, came from Woodruff and was saved at Pelham, his boy, Melvin, grew up around here, preached his first sermon at age 12 at Tabernacle and now is its pastor...Jess Stephens, one of the early preachers called out of Pelham Baptist Church, now has three sons in fulltime service. Hobart, born in July 1950 just after the fourth camp meeting, named for that year's preacher, Hobart Goolsby, served for years as school principal at Tabernacle, now is at Gospel Light in Walkertown, and has been at this camp every year since I can remember, at considerable personal effort and expense...our missionaries David Edens, Bob Garrett, Jimmy Rose, Donnie Whitlock, Maxine LaFoy, and Evelyn Chambers were all here as children...Winky Redmond sang and picked here with Frank Lark and Furman Nelson, and his grandson Paul preached here this afternoon...then Bryan Ramey, whose family came from Tennessee to attend Tabernacle, the least serious student Tabernacle High ever graduated, became a serious lawyer, has served Tabernacle Children's Home in critical matters and now has helped set up the new governing board for the Camp...Benny Carper, raised right here, second least serious student at Tabernacle High, now a serious preacher, Bible teacher, and director of the Bright Spot Hour...Jim Black, directed Tabernacle Children's Home and not only raised his own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord but also took Eddie Frampton under his wing, led him to the Lord, and supervised his education, so that Eddie, who used to sing here with the Burns trio, now is an assistant pastor in Sylva, N. C....Elizabeth Harrelson grew up in the Children's home, married a good Christian boy, Ray Rochester, and is here for the meeting, raising her children in the old paths.
How did all this, and so much more, come about? By the prayers of God's people. Psalms 56:8 reads: "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?", and Revelation 5:8 " and when he (the Lion of the tribe of Juda) had taken the book(the same book referred to in the Psalm), the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints". Wade Huntley told me Monday night that his dad died in 1927 praying "God bless my children". Buck was preaching by 1937, and Wade was saved in 1947. Buck told of aunt Edna Pryor and aunt Duge Connor who prayed daily at his church during World War II, fervently enough that all the boys from that community came back after the war. But aunt Edna and Aunt Duge kept right on praying, for the salvation of those boys and for revival, which came in 1947. At Pelham only three people were baptized in 1945, so through the first five months of 1946 the church was left open day and night and people began meeting at the church, praying for revival, which soon came.
My dad had become pastor of Pelham and Mauldin churches in 1943, while he was still a student at Furman. There at Furman he was taught that Baptists began, not in the days of the apostles as we know to be true from the Lord's promises in his word, but in England in 1641 with Smith and Helwys as an offshoot of the Puritan movement. He was taught that the events in Revelation had all taken place in 70 A.D. at the fall of Jerusalem, that there would be no millennium, that the Westcott-Hort Greek text was better than the text behind the KJV, that church services should be formal, and that the Broadman hymnal had everything worth singing in it. But he listened to other teachers with a pure and true message: Joe Parsons, Preston Garrett, J. Harold Smith, Oliver and Jack Greene, B. B. Caldwell, Maze Jackson, Earnest Driggers, his pastor who preached his ordination, Charlie Mount, and Otto Harrison. Perhaps most important of all was a group of earnest brethren at Pelham who were hungry for revival and who still remembered what old time religion was... J. Henry Greer and Mrs. Greer, Morris Satterfield, Harold Satterfield, Virgil Smith, Odell Good, Dan Norris, Dewitt Moree, Isaac Moree, John Cox, Hubert Kirby, Mr. Gosnell, Furman Ross and Mrs. Ross, Mrs. Kirkham, Horace and Lloyd Jones and many others. Many things had happened over the years to prepare the way, including a monthly Southern shape note singing school, taught by an old musician from Victor Baptist church in Greer, through which Horace and Lloyd Jones learned to sing and developed their talent. I believe God prepared my dad for Pelham and prepared Pelham for my dad.
At the same time revival broke out in Greensboro at Brightwood Baptist church under H. P. Gaulden, in Hendersonville in Buck Huntley's church, in Tennessee and Georgia, in Anawalt,West Virginia in Long Point Baptist church which Don Farmer grew up in, in the Ozarks, and in Mississippi. It wasn't limited to our area by any means.
This Camp Meeting began in 1947 in a summer revival at Pelham held in a brush arbor in a field about 200 yards from the church directly in front of Mrs. Kirkham's house. It was built by Odell Good and Dan Norris. My Dad and Odell Good did the preaching, and Dan Norris led the singing. God blessed this meeting. In 1948 another Summer meeting was held on the same spot in a small tent belonging to Harold Horne, who also preached in that meeting.
To accommodate a larger crowd, which was anticipated because of the overflowing crowds at Pelham Baptist Church and in the brush arbor and tent, the meeting was held in 1949 at Southside Baptist Church in Greer during the last two weeks in August. At that time it was an old wooden tabernacle with a dirt floor and shavings. Its pastor was Walter Satterfield, who had been called to preach under R. P. Lamb at Victor Baptist Church in Greer. The preacher was H. P. Gaulden of Brightwood Baptist Church in Greensboro. This was the first meeting to be called the Greer Baptist Camp Meeting.
In 1950 the meeting was held in a tent belonging to Hobart Goolsby of Atlanta. Preacher Goolsby and Preacher Gaulden preached. The tent was pitched in a field across the street from Southside Baptist Church.
In 1951 the meeting was held in J. Harold Smith's brick tabernacle in Greenville on Hampton Avenue near the old Southern railway depot. Percy Ray, pastor of Myrtle Baptist Church in Myrtle, Mississippi, preached. He also was involved in the formation of two other camp meetings, Bethel in Spartanburg and the one at Myrtle. The meeting was growing and the number of churches cooperating increasing. Just before the 1951 meeting my sister, Carolyn Grace, was killed in an auto accident. My mother was in the hospital during that meeting. God used hundreds of camp meeting people to comfort our hearts. I remember in particular an old silver-haired railroad engineer from Erwin, Tennessee, Horace Stanberry, who I believe God sent to speak peace to us for our relief.
It was at this time that C. J. and Bonnie Burns sang at the camp meeting, and by 1956 the Burns trio was singing. And if you listened carefully to the singing we've had this week, especially when the whole congregation is singing without the instruments, you will hear echoes of the music of the first Baptist camp meetings 200 years ago, "Brethren we have met to worship" or Holy Manna, first published in the Baptist Harmony in 1825, which God led Brother Tom Hayes to remind us of last night, illustrates it perfectly...echoes of past blessings and faint visions, as through a glass darkly, of what God has in store for us in a better and brighter world to come.
In January, 1952 the Greer Baptist Camp Meeting Association bought the present 12 acre site for 1600 dollars. I was taken along by my Dad in 1951 when the land was inspected and the decision made to buy. Percy Pay, Odell Good, B. B. Caldwell and Dan Norris were right here. Percy Ray, who was a very serious person and always dressed in black suit, black shoes, and black tie, but white shirt with a normal collar, got down on his knees in the pine needles with all the others and prayed for the Lord's guidance in the matter.
The meeting in 1952 was held in a tent pitched here, just a little closer to the road and with the long axis of the tent parallel to the road. I can remember helping to pitch that tent. I remember my dad and Odell Good and Dan Norris driving tent stakes made from Model A Ford axles. Some of the wooden benches were made with lumber my dad had salvaged from unloading boxcars at Thomas & Howard in Greenville where he had worked; some of them had been bought from Oliver Greene and used in my dad's tent meetings. My uncles, Aubrey and Carey Sightler, wired the tent for lighting. I believe Percy Ray again preached the meeting. Harold Taylor led the singing in this meeting and continued until 1957.
Also in 1952 Buck and Wade Huntley organized the Blue Ridge Baptist Camp Meeting. This was the first daughter camp meeting of the Greer meeting. For years my dad preached the opening sermon. On a hot Sunday in July, right after church, we'd get in the car and on the way to Hendersonville we'd eat a lunch of sandwiches made by my mother. Usually two carloads of our members would follow along, Norman Long, Jack and Guy Strickland, Mr. Barrett, Benjamin Ross, Winky Redmond, Mr. Aiken and Melvin, Don Wardlaw, Virgil Pepper, Harold Taylor...then we'd be back at Tabernacle by 7:30 for two Sunday night services.
From 1952 to 1958 the meetings were held in tents on this site here at Greer. Arthur Blackburn, pastor of Landis Baptist Church in Landis, N. C. preached several times during these years, as well as Buck Huntley of Hendersonville. In 1957 Buddy Mullinax became pastor of Pelham Baptist Church and director and song leader for the Camp Meeting. In l958 the tent blew down but the meeting was held that night in the open air and then moved to Pleasant View Baptist Church.
In 1959 Billy Kelly, from Oliver Springs, Tennessee, preached for the first time, invited by Buddy Mullinax, and was then involved with singing, songleading, and directing the camp until his death last April. Remember the text, "Thou tellest my wanderings". A permanent Tabernacle was built that year by Billy, Buddy Mullinax, Harold McKinnish, Street Burns, Virgil Smith, who fell from a rafter during the construction and broke his leg, and Hal Dixon.
In 1960 Billy preached at the opening and closing services on Sunday afternoon, Buddy Mullinax led singing, Percy Ray preached the first week and Arthur Blackburn the second. In 1961 Billy Kelly and Shelton Jones preached. In 1963 Joe Parsons, Bob Gray, Clyde Billingsley and Buck Huntley all preached at various times. In 1964 Bob Marshall opened the meeting, Billy led singing, and Buck Huntley preached the first week and Curtis McCarley the second. 1965 was the same.
By 1975 that building had deteriorated seriously and my Dad called a meeting of a group of cooperating preachers. A decision was made to make Billy Kelly permanent director and caretaker and to put up a new building. But the cooperating churches did not finance the new building which still today keeps the sun and rain off our backs, and did not provide a salary for Billy. During the years of his tenure Billy supported himself by love offerings from his revival meetings. He raised money from these meetings to put into the camp but did not take a salary from the camp meeting. As a result of the 1975 meeting the 12 acres of land here was given to Billy, and he immediately mortgaged the land on his own signature alone to obtain the money to build this tabernacle. A few individuals and churches made donations from time to time but most of the mortgage was paid with money given in the offerings here at the camp. Through it all Billy was personally responsible for the debt and willingly shouldered the burden. He gave the property back to the Greer Baptist Camp Meeting Association in 1988. My Daddy never told me this...nor did Billy. I learned about it only yesterday when, perhaps too boldly, I asked directly how it was done. Billy kept that burden to himself. Do not forget that it was also Mrs. Kelly's burden, and that she was as willing to carry it as Billy was. But that was their character...that was their love for the Lord, for the camp, and for all or us...that was the practical effect of those tears in the text, those tears and prayers recorded in God's account book which is going to be opened some day. There have been many times when the camp survived on those tears in God's bottle. Praise the Lord for his providence.
In 1981 God led Miss Judy Smith to come and help take care of the camp and to supervise the building of the dining hall and the cooking and the renovation of the platform. What a wonderful person she was, faithful member of Tabernacle, good gospel singer, knew the old time singers and singing school teachers, did a wonderful recitation of the song John 3:16. How we miss her..."Sisters will you join and help us, Moses' sisters aided him", as Tom Hayes sang last night at the end of his sermon. Through the last few years Billy has led singing and moderated as no one else could have. In 1981 he started the morning services taught by Billy Kannoy which continued until 1995, when Dr. Kannoy went home to be with the Lord. We thank God for all those who have helped so much...Gary Wagner, Ricky Satterfield; God bless them all. We have heard the same good Bible preaching from Billy Kannoy, Maze Jackson, Tom Hayes, who also grew up in this meeting and in the Blue Ridge Campmeeting, and Buster Seaton that was heard in the early days.
Now the camp will be directed by Brother Joe Arthur, pastor of Jonesboro Baptist Tabernacle in Jonesboro, Georgia...taught by Billy for the last 15 years...just as Billy wished. A new five member board has been set up to help in the operation of the camp. The members of this board are: Dr. Melvin Aiken, Dr. Jerry Clark, Pastor Ray Stuart, Pastor Tony Finney, and Pastor Gary Tate. There soon will be an advisory board of all the cooperating pastors...every voice will be heard. Churches are giving. The camp is in God's hands, as it has always been. This week the old landmarks have been carefully cleaned, and we have seen them again. God was with us last night. I'm encouraged.
James H. Sightler, M. D.
This article was written and delivered by Dr. Sightler July 4, 1997 at the campground.
175 Joe Leonard Road
Greer, SC 29651
Used on tabernacleministries website by permission of the author.
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