Camp-Meeting, a name given to a certain class of religious meetings held in the open air. "The first camp-meeting in the United States was held in 1799, on the banks of Red River, in Kentucky. Two brothers by the name of M'Gee, one a Presbyterian and one a Methodist, being on a religious tour from;Tennessee, where the former was settled, to a place called the 'Barrens,' near Ohio, stopped at a settlement on the river to attend a sacramental occasion with the Rev. Mr. M'Greedy, a Presbyterian. John M'Gee, the Methodist, was invited to preach first, and did so with great liberty and power. His brother and Rev. Mr. Hoge followed him with sermons, with remarkable effect. The Spirit was copiously poured forth upon the people, and produced tears of contrition and shouts of joy. Rev. Messrs. M'Greedy, Hoge, and Rankins, all Presbyterians, left the house, but the M'Gees were too powerfully affected themselves to flee, under circumstances of so much interest. John was expected to preach again; but when the time arrived, he arose and informed the people that the overpowering nature of his feelings would not allow of his preaching, and exhorted them to surrender their hearts to God. Cries and sobs were heard in every part of the house. The excitement was indescribable. When the noise of this extraordinary movement reached the surrounding country, the people rushed to see what these things meant, for they had never heard of the like 'before. By this means the meeting-house was immediately overflowed. An altar was therefore erected unto the Lord in the forest.
This gave a new impulse to public interest, and many came from every direction, with provisions and other necessaries for encampment, and remained several days, dwelling in tents. It was a wonderful occasion. Sectarian divisions seemed to have 'been' forgotten, in the general concern for the prevalence of spiritual religion. The services were conducted by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists. The result was unparalleled, and suggested another meeting of the kind, which was held on the Muddy River; and still another, on what was called the Ridge, both of which were attended by immense throngs. By a prudent: estimate, it was reckoned that one hundred souls were 'added to the Lord' at the last-named meeting. From this unpremeditated beginning these meetings were extended, increasing in power and usefulness, under the special direction of Presbyterians and Methodists. Because of this union of sects in their support, they were called 'general camp-meetings.' It is said that the roads leading to the grove where they were held were literally crowded, and that entire neighborhoods were forsaken of their inhabitants.' A Presbyterian minister calculated that there weie''at least twenty thousand persons present at one meeting held in Kentucky. At length, however, the Presbyterians gradually retired from the field; but the Methodists carried them into other parts of the country,' till they became general in the connection. With more or less efficacy, they have been continued to the present time, not, however, without opposition oim the part of some, and misgivings with many others in regard to their expediency" (Essay on Camp-meetings, 'p. 7-11).
The camp-meetings were introduced into England by. Rev. Lorenzo Dow (q.v.), an earnest Methodist preacher, who, after laboring for some time in England as an independent itinerant, and finding, in 1807, a general religious interest in Staffordshire, suggested to the people the plan of camp-meetings. The people immediately adopted it. A flag was hoisted on Mow Hill; the population gathered to it from all the surrounding regions, and the first English campmeeting was held. William Clowes and Hugh Bourne, who were among the most zealous and useful laymen in the revivals of that period, took an active part in the first meetings. Bourne vindicated them in a pamphlet, which called forth counter publications from the preachers of Burslem and Macclesfield circuits. As it' was alleged that many excesses attended such outdoor services, the Wesleyan Conference, in 1807, declared, '" It is our judgment that, even supposing such meetings to be allowable in America, they are highly improper in England, and likely to be productive of considerable mischief, and we disclaim connection with 'them." Their advocates, however, continued to hold them. Hugh Bourne, who aroused the people of Lancashire, Cheshire, and Staffordshire with his exhortations and prayers, was expelled in 1808 from the connection by the Burslem Quarterly Meeting; and, two years later, Clowes, who continued to attend the camp-meetings, was also expelled. Clowes commenced a course of home-missionary labors, giving up his business for the purpose. In 1810 the "Primitive Methodist" denomination was organized, which sanctioned the' habit of preaching in camp-meetings, as well as in market-places and on the highways. SEE METHODISTS, PRIMITIVE. The Wesleyan Conference has never taken back its disapproval of the camp-meetings; but the Wesleyans in Ireland commenced to hold campmeetings in 1860, and their organ, The Irish Evangelist, took ground in favor of them. See An Essay cn Camp-meetings (N. Y. 1849); Stevens, Hist. of Methodism, in, 224; Bangs, History of M. E. Church, 2:101; Porter, Compendiium of Methodism, p. 146, 468; Porter, Camp-Meetings (N. Y. 24mo); Meth. Quart. Review, 1861, p. 582.