Valerie Lemmon has been attending the White Oak United Methodist Camp Meeting on the western edge of Columbia County near Thomson for 53 years. This year, even though she has four generations of her family staying in her cabin, which she refers to as a tent, she feels the presence of her ancestors around her.
“My grandparents and great grandparents attended this camp,” said Lemmon. “The Smith and Collins families go back for generations.”
Services were first held in the White Oak Campground in 1792. The camp was moved to it’s current location in 1872 and it was reported that a crowd of 6,000 attended the first service at the new site.
“You love to see your kids grow up here where they get in the dirt and run free,” said Lemmon.
Laura Collins, Lemmon’s sister-in-law, met her future husband when they were kids at the camp.
“We were just friends then,” said Collins. “Later we met again at Harlem High School and started dating.”
Lemmon’s daughter Emily Stone was also staying in the family tent with her daughter Carley.
“Its tradition,” said Stone. “Every year we have to spend a week at camp meeting.”
Mildred Wright, who played the piano for the 11 a.m. daily service, has also been attending all her life.
“My mother met my father out here,” said Wright. “It’s a place where you feel so close to God.”
“In the fall we have a weekend camp and with all the trees changing color you feel like you’re close to heaven,” continued Wright.
Laura Adams, who turns 92 in July, has also been attending camp meeting most of her life.
“My momma’s and daddie’s families have been coming out here since the 1800s,” said Adams.
“I just think it’s just totally grand,” stated Wright. “It’s just a fellowship of Christians.”