Edgewood Camp Meeting: Research and Remembrance
by Willard E. Cassel and Richard E. Taylor
Edgewood Camp Meeting: Research and Remembrance is the collaboration of its two authors, Willard E. Cassel and Richard E. Taylor. The research was done by Richard who footnoted the sources of information that were used for the sake of those who may choose to look further at the origin of the data. The remembrance portion of the paper which is woven throughout is the work of Willard. Where no footnotes exist, you may assume that Willard was responsible for the information and accountable for its accuracy.
“If such gatherings bring such delight, what must it be when He comes?” asked Pastor J. G. Shireman of the Shamokin Camp Meeting at Edgewood Grove. The question ended his 1920 report of the camp meeting at Edgewood Grove but expressed what many people thought of their camp meeting experience. Camp meeting was mountain top time, almost heaven, a taste of heaven. After Richard K. Brunner revisited his camp meeting experience at Mizpah in June, 1999, he wrote,
Standing in the silence of the grove on that June morning, I could hear the ringing of the bell that summoned us to worship. I could see the women, in their bright summer cottons, sitting outside their tents, fanning themselves against the heat of the day. And I could hear the voices, after a long silence, singing across the years ...
"Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling ...calling for you and for me. ...”
"Where he leads me, I will follow ...”
"Just as I am, without one plea ...”
...On certain summer Sunday evenings, I can hear them -- raised in prayer and song, confessing sins, seeking forgiveness, proclaiming repentance...
Camp meeting was more than a meeting. It was an event. For some, it was a highlight of the year if not the big event of the year to be anticipated before it arrived and savored after it was over. Camp meeting helped shape the character of the Bible Fellowship Church.
The roots of the camp meeting at Shamokin are seen in the chart prepared by C. H. Brunner for the yearbooks of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. The camp meetings held by the Mennonite Brethren in Christ are listed in four columns. The first column traces camp meetings beginning in 1879 with a grove meeting held on Chestnut Hill behind Coopersburg. It lists camp meetings held in Quakertown, Macungie, Wescoesville, Waldheim and then Mizpah. The camp meetings at Mizpah in this column are listed as the Allentown Division. The second column lists camp meetings beginning in 1892 in Royersford. This column reports later meetings in Spring City, Northampton, Neffsville, Hellertown, and Mizpah Grove. The meetings at Mizpah grove are identified as the Bethlehem Division. The third column begins with a camp meeting at Catasaqua in 1893. Subsequent meetings follow in Weissport, Walnutport, Rittersville, Terre Hill, Mohnsville, Reading (East), Spring City (at Bonnie Bray), Reading (at Heiner’s Springs) Reading (at Spring Valley), Easton and again at Mizpah Grove. The meetings in this column at Mizpah Grove are identified as the Mt Carmel District. The fourth column list is headed by a camp meeting at Annandale, New Jersey in 1895. The next on the list is Sunbury followed by a nine year hiatus. Next is listed a meeting at Shamokin (at Bunker Hill) for 1907 and 1908. After two silent years, 1909 and 1910, a meeting was held each year at Shamokin from 1911 - 1915. The last meeting on the list is a meeting at Harrisburg in 1917. The last Shamokin meeting in column four is held in 1915. If you look to column three for the following year, 1916, you will see that the Mt Carmel Division meeting was held at Shamokin, not at Mizpah Grove.
The arrangement of these meetings in these columns is purposeful and traces the development of the meetings. This would indicate that the roots of the Shamokin Camp Meeting are to be found in 1895 in Annandale, New Jersey.
The camp meeting experience was in place in 1895. The preparations that needed to be made would be repeated for decades. The following details of preparation were issued for the Chestnut Hill Camp Meeting that year:
Tents will be furnished on grounds at $2.50 without floor, those wishing floors can rent them from the committee. Children’s day Friday the 30th at 2 o’clock p.m. Time to erect the tents at 7 o’clock a.m. when the presiding elder will be on hand to order camp. Those who have tents rented will not come until 9 o’clock a.m. Reasonable boarding can be had at Daniel Stoneback’s near camp grounds. Coach will meet trains on North Penn Road at 7:42 and 4:57 south and 7:54 and 4:11 north at Coopersburg Station. Gasoline and coal will be on the grounds. Those wanting to lodge will please bring blankets for bedding. A temporary post office will be on the grounds. By order of the committee.
The life of the camp meeting was described by C. H. Brunner in his 1895 report of the camp meeting at Spring City.
Our fourth annual camp-meeting held in Egolf’s Grove, Spring City, Aug. 10-18, was a grand success. More tents, greater crowds, more light, greater manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and we believe more work done for Christ’s Kingdom than during any preceding camp-meeting at the place. Although the electric lights did not give the promised satisfaction altogether, still the light of the glorious fourfold Gospel shone brighter than ever before and the searchlight of the Holy Ghost being turned down upon our humble gathering, penetrated the hearts to the very core and revealed unto many souls the remains of the carnal mind, leading them to a full consecration and a higher plane of Christian life.
The Lord has been calling many to a sphere of more continual happiness, and a more elevated and extensive field of usefulness in His service. The bands of Christian fellowship have been strengthened, the ties of earthly, worldly, and carnal affections and attractions have been severed, the shore lines cut and a launch out into the deep ocean of God’s fulness was the present visible and sensible result, and what the final result of this “Feast of Tabernacles” will be time and eternity will reveal.
Bro. Andrew Good of Ohio, Bro. C. C. Brown and Sister Short of the Holiness Christian Association, and many others did noble service for the Master. They have been wonderfully used to sound forth the straight uncompromising Bible truths against sin like a mighty trumpet.
Quite a large number were saved and sanctified, as many as thirty being at the altar at one time. Some were sobbing and crying for pardon and purity, others were melted down with tears of gratitude and love, others were leaping, shouting and lying prostrate under the power of God, while the vast multitude of spectators seemed to be confused and said, “What meaneth this” as at Pentecost of old. Oh the blessed leading of the Holy Spirit.
To the honor of God we can say that the camp-meeting commenced, continued, and ended without the least jar or discontent. “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” -Ps. 133:1. The professional grumbler and the chronic faultfinder were either not there or not bold enough to advertise their wares. Let us not forget to pay the many vows made to God. Let us be faithful unto death and we shall receive a crown of life. Let us look forward with glorious anticipation to the time when He shall come to gather up His jewels who shall shine as the stars of the firmament. Let our very souls re-echo the response of John in Rev. 22:20, Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The camp meeting had begun to evolve. In 1881, the focus of the first camp meeting at Chestnut Hill was upon sanctification. In 1892, Mrs. J. S. Guy addressed the question, “Camp Meetings! Why are they held?”
No doubt the answer to the above question would be- For the quickening of the church (the sanctification of believers) the conversion of sinners and the reclamation of the back-slidden ones. Praise God for Camp-meeting’s. [sic] We believe they are in divine order, but might they not be seasons of increased power and usefulness were it not that so much of the last named work has to be done there that might just as well be done at home? Souls who are not in the enjoyment usually know where the trouble is, and why not as well and much better yield the point, be restored to the conscious favor of God and come to camp-meeting all aglow with love to God and souls? Then in place of having to be labored with for half the time or more they would come prepared to work with and for others. Then, instead of the comparatively few sanctified and converted the number would be materially increased and greater results obtained.
We greatly enjoy these seasons of tabernacling with God when His blessed presence is so sensible realized and especially this year have there been times of quickening and enlightening to our souls, when we have seen farther into the deeper things than ever before.
We believe it would be very profitable to us as a church if each Bro. and Sis. would attend at least one Camp-meeting each year if possible, go with the determination to receive all the light and accomplish all the good that lies within their reach. The “Baptism of the Holy Ghost” is the great essential for camp-meeting as well as home work.
People were encouraged to go to the camp meeting where they could experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit and move on from mere salvation to the higher plane of sanctification. It was said that many entered “the land of Beulah” as they came walking to the altar to be crushed to the ground by the power of the Spirit. The reports of the Spring City camp meeting tell not only of those who cut their ties to the world but of those who were saved. People were not only being sanctified, they were being saved, getting started on the upward way. The camp meeting was becoming an evangelistic tool.
Five different camp meetings were scheduled for the summer of 1895. They were held at Annandale [New Jersey], Weissport, Salisbury, Spring City and Chestnut Hill. The season’s first was to begin at Annandale beginning on June 1st and lasting until the 10th. The camp meeting at Annandale was a new venture across the Delaware River. W. B. Musselman described the events there.
The Annandale camp-meeting was something entirely new in that part of New Jersey. People did not fully appreciate it at first, but it increased in interest, and by the time it closed there was a wonderful interest awakened and everything seemed ready for a great break in the ranks of sinners. We never closed a camp meeting where there was such a clamoring for another week’s camp meeting. Even the citizens of Annandale (many of them stopped us and our preachers, requesting to continue another week). We did not think we ever had a camp-meeting that had such an effect for good in a neighborhood as this one; yet we had no member of ours there when it started.
We have now organized a small class on the straight line. The condition of the work was grand. Perfect harmony reigned throughout, and if ever the Holy Ghost had the right of way it was here- such a melting and coming down amongst the workers and preachers, too, and unity reigned. Our venerable Bro. Taylor preached with liberty in the English language which was highly appreciated.
The camp meeting at Annandale was an evangelistic event. They were in new territory. They intended to make an impact on the community. Perhaps most telling of the evangelistic intention of this meeting was the meeting recorded by Lucy Musselman that was held during that week in Annandale on June 5. Mrs. Musselman recorded the following:
For some time a general missionary spirit prevailed among the licensed workers of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, and whereas there have been Hall and other revival meetings held in different localities of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the past with grand results and where as the work is fast spreading, we see the necessity of different rules for the future prosperity of the church and work in general. Therefore (June 5, 1895 in the hall in Annandale, N.J.) We the undersigned organized ourselves in a "body" to be known as the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Home Missionary Society.
The first camp meeting in Shamokin was held during the summer of 1897. It is not listed on C. H. Brunner’s catalogue of camp meetings but was significant none the less. It was an all out assault for the souls of the people of Shamokin. Dora Rote could hardly contain herself as she wrote on June 26, 1897, while the meetings were in progress, “Oh, it is wonderful! Wonderful! How God is working at this time. What a stir there is! Such a hungering and thirsting among the people. I have never seen it so before. The Christians of all denominations are swinging in line with the truth, and oh, such sweet melting times! The Holy Ghost is preparing a people for Jesus’ coming, which may be soon. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” J. E. Fidler was present for the meeting and shared the excitement. He reported to the Banner:
Dear Readers of the Banner. --- As a witness to the manifestations of the dear Holy Ghost at the M. B. C. camp meeting at Shamokin, Pa., held by the Gospel Workers, I wish to say they were most wonderful indeed. The dear Lord permitted us to be present right from the commencement. Satan from without seemed to oppress by his influence under the name of a camp-meeting which was held by a company of colored people, for whom we have no less regard than others if they are filled with the Holy Ghost. But it was said that they would send for a pint of spirits for their pastor before he would preach. So a good many people looked at the dark side, but the Holy Ghost wonderfully overruled all and swept lots of prejudice away by his tidal wave of love. We saw nothing but perfect union among God’s people, hence such wonderful victory. Such manifestations of the Holy Ghost I have seldom seen. This rivets the truth to my heart and gives me the assurance that God has a people there and the Holy Ghost is seeking them out for His name. We could not definitely state the number of converts but there were many as the altar was crowded with seeking souls at every opportunity, sometimes from twelve to fifteen souls there at one time, people of all ages in life, but mostly all grown. Strange as it was a woman on her way to the park to attend a picnic was arrested by the Holy Spirit and brought to camp meeting and was gloriously converted. She stated she hadn’t been on her knees since she was five years old. She was in our estimation at least 45 years old. Not only was the power of God manifested in the saving of souls, but also many received the Holy ghost and made an unconditional surrender to God, and the Spirit is calling workers right out from those new born willing children of his. The same Holy Spirit who saved the people at the camp meeting and took his abode in their hearts also healed many of them. We don’t know definitely how many but about thirty five were anointed and many claimed healing and went on their way rejoicing. Everything seemed to have the clear and definite ring. Also the Lord’s coming rang clear and distinct. The trumpet had not uncertain sound. Everybody could wheel right in line. The four-fold gospel is proclaimed in all its fulness among the Gospel Workers, and who should not encourage such a blessed work which is needed all over the country and cities? And we would say as a word of encouragement to the Gospel Workers, Go right on in his name and our inmost heart bids you all, “God speed.” The above words are the inmost convictions of my heart and I would support and stand by such a work under any circumstance all for the glory of Jesus. Such conviction as was there I have not seen for a long time, even among the Polish Catholic people which could not understand our language: they stood with tears in their eyes and wished to understand, but knew nothing but the visible manifestations, the strange feeling came over them. How sorry I was that I could not speak with them about our loving Jesus.
W. B. Musselman gave a somewhat more analytical but still enthusiastic update.
The Shamokin camp meeting was a grand success, exceeding above expectations in visible results. Wonderful unity. Thirty tents were on the ground, consisting of Gospel Worker’s members. We had no camp committee, but we found wonderful stand-byes. The dear brethren of the different bands were on hand early Friday morning and stuck to work in pitching camp, all through camp, and also taking it down. We will never forget the work of some. God bless them. It is grand to deal with saved people... Our altar at Shamokin was 32 feet long, yet it was not long enough at times.... The Polandish priest was at our Shamokin camp, walking all the time. At times some thought it was to keep order, but we doubt it. The Polanders were wonderfully convicted. Tears flowed freely at times. There was also a struggle amongst the Irish Catholic. God worked mightily during the camp.
The Gospel Workers held camp meetings as a part of their evangelistic repertoire at Sunbury. The meeting held in Sunbury in 1898 was identified as a Gospel Worker camp meeting.
By 1907, the Gospel Herald Society had been formed and was operating separately from the Gospel Workers who were beginning to move from evangelism to printing. Under the leadership of W. G. Gehman, the Heralds continued the aggressive program of evangelism and were continuing to use the camp meeting as an evangelistic tool. Camp meetings were held at Bunker Hill on the east side of Shamokin in 1907 and 1908. Gehman’s report of the work of the Gospel Heralds in 1907 reported, “We held the first Gospel Herald Society Camp Meeting at Shamokin in September. There were 85 tents. Far beyond our expectation. All the Gospel Heralds were present; also nearly all the ministers of the Conference. It was glorious indeed. Souls were saved every day with one exception.” It is difficult to ascertain why locations were chosen or abandoned and even what objectives were being pursued. Sadly, we are missing the Gospel Banners for the years of 1907 and 1908. The only reports of the meetings at Bunker Hill in Shamokin are Gehman’s brief comments for his reports as presiding elder. Shamokin had no camp meetings during 1909 and 1910. In 1911, the Gospel Heralds returned to Shamokin for another camp meeting. W. G. Gehman reported to the Annual Conference in a very brief way, “The Gospel Herald Society held a glorious campmeeting of 43 tents at Shamokin, Pa....”
The real focus of camp meeting was at the other place called Mizpah. In 1911, it was in its second season and people were excited about the permanent location and facilities provided in Allentown. But Shamokin had a camp meeting. In 1915, we learn this camp meeting was being held at a place called Edgewood, a section of Shamokin. An amusement park was there with available ground. A nickel got you into the amusement park and one free ride. Behind the amusement park was the campground. There was a dark side. You had to drive past the amusement park to get to the camp ground, through the devil’s territory to reach the promised land. Even when inside the campground, you could not totally ignore or avoid the amusements. The roller coaster, visible through a hole in the trees, would occasionally go by during a sermon. All heads would turn and the preacher would have to stop for the noise. W. G. Gehman would pause on such occasions to say, “There’s another load going to hell.” The tennis courts nearby could be rented for a few games. You can be sure more than one teenager snuck out and crossed over into the forbidden territory.
How the site was selected and the arrangements for the use of the ground are entirely unknown. Clearly, the camp meeting was under the direction of the Gospel Heralds who were led by W. G. Gehman. Gehman would have arranged everything but no one knows any of the specifics. Each year, camp meeting would return to Edgewood Grove until its final meeting in 1941.
Edgewood Camp Meeting was located on a slight hill which provided some incline to the ground. Unlike Mizpah Grove where the lay of the land provided for run off of rain, Edgewood had poor drainage. That made for messy conditions when it rained. The lack of paved roads and walks would exacerbate either wet or dry conditions. Willard recounts, “When it rained at Edgewood, we endured mud; when it did not rain we endured dust.” The rain was significant enough to be mentioned in some yearly reports. In 1919, W. G. Gehman writes, “In spite of the copious fall of rain for the first half of the Camp Meeting, the altar was filled with souls, many of whom were saved, others freed from physical and spiritual bondage. After the weather cleared up the attendance of outsiders increased and the Word of God preached so faithfully by the Lord’s servants brought forth glorious results.” Shireman reported more enthusiastically that in “the beginning of our camp we had rain until Wednesday morning, when the dear Lord heard and answered prayer and gave us sunshine for the balance of the camp. Praise His name!” The following year saw similar downpours. Gehman reported, “There were 24 baptized in the lake while torrents of rain were pouring upon the audience.”
The camp meeting at Shamokin was held during the middle of summer when blueberries were at their prime. Willard remembers that people brought their buckets and headed to the woods behind the grove to pick blueberries. Willard also remembers how his family was stopped when going to Edgewood. The police were seeking to limit an infestation of Japanese beetles and were checking fruit and vegetables. His father was able to talk the officer out of confiscating their cargo of food by assuring him that it would be consumed within 24 hours.
Three permanent structures were part of the facilities at Edgewood; an auditorium, a dining hall and a bookstore. And of course added to that list of buildings were two necessary buildings called by some the outhouses. These outhouses had none of the modern touches that we know but were a hole in the ground with a building above which enclosed the bench with two holes.
The auditorium was of course the center of camp and the center of attention and activity. The auditorium was a pavilion with open walls and a platform for preachers and others who might need to be seen at the front. In 1921, the 44 x 62 foot structure was erected with rafters which did not require poles in the center. Of course benches were provided for those who came to hear the Word of God preached with power and conviction. The benches were arranged in four sections with three aisles. Little thought was given to comfort on those benches. Spiritually minded people did not need comfort. The platform doubled as storage space as the area beneath became the off season location of lumber and other supplies which were carefully packed away.
The dining hall, another of the permanent facilities, provided a place to nourish the body. The Shamokin Church had special responsibilities in the dining room. The wife of the Shamokin pastor would take primary responsibility for food service with help from some of the wives from the church. Other pastor’s wives would help to serve the meals. Willard cannot recall the quality of the food because at that point he cared only whether it was food. As long as it was food, he would eat it. Much of the food prepared in the kitchen was donated. Such donations were expected and always accepted.
The dining hall, located in the corner of the property, was a long building which included the kitchen facilities. Everyone joined for their meals. The preachers and their families as well as the visiting preachers and their families were included with all the ordinary folks at dinner. When the large dinner bell rang, everyone came. The long tables were surrounded by people ready for good conversation about the messages, the latest news, how the children had grown and the trouble with teenagers. The meal began with a prayer and was followed by the bedlam of reaching for food served family style. Some of those who bought their meals by way of meal tickets thought it was their privilege to scoop out half of the potatoes in the serving dishes. The rest of the guests gasped at such lack of consideration. Families took their meals together unless some fortunate teenager could sneak off to eat with the rest of the guys.
A small book store was available for purchases except during services and in the evening.. When the front shutters of the store were opened, you could look in to see the stock available. Bibles, books, and commentaries were there for the serious reader. Pads, trinkets and other assorted items gathered the attention of the children. The clerk stood behind the counter to receive your money and pop it promptly into the cash drawer. The proceeds benefitted the Gospel Heralds and their leader.
Around the buildings were what made it camp meeting; the tents. Without the tents, it was just a meeting. The tents were placed around the grove in a large circle. Eventually, a row of tents was added inside the circle for the visiting preachers and later for the specially invited speakers who were to become part of the program.
The tents were a major expenditure of time and energy. Every year the tents had to be set up and taken down. For many years, following the Bethlehem District Camp Meeting at Mizpah, the tents were taken down and shipped to Edgewood for its meeting. At the conclusion of the meetings at Edgewood, the tents were torn down and shipped back to Mizpah for the Allentown District Camp. Willard records that some of the pastors of the other districts were invited free of charge to come to the camp on Wednesday of the camp meeting. They would be expected to remain until the following Monday to help take down the camp and return the tents to Mizpah. Willard recounts, “Somewhere along the line, we brightened up and conducted both camps at Mizpah before we shipped the tents to Edgewood Grove.” Bert Brosius, retired director of Pinebrook Bible Conference, remembers that as a boy he helped to store the lumber from the tents. Because he was boy size, he was assigned the task of crawling under the platform where the lumber was stored to push it back as far as it would go so that it might all fit in to the limited area. After the season, it was necessary to store the tents and be sure that they were adequately dried and prepared for storage. Without adequate preparation for the storage, the tents would become moldy and mildewed. The tents were permanently stored in the facilities at Mizpah.
Putting up the tents was a yearly event for the pastors. All of the pastors were expected to assist in erecting them; no exceptions. Putting up the tents provided good fellowship and bonded the brethren together in their shared misery. If you were a pastor’s son over 6 years of age or so, you were expected to help as well. According to Willard, those who came closest to being part of a wheel chair brigade would be given the lighter duty such as tying ropes between the tents and watching for tears or other damage to the tents. If repairs were needed, the ladies from Allentown or Bethlehem or Easton showed up to make the large sewing repairs. The pk’s made sure those who hammered the stakes had all they needed to continue with their job. The men who could swing sledges went to their work of driving steel. The former blacksmith, Pastor R. L. Woodring, had special proficiency when the stakes went down. The stakes had been made from the long bolts used at a railroad in freight cars.
The tents were all 12 x 12 with a four foot side wall. Because they were uniform in their size, the wooden poles needed to hold the fabric were interchangeable. When the tent was up, the ropes were tied to the next tent. The wooden floors would be laid down. Wooden stakes would be driven to assure that the edges of the tent stayed down during the occasional storms.
When families moved in, they brought their special camp furniture which was reserved from year to year for this special time. Chairs, blankets, lamps, and other items which had been stored away last year were dug out and dusted off. Most of the families brought their furniture in their cars which were loaded to the hilt. Some churches rented trucks on which the members would transport their supplies. Over the years, people kept their camp meeting equipment together and retained it for next year meaning that more and more accumulated from year to year.
Each family would find its tent by its number and settle in. Some of the families rented two tents reserving one for the children. Bunks could be built. Straw for the bunks would be provided at camp. Some used the straw to make mattresses. If you brought a stove along, you could set it up, outside, of course.
By today’s standards, the program at camp meeting was rigorous. The day began early with a call to prayer meeting. W. G. Gehman would ring a bell to announce the prayer meeting and the later meetings during the day. Apparently, someone with a heart connected a wire to his tent that would allow him to ring the bell by pushing a button and thus saving him the steps to the bell itself. Such a contraption proved to be a temptation to a prankster teenager who succeeded in setting off the bell in the middle of the night.
Meetings were held morning, afternoon and evening. The card to advertise the July, 1928, meeting promised services daily at 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning. Afternoon meetings would be held at 2:00 and 3:00. In the evening, meetings began at 7:00 and at 7:30pm. Good, inspirational singing was assured by the advertisement. You were invited to bring your friends along.
No programs were printed. The preachers could never be sure when they were going to preach. They had to be ready when Daddy Gehman gave the call. The preaching was always a highlight. The announcement for 1928 promised addresses and Bible studies on salvation, sanctification, separation, divine healing, the pre-millennial coming of Christ, etc. Gehman reported in 1917, “The ministers held forth the Word of Life faithfully. Many were set at liberty as a consequence and quite a number were baptized.” In 1922, he said, “The preaching of the Word by His servants was clear and distinct and with liberty and conviction.” In 1923,Gehman could gloriously report more of the same, “God’s servants preached the Word clearly and powerfully and with glorious and lasting results.” In 1928, the messages “delivered by the preachers were pregnant with truth and celestial fire. Quite a number sought and found the Lord according to their needs and God’s people, in general were edified.” In 1932, the “ministers preached the Word distinctly and powerfully. Some declared that they never heard them preach like it before. There were quite a number of seekers during the Camp Meeting. Some took a definite stand for the Lord.”
Over the years, the participants of the program changed. In the first years, the Gospel Heralds were prominent. The 1907 report stated, “All the Gospel Heralds were present; also nearly all the ministers of the conference. It was glorious indeed.” As the years progressed, the Heralds receded and the attention fell upon the preachers with the results listed in the reports quoted above. By 1931, the Gospel Heralds were simply given a day.
As the years progressed the program of speakers at Edgewood began to feature visiting speakers. Camp meeting had always had visitors on occasion who provided some of the preaching. Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Guy were at the camp meeting in Spring City in 1892 and were clearly a highlight. H. B. Musselman tells us that they “did noble work for the Lord, and their red hot Holy Ghost sermons, as well as the grand exhortations and advice given was highly appreciated by all. It did our hearts good to meet with them and enjoy the seasons of refreshing from the presence of His face.” At the Reading Camp Meeting in Heber Yost’s grove in 1903, R. L. Woodring reported that “Bro. A. Good, of Ohio, gave us a real nice visit, and his messages were both spiritual and instructive. We believe he has nothing but good to report about the Reading Camp Meeting.” In 1919, the Zooks, missionaries from Chile came with their two sons for the first half of camp meeting. J. G. Shireman said, “...We were privileged to hear messages from them out of God’s word which were enjoyed by all.” In 1928, Gehman’s report noted, “Miss Alma E. Doering, of the ‘Unevangelized Tribes Mission of Africa,’ gave a few addresses. Miss Mary A. Miller, of Shamokin, gave her farewell address before sailing for the field under the above mission August 4th.” In 1933, missionaries had become routine in the program. “The Pastors and Missionaries presented the word and the work of the Lord faithfully with everlasting results.” In 1936, Gehman noted, “The Holy Spirit was manifestly present and proved Himself effectual through the preaching of God’s Word by the pastors, foreign missionaries, and evangelist.” The name of the evangelist was not given but clearly the evangelist was a significant part of the program that year.
In 1938, Gehman gives a fuller description of the program and notes a new part of the program. “Brother and Sister N. M. Cressman, missionaries on furlough, rendered good service. The Bosworth party had charge of the singing and music. B. B. Bosworth gave several inspiring messages. The Pastors and Gospel Heralds who were present gave clear convincing and powerful messages from the Word.” Gehman adds, “Our attendance throughout was larger than the previous year.” From that point on, the music and message of the Bosworths were part of the ministry at Edgewood. “The Bosworth party had charge of the singing and music. They rendered excellent service. B. B. Bosworth delivered several messages and was especially used in giving various altar calls.” “The Bosworth party had charge of the singing and music and B. B. Bosworth gave several very good messages - one on divine healing and health. Many were anointed for healing and were helped.” “The Bosworth Evangelistic Party had charge of the singing and music. Rev. B. B. Bosworth spoke on Divine Healing. Many were anointed and physically helped.”
The Bosworths traveled as two couples. Fred and Bert Bosworth were known for their evangelistic and healing ministry. They were affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Music was a big part of their presentation. Fred played a trumpet. Bert played the trombone. They played at least one number in each of the services they led. The Bosworth wives took charge of the inquiry room. They were careful that their ministry did not partake of the bizarre that came in some cases. Before anyone could be anointed with oil, they had to attend three session in the inquiry room. When they held a campaign in a city, they encouraged the pastors of that city to be involved in their ministry. When they anointed with oil, pastors who believed as they did about healing were invited to share in prayer. Later Fred drifted into heretical teaching but Bert continued to minister as before. Later he and his wife were joined by Bea Bush to continue their music ministry.
The Bosworths brought music to life at camp meeting. In earlier years, no musical instruments were available. While for a time, musical instruments were frowned upon in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, the lack of convenience necessitated going without music. Later piano and organ were added. Then, the Bosworths were added, an addition which brought polished music and an upgraded program.
In 1938, another program addition was noted: the Bible teacher. That year it was noted that “Dr. D. L. Cooper, President of the Biblical Research Society of Los Angeles, Cal., was present for several days, giving Bible studies and gave excellent service.” Dr. Cooper returned in 1940 not only to give message but to show scenes of Palestine which were sure to delight the gathered seekers. Cooper and his family returned in 1941. Cooper used charts to support his dispensational teaching about the end times. Because he was only used at Edgewood Grove, one would assume that he was somehow a favorite of Daddy Gehman.
Visiting preachers like Cooper were given the Sunday afternoon slots and gave forth during the evening services. The chairman of the camp would be assigned to preach on the first Sunday morning. The presiding elder would speak on the last Sunday morning of the camp.
The ministry to the children of the camp is less well documented. The invitation to the camp meeting at Chestnut Hill in 1895 mentions the ministry to children, “Children’s day Friday the 30th at 2 o’clock p.m.” The 1941 report states, “The illustrated talk to the children daily by Pastor A. G. Woodring was a special feature of the Camp Meeting.”
The Last Meeting of Edgewood Camp Meeting
On August 10, 1941, the last camp meeting of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ was held at Edgewood Grove in Shamokin. The report of the presiding elder made no mention that this would be the last meeting because at the time the report was written, no one, including W. G. Gehman himself, knew that Edgewood had seen its last meeting. The preacher at the last service was E. N. Cassel.
W. G. Gehman asked Cassel to come for the last half week of camp meeting, a surprising request given the fact that Cassel, who could not do strenuous work , would be expected to help with the tents. On Saturday night, Gehman approached Cassel and assigned him the task of closing camp meeting. Cassel preached 55 minutes which was, by his own admission, too long. Gehman then asked Gospel Worker Flossie Knopp to speak. After she was finished, C. E. Kirkwood was assigned to “draw the net.” A great response filled the altar with people. Gehman came to speak to each of the respondents individually. After he had completed his interaction, Gehman turned to Cassel and said, “It seems like we can’t get this camp meeting closed.”
But close it did. No more meetings were held at Edgewood. Mizpah Grove had shut down for the war years but started again when the hard times ended. Edgewood Camp Meeting would certainly have shut down as well. But when the war was over, Edgewood did not begin again. Edgewood Camp Meeting died but not on August 10, 1941. Edgewood Camp Meeting died on November 26, 1941. On that day, William George Gehman entered into glory. W. G. Gehman was Edgewood. Without him, there was no Edgewood Camp Meeting. When the Gospel Workers faded out, W. G. Gehman and the Gospel Heralds moved in to assure that the aggressive ministry of outreach in that region of Pennsylvania had a place where people could be called to the fullest expression of the Christian life. As Gospel Herald leadership faded, W. G. Gehman carried the camp meeting forward and assured that a vibrant ministry would go on. He made assignments, organized the camp, and made sure that everything needed was there. When Gehman was gone, there was no one with the vision or the ability to carry on.
The pavilion is gone. The tents are tattered. The amusement park has been torn down. Houses stand now where God’s people gathered. Edgewood Camp Meeting meets no more. Many met the Savior and grew strong in their faith at Edgewood leaving a legacy that lingers long after the last farewell.