What did BPC look like in 1891?
Bowman Park Campmeeting is the second oldest Campmeeting in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (of the United Methodist Church), occupying the same site since 1891. First held out of doors, there being no auditorium as such, and only a “preacher’s stand” as it was called, and rows of logs with planks laid over them for seats, a hand bell was used to call the worshipers to service. In the evening kerosene lights were attached to poles and trees for lighting. Thus was the general setting of the Campmeeting over 100 years ago. It is not known exactly, but it is believed that the first groups met on the slope of ground in the area now occupied by the former Bowman and Seybert buildings (currently occupied by Bowman Lodge).
A General Timeline
1888: The first meeting for Bowman Park of a religious nature for the spiritual uplift of the souls of men.
1891: The Campmeeting was again held and a Committee of five was appointed by the leader to ascertain the availability of the estate of Josiah Bowman between Mill and Ore Streets, Lime and Hamilton Streets, consisting of 12 lots.
September 8, 1891: The deed for the property was drawn up in the name of the President of the Park Association and executed with $600.00 paid with the balance on note.
1892: A plan was presented for the first Boarding House which was completed before June 1892, when the District Campmeeting was held.
September 7-14, 1892: This campmeeting went down in record as “the ‘Great Holiness Conference Campmeeting.’ All who were present will never forget the scenes there witnessed. At times it seemed as though Heaven had touched our part of the earth. So we can truly say that ‘Bowman’s Campmeeting Park’ has to many souls become ‘sacred ground’.” –Maurice Bowman (elected secretary in 1894)
1894: The Incorporation was completed under the name of “The Bowman Park Campmeeting Association of the Evangelical Association of North America,” with power vested in the Superintendent and Executive Committee. The Executive Committee also laid out the Park into lots and avenues.
Thanksgiving Day 1894: A meeting of the Camp Commission was called to consider the building of an auditorium in “common rustic style.”
1895: The auditorium was not built by campmeeting services because of finances and interest in a different placement for the building.
1896: Canvas top was used over the auditorium.
1897: A sketch was proposed for an auditorium that would cost around $400.00.
1900:The Presiding Elder was instructed to “call a meeting of the sisters and form a Ladies Aid Society of the Bowman Park Association.” This organization was formed during the subsequent years.
1901: W. W. Bowman presented a sample of a seat that could be used in the auditorium, measuring 16 feet long at the cost of $1.75 per bench. He was than authorized to procure 34 as per sample. During this year a portable platform, a pulpit and portable altar were also provided for the Campmeeting. This is the same altar which is in use today.
1902: There was no Campmeeting this year due to financial difficulties. In accordance, they endeavored to raise as much money as possible to relieve their distress. A plan was developed “to charge an entrance fee of five cents for each person above the age of 12 years; except such as were in tents or lot owners who shall be permitted free by a pass.
1904: A plan had been adopted to add to the dwindling treasury by taking offerings in the evening meetings.
1905: An organ was donated.
1911: The Association was experiencing financial woes once again and decided to sell 7 3/4 acres of land (and timber).
1916: The Ladies Aid Society saw the need for a new Boarding House and made possible with cooperation of the Executive Committee the erection of such a house in the form of a two story building with an annex suitable for kitchen purposes. The cost was $675.00 and is known as the Bowman Building.
1918: The first piano was used in services.
1921: Children’s workers were appointed to serve.
1921: All of the indebtedness of the Association was paid with the last $500.00 mortgage lifted.
1922: Seybert Building erected.
1928: Albright Building erected.
1947: Campmeeting records show that: “The meetings in the grove were well attended this year, a good number of souls saved, the messages by the many pastors were all soul stirring and we have every reason to believe that God is working with us, and through us, so let us band together and make our 1948 campmeeting bigger and better by the help of God.”
1948: An amplifying system was presented to the Association.
1949: A bell was donated by the Barnesville Church.
1949: The report for the 1949 campmeeting stated that twenty young people and adults and eight children committed their lives to God and the attendance of 21 ministers on the last Sunday was exceptional. According to the record “this was the best Campmeeting in years.”
1953: A Youth Rally in the camp grove, was the spearhead for the Bowman Park Youth Camp. The new dormitory called the Fellowship Hall was planned. Committees were appointed, namely Building, Program, Publicity and Finance.
1954: The Scholarship Fund was created.
1957: A Refreshement Stand was proposed.
1958: The “go ahead” for the Refreshment Stand was given.
1964: Junior Camp was established.
1969: The Buck cottage was purchased by the Board of Associates and turned over to the camp as a Crafts Cottage.
1969: The Ladies Auxiliary was given full responsibility for the kitchen and dining room.
1972: The Bowman Park Alumni Association was begun.
1974: The gift shop operated by the Bowman Park Ladies Auxiliary was instituted in the Albright Building.
1989: The Board of Administration voted to purchase a cottage for the purpose of housing the Evangelist during campmeeting each year.
1990: The Seybert Building was demolished to make way for a new facility designed to be used year-round.
1991: Began building the Bowman Lodge.
1996: Kitchen cabinets and counter tops installed in Bowman Lodge
2002: First Youth in Ministry Camp held; upgrades to “God’s Goodies” refreshment stand; upper recreation area installed with lighting; upstairs of dining hall redone; 35 posts & overhead beams replaced in tabernacle.
2003: Removed diseased hemlock tree in east tabernacle wing
2004: Tabernacle improvements include built in steps at east front, concreting east wing, creation of a level handicapped area, railings, ceiling fans
125 Years of History: A Summary…A Prayer
God has used Bowman Park mightily in the past 100+ years, but the work of God at Bowman Park goes on. We urge our readers to pray much for the spiritual outreach of our beloved Campmeeting. And let us all be promoters and bring others into the fold, learning from the example of the dedicated men and women who have set the example of what it means to give your all to what you believe is right and just in the eyes of the Lord. May their image continue to inspire our spiritual enrichment and growth that God may bless us with the continued presence of His Spirit here at Bowman Park Campmeeting.