Mossy Creek Campground lies between Ga. 254 and Skitts Mountain Road in White County.
As he did with the neighboring Mossy Creek Golf Course, retired educator Billy Jenkins compiled an informal history of the campground. It is a nondenominational organization, although two Methodist churches in the area, Mossy Creek and Trinity, alternate being hosts of camp meetings every summer.
Five men — Elisia Askew, Andrew Dorsey, Jacob Duckett, David McCollum and Clemond Quillian — were the original trustees and bought 35 acres in northern Hall County, later becoming southern White County, from Aaron Brown for $40. Area churches formed an alliance to begin annual camp meetings. They included Blue Creek Baptist, Mossy Creek, Trinity and Bethel Methodist. Bethel later ended its services, and its building now is Mossy Creek Baptist Church. There is a Bethel United Methodist Church on Mount Vernon Road in Hall County.
The first camp meeting was in late summer 1833, according to Jenkins’ history. Those early worshipers would prepare days ahead for the meeting. They would load what they needed, including food to cook, in a wagon and head for a long weekend of preaching, singing and fellowshipping. A milk cow might be tied to the wagon, and chickens loaded into coops.
Some of the first worshippers might sleep under wagons or whatever shelter they could find. Later, families would build “tents,” rough shelters in which they could cook, sleep and stay out of the rain. A few tents remain today, but many have been remodeled or rebuilt and a few have modern conveniences such as air-conditioning.
Jenkins and his family have been tentholders 25 years, but he has been attending camp meetings since he was a youth. His wife Sandy’s Butler ancestors were among early Mossy Creek participants. Their tent still uses shavings on the dirt floors.
Jenkins has been heavily involved in Mossy Creek, scheduling preachers and building children’s play equipment.
Other longtime families include Glovers, Haynes, Dorseys, Nixes and Heads.
The arbor, under which services are held, has gone through several reincarnations itself. The first one burned in 1912, a second one burned in 1921 under suspicious circumstances, and a third in 1922. That one turned out to be in the way of the Gainesville and Northwestern Railroad, which hauled passengers and timber to and from Gainesville and Helen.
The arbor was moved by the railroad, and it burned in 1938. The present arbor, built the next year, is considered an “engineering marvel,” according to Jenkins.
Robert Dorsey built it, installing trusses 60 feet long without a post between the sides. He used heart pine and drilled holes for rods to join the boards with a hand-powered “brace and bit” instead of today’s power drills. He also used a hand saw to cut the lumber. The arbor has attracted the interest of engineering universities.
Camp meetings originally were held after “laying by” time, which was when farmers’ crops were in, usually last of August or first of September. Schools, Jenkins said, caused a change in camp meeting time because they began a new school year in August instead of, traditionally, after Labor Day. Mossy Creek now meets the week following the fourth Sunday in July.
A tradition passed through the years is closing a week of services with the singing of “Till We Meet Again.”
Former slaves and slavemasters once attended Mossy Creek camp meeting together. Former slaves founded Rock Springs Campground in 1887 in the same area. A church, school and graveyard were on the Rock Springs property serving a community of black families near Mossy Creek.
Rock Springs still meets Labor Day weekend under the original 1887 arbor.
Mossy Creek Campgrounds has been the scene of numerous activities other than revivals. Troops for both the Confederate and Union armies mustered there in 1861. White County was among those voting against Georgia seceding from the Union.
Weddings, concerts, cookouts and one-day seminars are among other events using Mossy Creek as a venue.
The Mossy Creek area birthed some of the nation’s most noted potters. In particular, the Meaders family used mud from the banks of Mossy Creek, and their work is on display at the Smithsonian Institution and was the subject of a Smithsonian special on public television.
Local potters continue to use Mossy Creek Campgrounds for a weekend show, demonstration and sale.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.