Landisville Camp Meeting History - Circa 1870
Religious camp meetings in the United States had their origin in Kentucky in 1799. Soon afterward, the Methodist church took up the idea, and in 1887 the Methodists in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon and Columbia area were likewise inspired. Their leader was Rev. C.T.Thompson, pastor of the Duke Street Methodist Church in Lancaster.
During the 1869 camp season, when the camp was at Mt. Lebanon County, a decision was made to select a permanent campgrounds. Landisville, Lancaster County, was chosen because the site contained groves of stately oak and hickory trees, a bountiful supply of fresh water from springs, and a closeness to routes of transportation.
The first camp meeting in the grove was held in 1870, followed by annual District Meetings in 1871 and 1872. The Harrisburg District Camp Meeting Association of Landisville, PA. was chosen as the site for one of the four National Camp Meeting Association locations that Summer. On June 16, 1873, the name was changed to Landisville Camp Meeting Association.
While it is true that nearly all of the early members who came to enjoy the blessings of the grounds were Methodists, membership has now become a well-rounded sampling of the global church. Many missionaries, church leaders, and believers from various denominations live in or visit their cottages during a large portion of the season.
The early campers lived in tents arranged around a square-shaped auditorium which could seat about 4,000. With straw on the grounds and plank seats, it resembled a large open tent. The enclosed pulpit could seat 12 ministers. Forty cottages were built within a short time.
The present tabernacle, seating about 1,000 persons was built in 1907. The first lighting system consisted of coal oil lamps, later torches in trees, and finally Street lights were installed in 1899. Wells were drilled to provide campers with delicious cold water. The Young People's Tabernacle was built in 1890 and was crowded for evening services.
A special note should be made of two cottages on the grounds. The first cottage to be built is to the left facing the entrance of the tabernacle. It was built by Mr. Park and known as the "white house" because he whitewashed it each year. The Centennial cottage near the tabernacle was brought to the campgrounds in 1877 from the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.
At the end of Avenue A stood a large boarding house called the Wheatland. Campers went there to buy food for their cottages. In addition, local hucksters brought fresh milk, eggs and meat into the camp meeting each day (except Sunday). Eventually the boarding house needed a new roof and major repairs and was torn down. Today, only a cement slab marks its former location.
The gatehouse (now called the caretaker house) was built in 1913. The campground ladies association managed to pay off the large mortgage on it by 1929.
Considerable progress has been made throughout the camp meeting grounds over the years. An area for campers was built, a playground for children, a snackette, new bathrooms and shower facilities and improved roads, lighting and a fire hydrant in the center of the grounds.
Today Landisville Camp Meeting Association is composed of 54 cottages (including a caretaker house). Physicians, ministers, tradespeople, farmers, business owners and retirees call Landisville Camp Meeting their "Summer home". Members of the association find opportunity to retreat from their busy everyday lives and find peace and a sharing of what Christ means to us.