It is unclear when Old Lebanon first held its campmeeting. Early church records give no specific mention of campmeetings. In September 1846  and in the following years, session meetings were often held on consecutuve days, leading to the belief that this was the beginning of the Old  Lebanon campmeetings. Lafayette Robinson (1846-1930) stated that campmeetings were being held when he moved to the area in 1854. It is  unknown whether the church continued to hold campmeetings during the Civil War since the church records from 1863-1881 were lost. Most  campgrounds in Mississippi did not hold meetings during this period and gradually reestablished them during the 1870s.     In March 1889, the church purchased the land where the spring they relied on for water was located for $10. There is no record of when the first  permanent tents were built, but it is said that they were not built until after the land to the spring was purchased. The tents cost the families very  little out of pocket expense since the wood for the tents came from trees on their land and built the tents themselves. On August 15, 1921, the  church leaders voted to build a new tent for the ministers. The building materials cost approximately $25 and the members volunteered their  labor.     The Boone's and McGovern's tents, located near the present day Richardson tent and the cemetery, were among the first tents built. The Robinson family built a log tent on the northwest side of the campground along the road near the present day Gaston tent. Ms. Alma Love Horton remembered seeing the Bowie family coming in their wagon and camping in it near this location when she was child.    The original wood tents were the same style as the tents that stand today. The floors were either dirt or wood shavings from the local sawmill. Each tent had a breezeway through the middle with a bedroom on each side of it. Wooden partitions separated one bedroom from the kitchen and the other bedroom from the dining area.    The tents stood empty except during the campmeeting. Prior to and during campmeetings, the families made  several trips to the campground with their wagons filled with items from home that they would need during the  week-mattresses, bedclothes, cooking utensils, food. In many of the earlier tents, straw was placed on wooden bed  scaffolds for sleeping. In later years, the scaffolds were used to hold mattresses brought from home. The kitchen held the old wood cook stove  from home and a homemade ice chest. Homemade benches were placed in the breezeway so friends and family could sit and talk. A long table  with benches was made for the dining area.      Families would arrive at campmeeting with the milk cow tied behind the wagon and chickens in coops in the wagon bed. The cows grazed in the pasture behind the Calcote tent on the north side of the campground. Each family would bring 6 to 10 chickens and took home the remaining chickens at the end of the week. None of the chickens were brought for eggs. Any eggs that they would need were brought from home. The families would bring a few dozen eggs to eat and to cook with. Families that lived close enough went home everyday to milk the cows and do the chores. The men either went home a couple of times during the meetings to tend to the stock or would have neighbors look after their stock.    In earlier campmeeting days, there was no way to preserve food. The young girls and their mothers prepared the vegetables as they were needed. Each family kept a ham for campmeeting. Some of the men would kill a beef during campmeeting and divide it among the tenters each year. Milk and meat was placed in churns and jars and placed in a wooden trough below the spring to keep it cool. The older tenters stated that they did not have a problem with animals getting into the food, but did occassionally encounter problems with kids bothering it. Some tenters had an ice chest. It was lined with wood shavings and could keep ice for about two days. A man came from Ackerman during the week with a wagonload of ice to sell.    In the late 1940s, electricity was run to the campground. Lights and electrical outlets were added to the rooms. An electric pump was installed in the spring in 1964 to provide water to the campground. Prior to this time, children had to walk to the spring every morning to bring back a bucket of water. The campground was later connected to the community water system.    From 1896 until 1987, campmeeting began the Friday before the 2nd Sunday in August. In 1987 campmeeting was  moved to begin a week earlier because public schools were starting in early August. Until 1893, the campmeetings were  held in September. Church services were held five times a day. There was a sunrise service, an 8am service, an 11am  service, a 3pm service, and the evening service. At some point the 8am service was replaced with Bible school for the  children. Before each service, a cow horn was blown to let the families know the services would soon begin. Children  considered it a great honor to be allowed to blow the horn.     The children spent their free time playing with each other. In front of one tent, stands a leaning tree. Since the 1910s and  1920s, children have run up that tree and played in that tree. The trunk of one tree that once stood near the visiting  preacher's tent, was shaped like a saddle and many children came to it to play. Many games were played in groups. One  popular game was "steal the bacon". In this game, children would divide into two teams. Each team chose a member to  approach a stack of sticks in a circle in front of them. The object of the game was for a team member to run across a line  drawn on the ground and "steal" a stick without being tagged by the other team. They also played blind man's bluff, had spelling bees, singings,  and played ball. At night after church services, a fire was built on a tall wood frame. The wood "scaffold" had dirt on its floor. The fire was fueled  by pine knots and tree limbs that the children gathered from the woods. The bonfire allowed the children to play into the night.       Courting was a favorite activity among the young people when they were not helping around the tent. A group of teenagers or a couple would  walk down to the spring. Many of them carved their names or initials in the tree by the spring.       Today, the wading pool is a favorite place for the young children. The pool was the idea of Hugh Alexander. He served as the pastor from 1965- 1972. The men from church gathered large rocks to build the pool. Each year, the wading pool is filled and young children splash around for hours. In the first few years after it was built, some of the morning devotion services were held by it.    Today, children bring their bikes to the campground and can be seen riding over the entire camp. The spring remains a favorite spot. Many of the younger adults recall riding down the steep hill above the spring and trying to "jump" the spring. Some accomplished it. Some looked down the hill and decided against trying, while others have rode down the hill and landed in the spring. At one time someone hung a rope on a tree limb above the spring so they could swing over the spring and jump. Hunting crayfish around the spring is also recalled as a pastime.    Snakes have reportedly climbed onto the rafters in the tents and fallen into the beds. During the late 1950s, Old Lebanon's campmeeting preacher was from the city. While trying to take an afternoon nap, he looked up and saw a snake hanging from the rafters. He jumped up and ran out of the tent yelling. The whole campground ran over there to see what was causing the commotion. As the preacher told his story, the group saw the snake slither under the curtain door and begin to slide into a hole just outside the bedroom. Garner Robinson reached down and grabbed the snake by its tail and pulled it out and it was killed it. Garner's son asked him why he had grabbed the snake with his bare hands. Garner said because he knew it wasn't poisonous. His son then wanted to know why they killed the snake. Garner replied, "If we wanted a preacher for the rest of the campmeeting, we had to kill the snake."    Most of the tents that exist today were built in the early to mid 1970s. The concrete slab replaced the dirt floor and wood shavings. These tents resembled the original tents but some of the modern conveniences. The church built bathrooms near the church building. Much later, several families went together to build restrooms behind their tents. In the last ten years, most families have added bathrooms with showers to their tents. Front and back porches have been added. Today, there are thirteen tents and several mobile campers.    Because shools continued to move their start date, in 2009, campmeeting was moved the begin the Friday night before the 3rd Sunday in July. This has enabled a large number of children to state for the entire campmeeting.    Time has brought many changes to campmeeting, but the love and spirit of the tradition remains the same. After the death of Marlin "Pete" Love in November 2002, family members found in his possession a 1943 newspaper with a published letter from one of Old Lebanon's members, away from home in World War II. The letter was read at a 2003 campmeeting service, 60 years after it was written. It presented a strong reminder of the influence of the campmeeting experience on generations of campers and tenters.
Old Lebanon Campmeeting History
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