NOVEMBER 2, 1991

In Leviticus 23 we read that upon the gathering of the crops of the land, Israel was to celebrate a festival to the Lord for seven days. On the first day they were to take choice fruit and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars and rejoice before the Lord their God for seven days. Israel was to live in booths during those seven days so Israel's descendants would know that the Israelites lived in booths when God brought them out of Egypt.

In my research for this paper and at other times I never read any reference to this Leviticus passage as a reason for holding camp meetings. I think it is a good reason.

The first Camp Meeting is said to have been held in Kentucky on the banks of the Red River in 1799 by a Presbyterian and a Methodist minister. For several years these congregations held Camp Meetings together until gradually the Presbyterians withdrew and the Methodists continued.

Lorenzo Dow, an able though eccentric Methodist minister, first introduced camp meetings in Staffordshire, England in1807. Two Methodist ministers, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, were so impressed with the advantages of this style of services that they persisted in holding them even after they were disapproved by the Wesleyan Conference in 1807, for which they were finally expelled and in 1810 founded the Primitive Methodist Church. (Year Book, 1928, page 38)

The Methodists of America conducted camp meetings which antedated Fetter's Grove or Chestnut Hill. Such are Brandywine Summit, near Wilmington, DE and Chester Heights, near Media, PA; Chester Heights was used over several Labor Day weekends (1944, 1945) by the Chester and West Philadelphia Bible Fellowship Churches.


On the pages of the July 15, 1880 issue of the Gospel Banner, Editor Daniel Brenneman invites everyone who is interested to join in the first Mennonite Campmeeting. The campmeeting is to be held in a grove belonging to Mr Peter Fetter just outside of E1khart, Indiana. "Ample provisions and grain and hay for horses will be furnished on the grounds at moderate prices. Fresh water and straw will be supplied, with all else necessary to the comfort and satisfaction of those who come thither to worship God and receive the benefit of the meeting". (Page 108)

The reasons for conducting camp meetings were to preach holiness and revival. History records that the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in the late 19th century believed and preached that sanctification was a work of grace ·subsequent to salvation. Brenneman further invites "all the dear pilgrims to come, accompanied by their young people, praying that they may be brought as acceptable sacrifices upon God's sanctifying altar, and that there may be a general revival promoted in the Church."

A contingent from Pennsylvania, composed of John Traub, Sister Heller, Jonas and Lucy Musselman, and Abel and Hannah Strawn accepted Brenneman's invitation and attended the first Mennonite Camp Meeting in Fetter's Grove, Elkhart, Indiana.

Brenneman reports in the Gospel Banner, August 15, 1880, after the camp meeting, "Besides a goodly number of conversions, many entered into the higher life or blessed state of sanctification." (Page124)

When the Musselmans and Strawns returned they were determined that a campmeeting should be held in Pennsylvania. A committee had been appointed to find a location for the campmeeting. They found a grove on land belonging to Milton Kauffman on Chestnut Hill between Coopersburg and Zionsville. On August 13, 1881, the first Mennonite Campmeeting of Pennsylvania was held.

The campmeeting continued until August 21. Four days after its conclusion Jonas Musselman wrote a report for .the Gospel Banner which was published in the September 15, 1881 issue.

It was quite a time. Elaborate preparations had been made. A large tent was rented and erected on the morning of August12. By two o'clock they were done with the tent and went onto other matters. They erected a stand with a sleeping room attached. They provided several other apartments for sleeping as well as some tents. Even covered wagons were on hand. A large house nearby could also be used to house the people. They secured and arranged 150 chairs for the tent for the listeners.

All the work was done by 2 o'clock an August 13 and campmeeting was underway. The schedule was laid out and followed:

6:30 a.m. Family worship

8:30 a.m. Prayer meeting (in the large tent)

10:00 a.m. Preaching

1:00 p.m. Prayer meeting

2:00 p.m. Preaching

6:30 p.m. Preaching

In the evening - Preaching

It was obviously a full day for all who attended. It was a long schedule, but these were people who came to hear the Word of God and meet with the Holy Spirit and be sanctified.

Musselman reports, "These meetings were conducted strictly on the holiness line and quite a number entered the land of Beulah." He continues to say, "The power of God, as displayed at that time upon the encampment, was such that a number were not able to stand, but were crushed to the earth. Some were not able to rise for over an hour". (Richard Taylor, Fellowship News, May, 1991, pages 2,5)

Camp meetings continued at Chestnut Hill for the next 17 years. Soon after the inception of camp meetings in the Pennsylvania Conference Father Gehman saw the blessings from such gatherings and bought the acreage on which the camp meeting was held.

It is out of this camp meeting scene that H. B. Musselman's famous story of the whiskey barrels for drinking water came. You older folks remember him telling this story frequently.


After 1897 camp meetings moved to groves and sites in various locations. The Appendix in the back of the Year Book of 1917 and following years gives the location of the camp meetings, such as: Royersford, Spring City (Bonnie Brae Park), Catasauqua, Weissport, Walnutport, Rittersville, Annandale, Quakertown, Northampton, Terre Hill, Mohnsville, Neffsville, Reading, Hellertown, Wescoesville, Easton, and Waldheim.

The location of each annual Camp meeting was at the discretion of the Presiding Elder. C.H. Brunner wrote, "Changing location from year to year was not always too satisfactory and to find suitable groves large enough for our annually-enlarging Camp Meeting became a problem. With the advent of the automobile, parking also became a serious consideration." (Year Book, 1928, page 36)

It is interesting to note the following in Presiding Elder W. G. Gehman's report in the Annual Conference Yearbook of 1931: "A small Camp Meeting, or a large Grove Meeting, was held in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, with 15 tents occupied by the local class. A number of visiting preachers with many of their people, and the Pastor V. H. Reinhart, gave effectual service. There were many seekers, and such who have been out of fellowship for years, were gloriously restored. The expenses were more than met, for which we praise the Lord." (Year Book, 1931, page 35)

At the 1909 Annual Conference the Executive Board was given permission to seek a place for campmeeting. In the Spring of 1910 a plot of ground with a grove was found and purchased. It was located in what was then called East Allentown. Almost six acres were purchased at a cost of $3,159.53.

In the Gospel Banner of September 1, 1910, C.H. Brunner reports:

All the Pastors and the presiding elders spent many weeks of hard work cleaning out the underbrush, hauling out stones, and filling up with gravel, etc. Thus, we saved several hundred dollars and at the same time have one of the finest Campmeeting groves in the state.

We had an artesian well drilled in the grove and the Lord specifically favored us with an abundance of the very best, coldest water to be desired.

This grove we have given the name "Mizpah Grove," for "Mizpah" means "Beacon" or "Watch Tower" or "The Lord watch between me and thee." See Genesis 31:49. (Page 570)

In his report to Annual Conference, H. B. Musselman said, " The purchasing and fixing up a camp meeting grove was a heavy taxation on the time and mental and physical strength of the ministry."(Year Book, 1910, page 13)

Apparently, all agreed, the effort was well worthwhile. C. H. Brunner wrote his report of the first week of campmeeting held at Mizpah Grove.

The first Campmeeting held in our newly purchased "Mizpah Grove" was indeed a blessed one. There were one hundred and fifty-four tents. The weather was ideal and the attendance large throughout. The large tabernacle was well filled every morning at 5:30 for a short season of prayer, which was followed by very instructive addresses to the campers on the practical every-day life of the faithful child of God.

The brethren preached the Word with boldness and inspiration; the flood-gates of heaven were opened while rivers of salvation, cleansing, and healing flowed and many plunged in and received the desire of their hearts.

The classes represented were greatly benefitted and a good impression was made upon the community and the people in general". (Gospel Banner, September 1, 1910, page 570)


I will make same observations relative to Mizpah Grove. Some have been gleaned from a careful scanning of the minutes of the Annual Conferences, some became known by being the son of one of the prime movers of Mizpah Grove, my father, and others from personal knowledge. When Mizpah Grove was purchased in 1910 it consisted of approximately six acres. Over the years additional purchases were made, lots were given by Mr Andrew Keck and Mr John Saeger. Also some acreage was purchased by Mr Harrison Yost. The total came to 30 acres. In 1936 the City of Allentown purchased acreage from the church for a reservoir, leaving us with approximately 17 acres. A 12-inch water main was placed in the main avenue of the grove, which was handily located for our use in the future.

I have been told that the grove had many beautiful chestnut trees, but the blight of 1912-13 took its toll and no chestnut trees survived. Replacements were made over the years with Carolina Poplar and Oriental Plain trees. The former were fast growers but shallow-rooted. I recall that F. B. Hertzog made an observation, with praise to the Lord, that he was glad when the last of the poplar trees was removed. We can be thankful that none of the trees fell during camp meeting or were hit by lightning, as many members of local churches encamped in a row.

During 1912 a wooden auditorium 72' X 102' was erected at a cost of $1,450.00. During the heavy snow of the winter of 1924-25 this auditorium collapsed. It was replaced with a slightly-larger auditorium of steel and brick. The platform-end was two-storied, which gave space for dormitory rooms, lavatory, office, and tool rooms.

Two buildings for eating purposes were erected. For many years an eating stand was conducted in the larger of the two by the Esterly family. Before the "Preachers' House" was erected, the visiting preachers and their families were fed in a large tabernacle.

Three artesian wells were drilled on the grove. None of them produced the limestone water for which Allentown is famous. A cement reservoir was built high on the property and an electrically-controlled pump placed in a 100-foot well. This provided piped water to lavatories and other places in the grove. We shall speak of conducting three camps during one season. With the influx of larger and larger crowds, the pump could not keep up with the demand. This was when the grove was provided with water from the 12-inch main which had previously been laid up the main avenue. I watched as the 12-inch main was drilled under pressure.

At the Chestnut Hill grove all kinds of lights were used. At Mizpah pressurized-gas lamps were used until electrical lights were installed in 1913.

The tents which were used measured 12' X 12', with a four-foot sidewall -- they were all identical, which made erection easier. The corner stakes were iron. The original stakes were made from bolts secured from the train shops of various railroads. The center ropes were tied together, which made for a complete outer circle and rows making avenues. Each tent was numbered to facilitate finding people.

When the tents began to leak, a crew of preachers and laymen paraffined them using a mixture of hot paraffin and gasoline. Father often spoke of seeing the gasoline fumes burning in the air.

The radio transmitter for station WSAN, owned by Pastor B. Bryan Musselman, was housed in the brick dormitory of the new auditorium. Many services were broadcast live from Mizpah grove.

In September of 1935 a city-wide campaign by Gypsy Smith used the auditorium at Mizpah. For this campaign a temporary choir loft and extended platform were erected. During the Spring of 1937 a permanent choir loft was erected and used that summer.

Usually two encampments were held each Summer at Mizpah Grove. During the years of 1911-15 the Easton-Mt Carmel District used the facilities at Allentown. In 1916 Edgewood Grove was rented from the amusement park that adjoined it. A wooden auditorium was erected in 1921 and used until 1941.

I will make an observation about the dates of encampments at these two locations. From 1916 to 1932 the program provided for the Bethlehem Division to have their encampment during the week of July 4th. The tents were dismantled, lumber and blocking stored, and some of the tents were shipped by train, and then by truck in later years to Edgewood Grove, Shamokin, Pa. Camp was conducted at Edgewood and then the process was reversed and tents and facilities were again erected at Mizpah for the Allentown Division camp. The second camp tended to be a bit cool as it approached the end of August. Father also related that on one occasion the tents were dismantled wet and shipped in salt to keep from mildew on the way to Shamokin.


Camp Meetings were conducted at Mizpah Grove annually from 1910 to1941. By action of the pastors of the Allentown District, there were no encampments for the years 1942-45 inclusive. These were the years of World War II. There were no camps held at Edgewood Grove after 1941. In the summer of 1946 the lumber from Shamokin was transported to Allentown.

A special meeting of the active pastors was called to do the planning for Mizpah Grove for 1946. Note that by this time the districts had been rearranged so there were the Bethlehem District Camp and the Allentown District Camp. In 1947 tenters were limited to attend only one camp in the season.

During the years of 1948 to 1955 there were three camps conducted at Mizpah. This taxed tenting equipment as well as grove space. The Presiding Elders shared the responsibilities for the second camp. Two camps were conducted beginning in 1956 to 1968. This reduction may reflect a lagging interest in roughing it in tents for a week or two. If one were carried to camp as a baby, you did not know anything else but camping at Mizpah.


The responsibility for equipment for conducting camp meetings was early given to the Committee Over Camp Meeting Equipage. This committee was formed after the first encampment at Mizpah. Now for a bit of humor: I have in my possession a letter dated November 16, 1990, from C.E. Kirkwood. "I enjoyed working in the conference. I was told I received every honor the Church could bestow. Not so. I was never appointed to the COMMITTEE OVER CAMP MEETING EQUIPAGE. I am hurt but bear this grief alone. It was a hard task. They met twice a year (It was always at Walp's). If you ever get into position to right this wrong PLEASE do so." (Unpublished)

After the demise of the "eating stand," the Executive Board took over providing meals. Cafeteria equipment was purchased and a Manager for the summers was appointed.

Whenever new tents or tabernacles were purchased, they were treated in a blue-stone solution. This recipe my father obtained from some source unknown to me. This was done in a specially-built cement vault on the farm of Allen M. Gehman, brother to Presiding Elder W.G. Gehman. The tents were left to soak for two weeks, then dried on Brother Gehman's hay fields. This solution was supposed to keep down mildew.


The usual practice was to invite the pastors from one district to be the guests of the other district. This practice was discontinued in 1952.

With the district pastors and guests, there were plenty of preachers for all services. At least prior to 1946 no one knew in what time slot he would be asked to speak. Your assignment was sometimes given to you the day of your speaking. After much persuasion a printed program was adopted, so all knew who was to speak when.

Also, the Presiding Elders were permitted by Annual Conference action to secure additional help for the camps. A representative listing of speakers, other than our own pastors, will have to do: Rev. & Mrs B. B. Bosworth, musicians, (At Mizpah and Edgewood for several summers); Dr D L Cooper, Biblical Research Society, at Edgewood; Charles Neighbor, T. P. Bates, Bishop C. F. Derstine, Mennonite Brethren Seminary, Kitchner, Ontario, Canada; Rev. & Mrs. T. H. Ritchie, musicians (musical glasses); Ladies from the Gospel Workers' Society, Cleveland, Ohio; C&MA Quintet, Dr. George MacNeely, Merle Fuller, John Carrara, William Ward Ayre, Andrew Telford, William Allen Dean, J. Allen Blair, Fred Brown, Dr. John R. Rice, etc. etc.

There is record of two baptismal services conducted at Edgewood Grove. One of them was conducted in heavy rain. I have a faint recollection of hearing that baptismal services were conducted from Mizpah in the Lehigh Canal.

I will make a further observation before leaving the Program section of this paper. The Camp meeting movement, as was referred to in Fetter's Grove, was for the promulgation of a holiness position of the denomination. As we invited "outside" speakers to our platform, we began to leave our so-called holiness position fora message of edification and growth. I believe that the doctrinal positions of these guest speakers began to open our eyes to the Biblical truths which we hold today in our Articles of Faith, from the former Arminian position of the church.


On many occasions desires for better facilities at Mizpah Grove were expressed. These took the form of dormitories, storage space for laymen, housing for a caretaker, etc.

The Annual Conference in 1927 considered purchasing a grove between Shamokin and Sunbury. Remember, we rented Edgewood Grove. Annual Conference by resolution suggested to the Stationing, Boundary, and Appropriating Committee to appropriate $1,000 towards this purchase. They took no action and the matter was given over to the Executive Board for further consideration. The option on the property was allowed to expire in 1928.

A committee was formed to seek out a property suitable for a children's program. There were still desires expressed by many that Mizpah Grove could be adapted. As a result of the study of this Committee, the Henninger property outside of Zionsville was purchased and named Victory Valley.

On October 31, 1960, a meeting of the ministering brethren was called to discuss the future of our camp meetings, including the possibility of a camp for the Shamokin-area churches. A strong desire was expressed to continue Mizpah Grove. A Committee was formed to further study the problem and was continued at the 1961 Annual Conference.

At the Annual Conference of 1962 a committee of nine men was formed to be known as the Mizpah Grove Board. Duties and responsibilities were to be delineated and report made to Adjourned Session, April, 1963. The Conference of 1964 gave the maintenance of Mizpah Grove over to this Board.

There was strong feeling for maintaining Mizpah Grove; still, the need for more room for Berean Bible School and the desire for more and better facilities for a Summer program could not be accomplished at Mizpah Grove. The Annual Conference of 1964 authorized the Board of Directors to purchase a large piece of real estate near Fogelsville, Pa., thereafter known as the "Fogelsville Property". This was to be developed into a campus for Berean Bible School and our summer program. Before it was even begun to be developed, problems arose and the property was sold. Even though it appeared that eventually we would be leaving Mizpah Grove, four experimental tents were purchased in 1966, erected and used with pipe frames instead of wooden prongs, frames, etc.

At the Adjourned Session of the 84th Annual Conference (April 13,1968) Annual Conference empowered the Board of Directors to negotiate the purchase of Pinebrook Bible Conference. The vote was: yes - 45; no - 19 (A two-thirds majority was required by resolution). We were told by the Allentown School District that they desired to purchase Mizpah Grove for the erection of a Junior High School building and athletic facilities. If you have seen Mizpah Grove recently, you will have noticed that nothing was done to the property toward this end. The steel auditorium was sold by the School District, dismantled, and erected at another site. The other buildings have been vandalized.

The 85th Annual Conference, October, 1968, informed the members that Mizpah Grove was sold to the Allentown School District for $160,000.00, from which we netted $152,152.83. The final camps at Mizpah Grove were June 29 - July 7, 1968 -- 219 tents; July 13 -July 21, 1968 -- 230 tents.

Now for an honest confession on my part: it was I who was involved in cutting the rope on the locomotive bell. A group, including myself, watched as Pastor G. F. Yost tried to ring the bell for 11 o'clock curfew, and came up with an empty hand. The next morning, the deed being discovered and my involvement, I was made to apologize to Presiding Elder H. B. Musselman. The rope had a knot in it from that time on.

Also, if you were in the right place at the right time, you would have seen me chasing someone around the cafeteria building. It was because he and others had made me the brunt of a joke. I was asked to try to bounce a penny off my forehead into a funnel in my trousers at my waist. As I made my attempt, the culprit poured a glass of water down the funnel.

Mizpah Grove was a family camp. Over the years people accumulated furniture, etc., expressly to be used at camp meeting. Sometimes whole families slept on straw which we called bunks. In the early days of Mizpah there were no showers and no flushing toilet facilities. It was a place where "men met God", Christians were edified, and families met and renewed their friendships year after year. Also, many marriages began at Mizpah when teenagers got a glimpse of members of the opposite sex from other churches.