Robert Henry and Burrell Joyner met on a small hill in Northern Alabama in the
early 1820s. Happy to have found a neighbor in the sparsely
populated area, the two men agreed to bring their entire families back to this
small hill at a later date. Tabernacle Campmeeting was born.
By 1828, other neighboring families were also meeting with the
original two to enjoy each other’s company and to give thanks to the Lord. 1828
also saw the formal establishment of the Tabernacle Methodist Church.
These early attendees of the Tabernacle Campmeeting were required to rough it.
The women and children slept in or under their wagons and the men slept on the
surrounding grounds. The early attendees of Campmeeting tended to be
farmers so the dates of Campmeeting were planned around the harvesting of the
crops. As the years passed by, a brush arbor was erected for protection from
the elements, which also served as a central meeting place for services. The
arbor couldn’t hold everyone so many families began bringing white tents, which
were pitched in a circle surrounding the arbor.
Early Campmeetings consisted of church services that began at sunrise and lasted
anywhere from a few minutes to long after midnight.
This brush arbor was leveled and rebuilt many times in the early years until a
permanent structure was built.
Tabernacle Campmeeting and church services were discontinued during the civil
war. There were several reasons this happened, but the primary reason was
because many of the ministers were imprisoned due to their religious opposition
to the war. About the time of the civil war the first of many fires leveled the
After the civil war, many camp meetings fell by the wayside in favor of more
structured churches, but the rituals remained strong in the south and at
Tabernacle Campmeeting. It was not uncommon for Tabernacle Campmeeting to hold
eight to ten services a day. Around this time, as families continued to return
each year, wooden cabins began to replace the white tents surrounding the
The turn of century saw Tabernacle campground at its peak. What once was two
families getting together to worship the Lord had grown to a Campmeeting of
somewhere between 50 and 60 cabins. Tabernacle Campmeeting was attracting a
wide audience and became known as the ‘hill of the Lord’ in northern Alabama.
There was still no electricity, a large fire was built and carefully watched to
provide light for Campmeeting.
Fire returned to the Tabernacle Campground in 1916. This forest
fire completely destroyed the entire campground. Rebuilding of campground was
delayed until 1919 due to World War I. Post World War I saw a
decrease in the number of families that returned, but a new arbor was
constructed and Campmeeting continued on!
For the 100th anniversary in 1928 there were 25 cabins.
Unfortunately, fire struck again in 1933, destroying
everything but the arbor. The Great Depression brought many hardships, but
campers still returned to Tabernacle Campmeeting to rebuild and worship
The first signs of electricity were seen in 1939. An electric
generator was brought down to power the first lights in the arbor, replacing
the torches that had been used for over a hundred years. The same year also saw
the first electric stove, which replaced wood stoves and open fires.
The Tabernacle Campground’s nemesis returned in 1963 a leveled
all but 4 cabins and the arbor. This fire was of unknown origin. By as soon as
1969, Campmeeting was back up to 16 cabins. 1969 also
saw the first known running water in the Campground, provided by the nearby
1972 saw yet another fire, this time cause by an electrical
storm. Two more cabins were destroyed.
The 150th anniversary of Tabernacle Campmeeting saw a community day where
everyone from the surrounding area was invited to join in the festivities.
Everyone dressed in 19th century clothing to celebrate.
We have running water and electricity, but we still maintain our ‘get away from
the troubles of the world’ attitude. Today we have 16 cabins, with more planned
for construction in the coming years.