|The Old Jonesville Campground
By Anne W. Lanningham
There is a sacred spot about two miles
of Jonesville, the County seat of Lee, known as the Jonesville
Here Methodist believers worshiped for almost one hundred and sixty
As you approach the grounds you are
by the unique setting, canopied by large oak trees that have stood the
wind and storms through the years. They seem to act as sentinels
Around the grounds is a sturdy rock
hand hewn of limestone. This fence was built in the 1980's long after
founding of the church there. George Rockingham Smith, a mason, cut the
stones, rolled them into place, and secured them without mortar. Mr.
Cox, a faithful member supervised the building of the fence. He was the
grandfather of one of our Historical Society members, W. F. Cox. I can
imagine in the beginning the grounds had a rail fence around it, as in
early days the grounds were kept closed.
As you pass through the front entrance,
is a feeling of quietness and solemnity, only the singing of the birds
break the silence. Perhaps if on a hot summer day you will hear the
of the doves as I remember them when living near by.
On this sacred spot, the first Church
Methodism in Lee County was organized. It was then known as being in
Lee Circuit and extended into Tennessee. It had its beginning in a log
church, which was falling into decay when it was torn down to make room
for the present brick church, which was dedicated in 1925.
This church was built by the work and
of the Campground members. My mother, Retta Browning Wynn, whose
spirit with others, worked to see its completion and dedication. Rev.
B. Wright was then pastor and Rev. D. A. Shugart was the presiding
The donor to the Campground property
from Tazewell County to Lee about the time the county was formed in
He bought land in this area in 1793 and settled on a branch just east
the Campground. This is known today as Wynns Branch, its head is in
Town. He was Elkanah Wynn, the son of William Wynne of Tazewell,
One would assume the church here was
soon after settlement was made and the log church built. Camp meetings
began in 1810, deed to the Campground property was not made until 1831
and was not recorded until 1833, after the death of the donor. A brief
Deed Book 6, page 533, dated 23 July
a deed of gift from Elkanah Wynn and Mary his wife of the county of Lee
and State of Virginia of the first part to the trustees of the
Campground; Robert Peery, Henry Hamblin, Isaac Thompson, Evans Peery,
Still, Boyd Dickenson, William Wynn, Champ Hamblin, David Orr and
Morris trustees in trust for the use and purpose herein mentioned all
the County of Lee, State of Virginia of the second part...containing
acres and one hundred and two poles, the houses, waterways, with free
of the spring for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church...according
to the order and discipline which from time to time shall be agreed
and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said church of their
General Conference in the United States of America, to preach and
God's Holy Word...as long as it is continued a place of worship by the
Methodist Episcopal Church.
Wynn (Seal) and Mary Wynn (her mark)
Peace, John Fulkerson, Evans Peery
Camp meeting has been held here in
every year since 1810, except during the years of the War Between the
in 1863 and 1864. The Union soldiers were then encamped at Cumberland
Tennessee, and the members did not feel safe to assemble here. So they
met at the Long Hollow Church, about four miles east of Jonesville.
old church is still standing. It is the first church built by the
Church faith in Lee County.
The tabernacle or shed as it is called
built in 1824. Up until that time the people worshipped under a crude
arbor, which protected them from the sun but not from the inclement
Judge James Wesley Orr, a Confederate
and former clerk and judge of the Lee County Court, in his history of
Campground described the building of the shed. "In the year 1824 a
shed was built in the center of the grounds and covered with old clap
and seated with split logs...The large posts, plates and rafters of
structure were hewn of logs. Henry Woodard and David Orr did the
and Robert Wynn and Joseph Haskew, the pastor, did the hewing. This
still stands and if properly cared for and preserved will stand for
to come as a lasting monument to the memory of those servants of God.
"When D. V. York was pastor of the
Circuit from 1893 to 1896 he extended the old shed about twenty feet on
the southwest end which gave added seating space. The choir, ministers
and others are seated here."
Judge Orr continues with his history:
first presiding Elder whom I remember was Thomas Poteet, a one-eyed
I have heard four Bishops preach at the Campground, two of whom were
and two who became Bishops afterwards. These were Bishops Atkins,
Duncan and Dubose. I remember when attendance at Campmeeting was four
five thousand people, many coming for miles. Great has been the work
here for spreading the gospel and the upbuilding of the Christian
"The number of camps before the war
thirty or forty arranged around inside the fence in a hollow square and
were of log construction. In the time of the War Between the States the
64th Virginia Regiment, C. S. A. camped here in these camps. When
some forgot to put out their fires, which broke out and destroyed the
The shed only was saved." After the war the camps were rebuilt of
boarding all joined together in a hollow square. These were used for
years until progress, better roads and automobiles came. Modes of
became easier; time and the weather took their toll and the camps were
Early Campground minutes kept by Rev.
W. Woodward, who lived on Sugar Run, gives the names of the first
Elder, the ministers, leaders and campers at the Campground. Elbert
was presiding Elder when the shed was built. Pastors given were Thomas
Nixon, James Witten, David Cummings, Abraham Murphy, Abraham Still,
Merriman and Joseph Haskew.
Abraham Still once pastor at the
was both a preacher and doctor. He came from Tazewell, Virginia to Lee
County to pastor the church and lived near the Lee County Natural
Among his nine children one was destined to become famous, Andrew
Still, born in Lee County. Dr. Abraham Still served in different
and eventually was sent to a Shawnee Mission in Kansas where he
and doctored the Indians. His son, Andrew Taylor Still, studied
and became a doctor. Later he discovered the science of Osteopathy and
in 1892 founded a school of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri.
Other members at the Campground were
Thompson, Drury Fletcher, Robert Ely, John Russell, Job Crabtree, Noble
Covey, Thomas Blakemore, Champ Hamblin, Elkanah Wynn, David Ely, Robert
W. Wynn, Nicholas Speak, John Burgan, Henry Woodward, Nathaniel Muncy,
Nathan Hobbs, Valentine Woodward and John Miles. Other early campers
named above were Boyd Dickenson, Jessee Woodward, Joseph A. Blakemore.
David Orr (father of Judge Orr), Alexander Orr, John Hamblin, William
Matthew Warren, Willis Kirk, Ailsey Wynn, Joseph Ely, colored, and
The last families to camp here were the
Wagals, Penningtons, Spurriers, Poteets, Elys, Woodwards, Flanarys,
Hyatts, Yearys, and others perhaps not remembered. There was always a
provided for the ministers.
Knowing the country and where many of
people lived; it seems incredible that they traveled so far. Up until
man could not travel faster than by horse. Yet they came by wagon
or not, by oxcart, horseback or walked over rough and dusty roads.
Besides the campers who came and stayed
the duration of the meeting many came from all over the county and from
other sections even from Tennessee and Kentucky. They had great crowds
on Saturday and especially on Sundays. They came with baskets and
of food for their families, relatives, friends and even strangers.
ham, chicken, beef and mutton with all kinds of cakes and pies all
on a cloth on the ground, enough and more for everyone.
Dr. John C. Orr in his early
of the campmeetings wrote: "It was one of the religious events of the
to which all, both saint and sinner looker forward to with equal
People made plans, all matters on the farm were so arranged that the
family could go away for a week or two. The social life at the meeting
was hardly less valuable than the religious value. The reunion of
and families and acquaintances, reacted upon the religious experience
both love for God and fellow man."
The early promoters of the Campground
believed as did the great founder of Methodism, John Wesley, and tried
to live according to the method laid down in the Holy Scriptures as
they could. Broad as this definition seems, it gives a foundation and
system of faith, doctrine, and conduct the success of which is one of
most notable int he religious annals of the world. When John Wesley
to give himself to the church work, he wrote that famous phrase:
and I have taken leave of each other." Many of us today tend to take
opposite course. He certainly proved this decision true as his Journal
gives the most amazing record of human exertion penned by man. His
life can be exemplary for us today.
Charles Wesley, brother of John, was
with him in religious work, wrote about 6,000 Hymns. Many are in the
Hymnal and other song books and many of them have been sung at the
Camp Meetings until the rafters rang with shouting and praise to the
Francis Asbury was converted in England under John Wesley. He came to
as a missionary. His leadership in the church was outstanding; which
to his being made the first Bishop in the Methodist Church. He was
Bishop at the famous Christmas Conference in the Lovely Lane Meeting
in Baltimore, Maryland. This is known as the Mother Church of Methodism
Few know that Bishop Asbury traveled on
preaching missions to the southwest Virginia counties. He preached at
Jonesville Campground and went all the way to Cumberland Gap, preaching
and teaching. Bishop Asbury was called, "The Prophet of the Long Road."
He was one of the greatest leaders of Methodism in America. He was
married, he never had a home, his home was on the back of tired horses
and his bride was the open road. On his preaching missions he traveled
275,000 miles, crossed uncharted Appalachians; in rain and sleet, in
and high waters. He died by the side of the road he traveled near
Virginia in 1816 at the age of three score and ten.
Since its inception the Campground
has been under three branches of Methodism. First the Methodist
under which it was organized, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and
now the United Methodist Church.
In the year of 1844 at the General
in New York a heated discussion arose over slavery. The laws of the
states prohibited the freeing of salves and the nation was driving
to the tragic days of the War Between the States. After days of
and tearful discussion the plan of separation was adopted June 7, 1844.
The next year May 1, 1845, about one hundred delegates, duly elected by
the Annual Conference of the Southern States met in Louisville,
After a thorough and prayerful consideration of all questions involved,
on May 17, 1845, a resolution was adopted by which the Annual
of the slave holding states were constituted a separate ecclesiastical
connection under the Plan of Separation. Thus the Methodist Episcopal
South was organized.
It was then the Jonesville Campground
a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South as did many of the
churches. For about ninety-two years after the separation a commission
worked to form a suitable plan of union. Finally in 1939 one composed
representatives of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist
Church South and the Protestant Methodist Church formulated a plan of
which each of the churches adopted. At the General Conference in 1939
three branches of the Methodist Church joined and became the Methodist
Church. A Uniting Conference was held in 1968 in Dallas, Texas at which
time the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined the Methodist Church
and the name, United Methodist Church, was adopted.
"So great a crowd of witnesses," have
the pulpit at the Campground. Records name Richard N. Price who
"The History of the Methodist church." David Sullens who was president
and founder of Sullens College in Bristol, Virginia: J. N. Hillman who
was president of Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia; Bishops
and Finger; and District Superintendents Wiley, Patterson, Dawson, and
Ball; and in addition, through the years the Lee County pastors have
the spiritual flame burning that was lit so long ago.
Several years ago a dining hall and
service were added to the grounds and the social life and reunions of
past are recalled. In more recent years a modern brick parsonage was
on the northeast part of the grounds. The ground breaking for the
was August 24, 1958, when Mrs. W. B. Davidson and Mrs. Mae Wynn Gibson
turned the first shovels of dirt for the foundation. Rev. Claude B.
was then the pastor and Rev. C. D. McHaffy was the District
Rev. Jeff Calahan, a vivacious young man, is now pastor of the
Parish and occupies the parsonage at the Campground.
In the summer of 1978, just inside the
entrance of the grounds, there was placed a marker with this
Campground established in 1810 has been placed on the National Register
of Historical Places of the United States Department of Interior."
This marker has a unique setting,
on an old mill stone from the Browning-Wynn Mill. No more fitting
for the marker could have been erected than the old grind stone that
the grain that contributed to the physical needs of the people and
at the old Campground, where through the years it has brought spiritual
strength to the hundreds who have worshiped there.
Anne Wynn Laningham (Mrs. James E.) The
of Elkanah and Mary Muncy Wynn who donated the grounds to the Methodist
Church. When a child she became a member of that
Historical Sketches of Southwest
published by The Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, publication
13 - 1979, pages 20 to 25.