A cool breeze blows through the dog-trot of Forest and Shirley Johnson's "tent."
It's Friday, two days before White Oak United Methodist Campground's eight-day summer camp meeting officially begins, and the Johnsons have already set up housekeeping in the family's five-room cabin.
Mrs. Johnson greets her next-door-neighbor Ruth McCorkle, who is there with her granddaughters beating down the cobwebs and chasing out the spiders.
Around noon, some of Mrs. Johnson's family begins to trickle in for lunch. By Sunday, Mrs. Johnson will be surrounded by about 30 to 40 family members - her three sisters Mary Lynn Hopper, Camille Boyd and Edith Collins, their children, grandchildren and even great-grands.
Since the early 1800s, the campground has attracted hundreds - even thousands - for a week of spiritual renewal and old-fashioned family fun. This year, it's this week: Everything kicked off Sunday with a morning worship service.
"It's a time to leave your worries and cares behind," Collins said. "It's a quiet time, a time of family bonding and a time when you are close to God."
Now 68, Shirley Johnson has not missed a camp meeting since she was born, and the same holds true for her sisters. As children, the daughters of Lloyd Smith would stay in their grandmother's tent until Smith bought his own in 1954.
"My sisters and I often talk about it: We cannot think of anything Mother and Daddy could have done any more to bind our family together than going to White Oak Campground. That's what we've done with our children, and they are now doing with their children."
When the babies started coming, the family purchased the tent next to theirs, which they call the "grandchildren's tent."
"At the grandchildren's tent, it is not uncommon to have 20 or 30 for three meals a day," Collins said. "Our young people take in both services. At the end of the week, they will not have missed a one."
At White Oak Campground, there are about 24 tents - and on the perimeter there are campers, which form a ring around the tabernacle, the heart of camp meetings. Services are conducted at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily until the camp concludes Sunday.
Located on Whiteoak Road about a half mile north of the McDuffie/Columbia County line, White Oak Campground is believed to have originated around 1820, according to a reference in The Life and Letters of James Osgood Andrew, written by George Smith in 1882. Andrew reportedly preached to crowds of 5,000 to 10,000 each meeting at White Oak in 1820 or 1821.
The tents range from trustee Mike Wall's modern cabin - equipped with central air and hot water - to some that still have sawdust floors. Most now have indoor plumbing, but some, like the Johnsons' only have cold running water - refreshing on days when the temperature reaches the 100s, Mrs. Johnson said.
The classic design, such as the McCorkles' and the Johnsons', resembles a horse stable. There is a screened-in kitchen on the backside facing the road, a long hallway running through the tent with rooms on either side and a screened-in porch that faces the tabernacle.
McCorkle remembers the days when families would travel with their cooks and bring along chickens and cows to supply food for camp meetings. Families would socialize at night beside fires built outside their tents. Though times may have changed, the message of hope and renewal is always the same.
That's what attracted Wall back again. Though he attended White Oak as a child, he didn't return until he and his wife had a child of their own.
"It's a connection to the past," Wall said. "That's the sand and dirt my grandmother played in. It brings back childhood memories of dirty toes and dodging snakes. It's a slower and more peaceful state of life. It's still Mayberry out here."
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