Zac McDorrMy own experience with church has always involved a single hour of worship on Sunday. Other faiths put more effort into it. In the early 19th century, the week-long Camp Meeting became popular in frontier regions where churches and ministers were few and far between.

The first Camp Meeting in Maine was held in Buxton in 1806. Another took place at Hawthorn Farm in Dresden in 1835. An effort was begun in 1867 to find a permanent camp site, and a riverside spot in Richmond was chosen.

When the first meeting was held the following year, everybody stayed in tents. People came many miles on horseback or in carriages to camp out for the week. With attendance numbers passing 3,000 worshipers, however, some of whom stayed all summer, more permanent facilities were required.

Sleeping houses and cottages were built, along with stores, stables, a committee room, a barber shop, a post office, and even a dedicated railroad station. A large wooden tabernacle building was built in 1899, and boat service began servicing the camp from Boston.

The Richmond camp became even more popular with the invention of the automobile. People started coming from all over New England to attend camp in the warm months. Methodist control of the facility gave way to the Seventh-day Adventists, and later the Church of the Nazarene purchased the camp.

The Camp Meeting itself is based on a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian celebration of Communion Season, or “holy fair,” which was a week-long celebration of the Last Supper. The meeting consisted of all-day preaching by several different preachers. It tended to start out low-key, and worked its way to a fever pitch. By the end of the week people would be crying, laughing, dancing, convulsing, rolling on the ground, and otherwise expressing their religious ecstasy.

Source: “Richmond on the Kennebec,” Richmond Historical Committee, 1966