First Arkansas Camp Meeting

Photo courtesy of Office of Archives, Statistics and Research.

“THIS meeting was held according to appointment, at Springdale, Ark., Aug. 4-10 [1886]. The camp was located in a beautiful grove, about one hundred rods northeast of the town, a place of about eight hundred inhabitants. The writer arrived on the ground Monday, and found the work of preparation well under way. The camp was laid off in a hollow square, with family tents on three sides. On the other side, and facing the square, stood the large tent and the reception tent. There were twenty-five tents on the ground besides the preaching tent, one of them being a forty-foot tent for families, and accommodating about fifty persons. The camp presented a pleasing appearance. The leaves, dead limbs, and brush were all removed, and the ground swept clean. Not an apple core or anything of the kind was thrown upon the ground during the entire meeting. The neatness, order, and regularity which prevailed throughout the camp produced such a favorable effect upon the minds of the people of the town and vicinity, that the editor of the News, the local paper, devoted nearly three columns to the meeting, and to our people, their work, etc.

Elds. R. M. Kilgore and Geo. B. Starr, accompanied by Sister Fannie Bolton, of Chicago, arrived on the ground Tuesday. The meeting was not advertised to commence until Wednesday but so many were present that a meeting was held on Tuesday evening, and one at 5:30 and another at 10:30 A. M. Wednesday. By Wednesday night the people were mostly assembled, and the meeting began in earnest. The most of the preaching was done by EIds. Kilgore and Starr, and was principally of a close, practical nature. It was well received by all.

On Sabbath afternoon, after a stirring discourse by Eld. Starr, about seventy-five came forward for prayers. The Spirit of the Lord came in, and it was a precious meeting. Many broken confessions were made. The flowing tears showed that the work was from the heart. On Monday forenoon, the work of Sabbath afternoon was continued, and in the afternoon twenty-three were baptized, and others united with the church on their former baptism, while still others went away expecting to unite with the church nearest them at the earliest opportunity.

Taken altogether, the meeting was a success. On Sunday morning it was ascertained that there were 246 encamped on the ground. Others, coming still later, swelled the number to more than 250. Some of them came long distances over rough roads to at­ tend the meeting, and one man walked 160 miles for that purpose. He had never heard an Adventist sermon, but had commenced to keep the Sabbath through reading, and felt that he must attend the meeting.

The religious persecutions here have only driven those who have accepted the truth closer to each other and closer to God. Several were at the meeting who are under indictment for peaceably and quietly attending to their labor on the first day of the week, after having rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandment, while still others could not attend the meeting on account of having to appear at court to answer to similar charges.

Sabbath-keepers in Arkansas are placed under peculiar and trying circumstances. They are subject to fines and penalties for any violation of the Sunday laws; and these laws are being enforced to the letter, even in the most trivial offenses, such as are overlooked entirely in Sunday-keepers. This shows unmistakably that the genuine spirit of religious persecution lies at the bottom of the Sunday prosecutions. According to the laws of the State, every dollar’s worth of property a man has can be sold to pay fines and costs.

In view of these circumstances, a large committee of the leading brethren was called, to consider the situation and adopt some uniform plan of action. The question at issue was a strictly practical one, and was discussed freely but earnestly. The committee were unanimous on the following points: 1. When the laws of man conflict with the law of God, the law of God must be obeyed. 2. It is right and necessary that men should exercise their God-given right to work six days in the week for the support of their families. 3. In pursuing an ordinary vocation on the first day of the week, great care should be taken not to unnecessarily disturb or offend anyone who observes that day as the Sabbath. 4. No fine should be paid, no officer resisted. If fines are assessed, allow property to be sold by the officers of the State, and make no resistance. The recommendation of the last General Conference on this point was unanimously adopted. These proceedings of the committee were indorsed by a rising vote of the congregation.

More than $1,400 were pledged by those present, for the following objects: 1. To buy tracts and papers to be distributed by parties while in prison or arraigned before courts; 2. To support the families of those who are imprisoned for their faith, while such persons are in prison; 3. To educate young men and young women for the Bible work and other branches of the work in Arkansas.

All were full of courage, and seemed determined to humbly and faithfully live out the truth in spite of all opposition. The work will be pressed forward in Arkansas more earnestly than ever before. The camp meeting made a good impression on all who attended it, as far as could be discerned. The membership of the Springdale church was increased to eighty-eight. The strong prejudice which has heretofore existed there seems to be breaking down. We believe the camp-meeting in Arkansas was timely, and that it will result in much good to the cause of that state. – Dan T. Jones” (Jones, 1886).


Jones, D. T. (1886, Aug. 31). Review and Herald, p. 556.

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