Campmeetings - The Early Years

(1869 - 1922)

As early as 1858, James White was urging that there was a work to do in Minnesota. That work was initially beset with difficulty as some "ministers" commissioned to spread the gospel were not characterized by a Godly spirit – they being better known as unscrupulous horse traders than as men of God! But throughout those early years, Godly men stepped into place to sacrifice and endure unspeakable trials to spread the gospel in "western" states such as Minnesota – men such as William S. Ingraham, W. B. Hill, and Brother Morse worked tirelessly to spread the gospel. 

By 1859 small meetings had begun to be held throughout Minnesota with positive results. In the late 1860's, God had prepared the way for a state-wide meeting of His believers – the most important development being the arrival of railroads. The History of Dodge County (pg. 8) reports the “iron horse" came to Dodge County with the building of the Winona and St. Peter Railroad from Rochester to Kasson in 1865. It is no wonder that, in 1869, it was determined that the first Minnesota camp meeting would be held at Elder Ingraham's farm just north of Kasson. God had provided, through the railroads, a means for Adventists to travel across Minnesota and more easily congregate for fellowship.

Of course, the existence of the railroads still didn't create an experience of ease for those attending camp meeting. Campers still had to contend with uncertain weather (tornadoes and thunder storms in particular), challenges like the grasshopper plague (most notable in 1875), and the trials of setting up camp with heavy canvas tents, stuffing bedding ticks with straw, and dealing with sanitary issues attendant to a large gathering with none of our modern-day plumbing conveniences. Also, there were some who were not able to travel by rail due to expense or lack of availability by their home – these often came by covered wagon and camped in the wagon at the campmeeting – similar to our modern-day Winnebagos! In 1878, it was reported that Bro. Harlow, seventy-six years old, drove his team three hundred miles, from some place in the Dakotas! Talk about dedication!

Well-planned meetings included speakers such as James and Ellen White, Uriah Smith and J. N. Andrews. Meetings were often held in the Scandinavian tongues and German – sometimes up to four languages being presented. Early on, meetings for children and youth were added. Congregations were touched by the messages presented, a spirit of brotherly love and confession was present and large baptisms were often the result. One year it was reported that a sixty-year-old woman in poor health had traveled over ninety miles in a farm wagon to attend and was baptized at the end of the meetings. A spirit of financial generosity was also usually attendant. Minnesotans were frequently commended to other conferences of an example of God's faithful and dedicated servants. Every year, Minnesotans left camp meeting saying it was the "best camp meeting we ever attended!"

While early campmeetings were of an evangelistic nature, making it desirable to change the site every year or two, eventually meetings centered more around nurturing members. At that time, campmeetings became more common at various parks in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where good railroad and streetcar service was available to carry campers to the camp site. (Read about street car lines at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.) It was 53 years, before Minnesota camp meetings had a regular "home" on the Anoka campground.

Through the years, the qualifications for camp meetings changed from the early years' needs of railroads and straw for bedding ticks to more modern desires and requirements. However, at all times, the ultimate desire of the campers was to hear the word of God preached, to learn about the progress of God's work, and to renew old acquaintances. For a century and a half, Minnesotans have come away from camp meeting feeling refreshed and encouraged in their daily walk with God – still claiming that this camp meeting was “the best camp meeting we've ever had in Minnesota"!

Campmeeting History

(Editor Favorites: 1869, 1870, 1875 and 1878)

1869 - Dodge Co., Wasioja, William S. Ingraham farm
1870 - Dodge Co., Wasioja, William S. Ingraham farm
1871 - Steele Co., Medford, East side of Straight River
1872 - Steele Co., Medford, East side of Straight River
1873 - Steele Co., Medford, East side of Straight River
1874 - Steele Co., Medford, East side of Straight River
1875 - Blue Earth Co., Eagle Lake, near train station
1876 - Blue Earth Co., Eagle Lake, near train station
1877 - McLeod Co., Hutchinson, Park by the river
1878 - McLeod Co., Hutchinson, Park by the river
1879 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun
1880 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun
1881 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun
1882 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun
1883 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun
1884 - Blue Earth Co., Mankato, Blue Earth & MN Rivers
1885 - Blue Earth Co., Mankato, Blue Earth & MN Rivers
1886 - Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., Lake Harriet
1887 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Post Siding
1888 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Minnehaha Park
1889 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1890 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1891 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1892 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1893 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1894 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Pleasant Park
1895 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Merriam Park
1896 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Merriam Park
1897 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Merriam Park
1898 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Merriam Park
1899 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1900 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1901 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1902 - Nicollet Co., St. Peter
1903 - Washington Co., Stillwater
1904 - Washington Co., Stillwater
1905 - Hennepin Co., Maple Plain
1906 - Benton Co., Sauk Rapids - St. Cloud
1907 - Benton Co., Sauk Rapids - St. Cloud
1908 - Hennepin Co., Minneapolis, Central Park
1909 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Merriam Park
1910 - McLeod Co., Hutchinson, City North Park
1911 - McLeod Co., Hutchinson, City North Park
1912 - Rice Co., Northfield, Central Park
1913 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, Como Park
1914 - Ramsey Co., St. Paul, University Ave.
1915 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1916 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1917 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1918 - Anoka Co., Anoka, George Green Park
1919 - Morrison Co., Little Falls, Old Fairgrounds
1920 - Morrison Co., Little Falls, Old Fairgrounds
1921 - Benton Co., St. Cloud, Riverside Park
1922 - Benton Co., St. Cloud, Riverside Park

Lessons of the past
Hope for the future