This past weekend was a beautiful day to step back 200 years in time at the Red River Meeting House. The weather was perfect for the many children who came with their parents to camp out, and live the life of those who were worshiping on these exact grounds on June 13-17, 1800, for the Second Great Awakening.
This was the 21st year for the Annual Primitive Camp Meeting and Rendezvous, that saw reenactors coming as far a Florida to celebrate a major religious movement in the United States in the first part of the nineteenth century. Those who came out to the event saw campers dressed in period clothing and mimicking life when it was a little simpler.
“We are very happy with the turn out this year,” said Richard Moore, President of the Red River Meeting House & Cemetery Association. His wife Darlynn echoed her husband’s sentiments also saying they were glad the weather cooperated.
“We unfortunately are missing a few of the regulars this year,” said Moore. “But there were plenty of campers here to offer an experience of what it must have been like so many years ago.”
One of the many children that were at the Red River Meeting House this past weekend was Josiah Guyer of Allensville. This is the second year for his parents Derek and Lisa Guyer, and his siblings to participate in the Rendezvous.
“I like coming here,” said Josiah. “I like playing with the other kids and meeting new people.” Josiah was dressed as a pioneer.
The Rendezvous is usually held the same week of the Tobacco & Heritage Festival, however, organizers thought it best to move the event a week to allow visitors time to come and take part.
Tom and Dreama Ruley started the Annual Primitive Camp Meeting and Rendezvous 21 years ago. Both are avid historians on the Second Great Awakening at Red River, and have tirelessly organized the annual event to keep alive the rich history that birthed a movement in Logan County.
The Ruleys were honored this past weekend for their commitment to the event with a book filled with memories and notes of appreciation from reenactors of previous rendezvous. They were both very gracious and touched by the recognition.
“We were overwhelmed,” said Tom. “We love this place and we love bringing people together to commemorate what happened here so long ago which began something that has gone on.”
Tom said the Red River Meeting House and grounds is a special place for many. One of the notes in the book given to the Ruleys was from a girl who had attended the Rendezvous. She said she was a very shy child, but the event brought her out of her shell, and she was able to meet and make lots of friends.
The Red River Meeting House was the site of the first religious camp meeting in the United States. Held June 13-17, 1800, it marked the start of the Second Great Awakening, a major religious movement in the United States in the first part of the nineteenth century. The meeting was organized by the Presbyterian minister James McGready in Logan County, and several preachers took part.
What later became known as the Revival of 1800 began as a traditional Presbyterian sacramental occasion at the Red River Meeting House in June of the same year. As the revival spread to the congregations of McGready’s two other area congregations, several hundred people attended the meetings, held from Friday through Tuesday. McGready’s other congregations were located at Muddy River and Gasper River. The meeting was a chance for the settlers to end their relative isolation for several days and to engage with new people.
Steve Vann of Cheaphill, Tenn. was one of those who engulfed themselves in the fabric of history last weekend. Steve has been reenacting at Red River for eight years. He is a talented musician who plays the dulcimer, guitar and Zitter. The Zitter is an ancestor to the dulcimer. Steve wanted to play an instrument that was part of the period, so he taught himself how to play the Zitter and began handcrafting the instrument.
“This is a special spiritual environment,” said Steve about the Red River Meeting House. “The focus and attention is on God. There is a lot of lovely history here.”
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.