Camp Meetings

A distinctive feature of religious life on the American frontier in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The open-air auditorium was always located in the center of the surrounding tents, whether in a rectangular, horseshoe, or circular pattern. The meetings promoted vivid conversion experiences, emotional and even physical activities, such as the “jerks,” prostration, and dancing. James McGready* developed the technique in Logan County, Kentucky, in the summer of 1800. Soon other preachers, especially Methodists, adopted the camp meeting. The most famous camp meeting was at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in August 1801. Estimates of the crowd range from ten to twenty-five thousand.