Indian Field Campground – St. George, South Carolina
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Indian Field Campground (also known as Indian Fields) in St. George is an active United Methodist revival camp. The camp was established around 1810 on farmland two miles from the current location. Because the antebellum revival movement attracted such large crowds, the first site quickly became unable to accommodate the hoards of traveling celebrants. The campground, which gets its name from nearby Indian Field United Methodist Church, moved to its present 10-acre site in 1838, and the buildings were completed 10 years later.
The camp consists of a central open-air tabernacle that seats up to 1,000 people. Revivals, or camp meetings as they are now called, last for a week and are held here in the fall. The 99 cabins (called “tents”) in which participants stay surround the tabernacle in a circular shape to symbolize the community spirit of the shared religious experience.
Though the accommodations have been upgraded with water and electricity, the rudimentary design remains intact. The tents were built in a simple fashion, with a two-room sleeping loft above another bedroom and a cooking and eating area downstairs.
The tents are passed down from generation to generation, and it is common for people to hire local cooks to help them with meals during camp meeting. Most cooks drive to the camp each day during this week, though some stay the week in tents with the families.
The ground floor is covered in hay. For a place to relax, the tents have front porches where people can sit and converse with neighbors, and each tent has its own separate privy. The tents were designed not for comfort or privacy but for necessity, as people are encouraged to be out in the community of the revival rather than inside.
Indian Field has a long tradition in South Carolinian Methodism, as Bishop Francis Asbury preached here as part of his “riding circuit.” Today local Methodists gather with their families the first week of October and takes turns with the cooking and cleaning duties in between sermons.
Children in school commute to class during this week, and many of the adults simply take the week off from work. While the fevered preaching of the nineteenth century has been replaced with more of what one might experience in a modern United Methodist Church, the camp meetings remain a popular way for people to rejuvenate their church community and their souls. A similar site, Cypress Methodist Campground, exists in nearby Ridgeville.
Indian Field Campground is listed in the National Register, which adds the following:
Architecturally, the design of Indian Fields reflects its use as a setting for a collective religious experience. A sense of community is heightened by the circle of adjacent cabins. Constructed in 1848, Indian Fields Methodist Camp Ground retains the nineteenth century layout of ninety-nine wooden cabins, or tents as they are called, which form a circle around a large wooden pavilion, the preaching stand or tabernacle.
The simplicity of the rough-hewn cabins and the open tabernacle is a part of the unpretentious style of evangelism that attracted a popular following. The original Indian Fields Camp Ground, located two miles away, was functional as early as 1810. In this year, Francis Asbury, who led the organization of American Methodism through itinerant preaching known as “riding circuits,” preached at Indian Fields. Even after many other stops on the circuits had become established churches, the meeting camp retained a tremendous influence on the development of religious life. Serving crowds too large for church buildings or homes, the campground responded to both religious and social needs. The ambiance of an antebellum campground such as Indian fields was a unique part of the American collective experience.
Indian Field Campground Info
Address: South Carolina Route S-18-73, St. George, SC 29477
Indian Field Campground Map
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