Claymour camp

The 10-day Claymour Camp Meeting in Todd County is still going strong 115 years since its beginning.

Folks from surrounding counties and states are expected to converge upon the Claymour campgrounds for the old-time

revival meetings from July 19 to July 29.

Services will be at 7:30 p.m. nightly inside the barn at 3572 Sharon Grove Road, Elkton, with guest preachers, special singing and fellowship among friends. On July 29, there will be three services at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with a potluck lunch at noon.

Camp board member Wilda Harrison, 62, said this year they will have three preachers instead of two like they’ve had in the past.

On the slate are the Revs. Ricky Peterson, pastor of Lone Star General Baptist Church, Autry Moore, pastor of Greenbrier General Baptist Church, and Arno Kranz, pastor of Plainview General Baptist Church.

“They are really Holy Ghost preachers, and they are going to preach the word of God,” she said.

The preachers will share their messages inside the open-air pavilion that’s been standing since well before Harrison got involved 15 years ago.

“The seats aren’t padded, it’s a dirt floor, it’s dusty and there’s mosquitoes, but we have a huge crowd each year,” she said.

The Claymour Camp Meeting began in 1904 during a severe drought in the area. A group of farmers got together to pray for rain on land donated by Fritz Heltsley.

“‘The crops were withered and dry without rain,’” Harrison read from a poem she wrote for the 100th camp meeting in 2003. “‘The people prayed for a solution, and God answered with rain’ ... It seems like every year during the camp meeting it rains.”

The meeting is non-denominational, and people of all ages come each year, she said, noting that over 1,500 people came through for the 100-year celebration.

People dress casually and electric fans are scattered through the pavilion along with funeral fans. It’s the way they’ve always done it. Ulita Sweeney would know, she’s been going to the camp meeting since she was a kid.

“My birthday is July 23, and my mother said the Claymour Camp Meeting was the first place she took me when I was two weeks old,” Ulita recalled.

She and her husband, Roger Sweeney, have been leading the choir at the meeting for the past 35 to 40 years. Ulita plays the piano and he leads the hymns.

Growing up just down the road from the campground, Ulita and her family attended the meeting every year.

“It was always a dream of mine to get to play for the Claymour Camp Meeting, and when I was about 14 or 15, they asked me to play the piano for them,” she said. “I stayed in one of the old cabins with just a bed and a wash pan and outdoor toilet that year.”

During that time, there was a cabin, which they called “the hotel,” and the preacher stayed there that week.

Harrison said the old hotel is still standing, but everyone just drives in for the evening services and goes home.

She and Ulita said the meeting is always a good time to worship and fellowship with old friends.

“Back in the day when it first started, they didn’t have phones or TVs, and people got together to see each other, and we still do that,” Harrison said. “We get to see our friends we haven’t seen since last year and we pray and worship ... I guess it’s just the fact that it’s such a holy place and everybody really enjoys it. It still holds a lot of interest and it’s in the heart of a lot people.”

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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