When I mentioned The Bloodshot Eye recently I hadn’t realized that I’d stumbled upon a "thing," a long history of annual Camp Meetings held by the Methodist Church.
Pitman Grove, New Jersey, USA
I featured the unusual circle-and-spokes streets of Pitman Grove, New Jersey, and the tiny Victorian-era cottages that lined them. Further research uncovered Pitman Grove’s origins as a Camp Meeting spot first used in the 1870′s that had since evolved into a distinct neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A "long time reader, first time caller" who preferred to remain anonymous brought a similar place to my attention in North Merrick, New York. It was known colloquially as Tiny Town.
Tiny Town, Merrick, New York, USA
As described by Long Island Newsday,
The neighborhood, known as Campgrounds or Tiny Town, arose from Methodist summer revival camp meetings held by the Long Island Camp Meeting Association beginning in 1869… There was a large population of Methodists in Brooklyn and Queens, but not a lot of land there… During the first summers, the campground consisted of the tabernacle in the open field in the center encircled by two rows where tents were pitched and carriages parked for 10 days of services.
Camp Meetings were popularized by several Protestant denominations in the nascent United States beginning in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. People on the frontier didn’t cluster close enough together in the early years to justify enough physical churches to meet the religious needs of a widely scattered population. Itinerant preachers migrated across the countryside, erecting tents in convenient places and holding camp for a week or more at a time as the seasons permitted. Local residents didn’t live close enough to attend these services in a single day so they brought their wagons and tents and camped for awhile. This might be their only contact with friends and family for an entire year so camp meetings met social needs as well as spiritual. There were hundreds of such campgrounds. Dozens have survived into the modern era where people continue to gather each year as they’ve done for a century and a half or longer.
The Methodist variation — the one I’d stumbled upon — entrenched solidly within the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The Methodist church and its camps were based upon the teachings of John Wesley. Invariably one will find a road or a street named Wesley near many of the campgrounds mentioned in this article.
The Mid-Atlantic wasn’t quite as "frontier" as the expanding areas of the nation. Campgrounds tended to cluster near the seashore. They provided respite from city living, a means to separate oneself from the daily hassles of densely-packed tenements and allowed oneself to immerse and rejuvenate spiritually in an attractive holiday-like setting.
I found way too many examples of Methodist campgrounds that later became towns to attempt to discuss them all. Instead I selected a few representative places to show the transition from camp to town as well as to highlight the geographic spread within and beyond the periphery of the Mid-Atlantic.
Denver, North Carolina, USA
Rock Springs, Denver, North Carolina, USA
The Rock Springs Campmeeting has gathered at the same spot outside of Denver, NC since at least 1830, and at earlier incarnations as far back as 1794.
For over two centuries, God has called the people together in worship and community under the Rock Springs’ arbor… People would travel many miles to attend the annual event, camping in tents, covered wagons, and makeshift shelters of brush. They’d cook over open fires and attend the religious services throughout the morning, afternoon and evening… The camp is incorporated after the style of a town, and governed much the same way. There is a central meeting pavilion, called the Arbor, which is surrounded by some 258+ “tents”. The tents, as they are called, are small; roughly built cabins… Most all of the tents have been passed down from one generation to the next.
Rock Springs Campground, Denver, NC, USA
via Google Street View, May 2013
Rock Springs is the sole surviving Methodist Camp Meeting in North Carolina. It represented a good example of the initial step from camp to town with its rough, weather-beaten structures. They are permanent structures, however, probably suitable only for seasonal use.
Lancaster, Ohio, USA
Lancaster, Ohio, USA
The Lancaster Camp Ground traced back to 1878 at its current location, and first began in 1872.
For its first twenty years or so, the Camp Ground stressed a strictly evangelism oriented “Camp Meeting”. Around 1892, however, the Chautauqua Movement was introduced into the program… thousands of people came by way of the railroad and horses and buggies to the Lancaster Camp Ground. They came to hear speakers like Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan, and President William McKinley…
To accommodate crowds, an auditorium followed, then a hotel, then a grocery, then streets, then cottages, and then year-round residents. Today approximately 240 cottages remain within the National Historic District. Many structures house permanent residents and many others can be purchased or rented for seasonal use.
The Lancaster Camp Ground continues to remain very active in pursuit of its original purpose. The "town" that formed around it focuses clearly on religion and learning.
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, USA
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, USA
The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association was "created in 1835, to conduct religious meetings on Martha’s Vineyard, during the summer." Today "there are just over 300" cottages in Oak Bluffs in an area known as Cottage City.
The tiny Gingerbread Houses of Oak Bluffs by vbecker on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
Many of these buildings are elaborate albeit diminutive structures often described as "gingerbread cottages." The Camp Meeting Association remains active although the surrounding area has become rather more secular. The neighborhood of dollhouse cottages has also become somewhat of a tourist attraction.
Along with the hordes of people making the pilgrimage to Cottage City, as the town was then called, came commerce. Though attracted by the spectacle of the campmeeting, the beauty of the area soon became a draw on its own and developers started buying up the area around the campground. Businesses sprouted and the resort town of Oak Bluffs was born.
The final step of the evolution would be those Methodist Camp Meetings that evolved into completely secular towns with little meaningful connection to their original religious purpose. Pitman Grove might be close to that point even though events are still held in its tabernacle. Tiny Town in New York may have also reached that point. I found occasional if minor contemporary references to the Long Island Camp Meeting Association. Other places completed the transition. For instance, I go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware regularly. I had no idea until I researched this article that the town originated from the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association.
What Might the Future Bring?
Black Rock City, Nevada, USA
I couldn’t help thinking, as I continued to research the Camp Meeting phenomenon further, of certain similarities to the Burning Man festival. While not a Christian religious gathering, Burning Man also occurs annually, creates a sense of community, and demonstrates a level of devotion and fervor through its participants. It seemed to be a modern incarnation of the Camp Meeting phenomenon. While Black Rock City follows the precepts of "leave no trace" each year, what will the playa look like after another 150 years of gatherings? Will we ever witness the germination of a Tiny Town on the Black Rock Desert?
By happenstance, and following the normal progression of articles as they post on Twelve Mile Circle, I felt somewhat obligated to publish an article even though it fell on New Years Eve. Readers in Europe and places farther east won’t see this until 2014 because they’ve already flipped the page to the next calendar. The rest of the audience probably won’t see this in 2013 either because everyone will likely be with friends and family celebrating, not reading a screen necessarily.
I’m having a nice dinner out with my wife right now. I wrote this article a couple of days ago and set WordPress to post it automatically at the appointed time. You didn’t really think I’d be concerned about geo-oddities with New Years right around the corner, did you?
Let the countdown to midnight begin with this final 12MC article to round out the waning moments of 2013.
Midnight Torrent, Harihari, New Zealand
I researched geographic features named "midnight" to see which ones would complete their countdowns to midnight first and last.
I felt pretty confident that the first midnight to reach midnight, and thus the first midnight to cross into 2014, would be Midnight Torrent. That’s a stream on the South Island of New Zealand, almost due west of Christchurch albeit with imposing peaks of the Southern Alps mountain range blocking the way. Technically, I suppose, any midnight location within the same Time Zone would hit midnight simultaneously. Let’s ignore that inconvenient fact for this exercise and follow solar time by tracking the progress of the sun (or other celestial bodies since it would be nighttime) through the sky instead.
Midnight Torrent seemed to be suitably named. Notice the satellite image above. The stream could more properly be classified as a waterfall while it crashes down the ridge and tumbles into the Wanganui River. Impressive, certainly, although perhaps an impractical location for a New Years celebration. This would require a several miles hike from the nearest point on the Harihari Highway through the rugged Wanganui River valley just to reach the Midnight Torrent confluence.
Midnight Hill, Renews, NL, Canada
Surprisingly few midnights existed as I progressed farther across the globe after a few more spots in New Zealand then Australia, with none in Asia, Europe or Africa — although I can’t guarantee there aren’t other midnight places in different languages. I continued searching west. I encountered the first midnight of the Americas in Canada, in Newfoundland and Labrador: Midnight Hill.
The name of the village adjacent to Midnight Hill, Renews, also seemed appropriate. A new year provides an opportunity to renew. The settlement had an interesting etymology too,
The closest harbour to the fishing grounds of the Grand Banks, Renews was one of the very first harbors in the North America to be frequented by Europeans… As a well known fishing port, Renews was often visited by vessels making the transatlantic crossing in order to “refresh” (taking on drinking water) and obtain supplies.
Midnight Hill was a holy place that dated back to the earliest days of European settlement. It was a spot where "local residents celebrated mass secretly at night when Roman Catholicism was suppressed in Newfoundland."
Renews joined with nearby Cappahayden in the 1960′s. Now the whole conglomeration is known as the Town of Renews–Cappahayden.
Midnight Mountain, Nome Borough, Alaska
The very last midnight to hit midnight, and thus the final midnight to cross into the New Year would appear to be Midnight Mountain in Alaska’s Nome Borough. Compare its location on the map above to the placement of the International Date Line which runs between the United States and Russia. While Midnight Mountain would be difficult to reach, it would have one significant value according to mindat.org, "the mineral and locality database":
Midnight Mountain Prospect, Kougarok District, Nome Borough, Alaska, USA: …is a prominent upland reaching an elevation of 2,720 feet in the southeast part of the Bendeleben D-6 quadrangle. It is located on the continental divide which separates the drainages of the Serpentine River (Schlitz Creek) and Kougarok River (Taylor Creek) in this area… This gold-bearing area seems to be mostly in altered and quartz-veined polydeformed metapelitic schist on the south side of Midnight Mountain.
That’s right, there’s gold in them thar hills!
I have an abundance of half-formed story ideas, an overflowing mailbag and a cornucopia of reader suggestions. That means it must be time once again for Odds and Ends, my recurring series of features and topics not quite large enough to fill an entire article on their own.
A couple of interesting items came to my attention via the @TheReal12MC Twitter account, undoubtedly an increasingly important way to share geo-oddities. The first one was a tweet from @wikitravel that linked to an article in Travel and Leisure,
New Zipline Connects Spain and Portugal
This one struck a lot of my interests simultaneously. First, it was a zip-line. Need I say more?
The company Límite Zero made the adventure so much more interesting though. The line crosses the Guadiana River, the international border between Spain and Portugal. Even better, the two nations are located in different time zones. Adventurers go back in time by an hour as they zip from east to west. At the far end in Portugal, riders then take a ferry for the return trip to Spain.
A zip line, an international border, a time zone anomaly and a ferry? I need to include this adventure near the top of my international travel plans.
@Clarker sent a tweet with a photo that he found from Twelve Mile, Indiana. I’ve simulated the approximate scene in Google Street View.
Twelve Mile, Indiana
That brought back some great memories. Twelve Mile, Indiana, made an appearance in the very early days of 12MC. It’s the renowned location of the annual Twelve Mile 500 lawnmower race.
I also received input from a more traditional route, the 12MC email box. Case in point, "Joe" sent an article link, The Forgotten Giant Arrows that Guide you Across America
Go Thata Way
It was a fascinating story focused at the intersection of the U.S. Postal Service and the early days of flight in the 1920′s. As the article explained, "… the federal government funded enormous concrete arrows to be built every 10 miles or so along established airmail routes to help the pilots trace their way across America in bad weather conditions and particularly at night, which was a more efficient time to fly." Some of those arrows continued to exist nearly a century later, as confirmed by the Google Satellite Image provided in the article, and reproduced above.
I can never predict when an article will become popular. I’m almost certain that I noticed these same arrows in another article from a different source several years ago. This time however it seemed to catch-on with the public. I’ve now seen several other people reference the giant arrows although Joe was the first to tell me about it so I’m giving him credit for passing it along.
Reader "Nigel" had a question and it confounded me as well. I would have created an entire article around it if I could have solved the mystery. Reluctantly, I’ll turn it over to the 12MC community to see if anyone out there may be able to provide an explanation for the mysterious and repeated appearance of Heterodox View Avenue.
Heterodox View Ave., Houston, TX
Nigel asked, "I noticed this odd street name first as what appears to be a driveway behind a hospital in Houston. But when typing it into Google Maps, I see others all over the country. Any guesses what this could be a reference to?"
I found the same thing. Heterodox View Avenue — and it was always Heterodox View Avenue; not street, not drive, not boulevard, only avenue — appeared in various random places throughout the United States. Only rarely did it run through a residential neighborhood. Generally it led either to a park or to a shopping center. Often it seemed to be cloaked, not necessarily appearing as a named street in Google and seemingly more an access road. Nigel’s example followed a similar pattern. The avenue ran along the edge of the hospital parking lot and next to a helicopter pad.
Heterodoxy refers to beliefs that are out of alignment with prevailing opinions or interpretations, often religious. The term also turns up in the vocabulary of economists. Thus, a heterodox view would be considered unorthodox or unconventional, although not so extreme as to be heresy. I considered this an odd choice for a street name at the very least. In addition, the use of Heterodox View Avenue (and only avenue) seemed too coincidental; a single individual or organization must have had a hand in it. However I could not find any logical connection between the occurrences. That disappointed me because I think there could be an interesting story hidden behind those heterodox views.
Thank you everyone for the great suggestions. Please keep them coming by tweet, by email, or even by by carrier pigeon if you like.