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Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association, Cape Cod, MA

Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association.  

The MVCMA is a non-profit religious organization dating from 1835.


The first campmeeting in what became known as Wesleyan Grove was held in 1835.   In subsequent years the congregations grew enormously, and many of the thousands in attendance were housed in large tents known as "society tents."   A congregation from a church on the mainland would maintain its own society tent.   Conditions were cramped, with men and women sleeping dormitory-style on opposite sides of a central canvas divider.   Society tents were arranged in a semicircle on Trinity Park.

The society tent of the Warren (Rhode Island)
Methodist Church, 1873

Over time, families began leasing small lots on which to pitch their own individual tents.   In the 1860s and 1870s, the family tents were rapidly replaced with permanent wooden cottages.   At one time there were about 500 cottages; today there are just over 300.

Many eminent members of the clergy from across the country have preached at the campmeetings in Wesleyan Grove.   That tradition continues today, although services are no longer held day and night as they were in the early years.

A minister at the speaker's stand, circa 1870

The founders of the MVCMA were Methodists, and the original bylaws of the Association stipulated that all members of the Board of Directors had to be members of a Methodist church.   However, the MVCMA has always been an autonomous organization and was never formally affiliated with the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church.   Historical records document the participation of many non-Methodists at the early campmeetings, both in the congregation and in the pulpit.

Famous Methodist preacher and
chaplain of the Boston Seamen's Bethel,
"Father Taylor" (Edward Thompson Taylor),
in front of the Campmeeting's Seamen's
Bethel Tent, circa 1870

Over time the MVCMA has become increasingly interdenominational, and the current members of the Board of Directors are affiliated with a wide variety of Christian groups.   The religious services and special programs of the Association all have a strong ecumenical spirit.

Today the Campground is a community of summer residents and a smaller number of year-round residents who value the intimacy created by the crowding of cottages on small tent lots.   Many of the cottages have been owned by the same families for generations.   The residents of the Campground have a keen appreciation for the special traditions of which they are a part.

Horse-drawn trolley at the entrance to Trinity
Park, circa 1875

Several books have documented the history of the Campground. These include the following:

Corsiglia, Betsy, and Mary-Jean Miner.   Unbroken Circles: The Campground of Martha's Vineyard.   Boston: David R. Godine, 2000.

Dagnall, Sally W.   Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, 1835-1985.   Oak Bluffs, MA: Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association, 1984.

Hough, Henry Beetle.   Martha's Vineyard, Summer Resort, 1835-1935.   Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Publishing Company, 1936.

Jones, Peter A.   Oak Bluffs: The Cottage City Years on Martha's Vineyard.   Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Stoddard, Chris.   A Centennial History of Cottage City.   Oak Bluffs, MA: Oak Bluffs Historical Commission, 1980.

Weiss, Ellen.   City in the Woods -- The Life and Design of an American Camp Meeting on Martha's Vineyard.   Second Edition.   Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.

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Copyright: Tino Chen
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 8000x4000
Taken: 23/06/2008
Uploaded: 01/06/2009
Updated: 01/03/2015


Tags: campmeeting; marthas vineyard; cape cod
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