Cottages on Clinton Avenue, circa 1875
Pump behind the
To learn more about the history of the MVCMA, click on the items below.
Then & Now
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. 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.