Rachel Dobson of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has been researching the early history of the Assemblies of God movement in (mostly) southeast Alabama, for a series of independent study projects in the master’s program in library and information studies at the University of Alabama. She has been collecting documentation on tent revivals, camp meetings, brush arbor meetings (from newspapers, posters, oral histories like those at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center) that took place from about 1906 (when M. M. Pinson came to what is now El Bethel AG just north of New Brockton) until about 1918 or 1919, in a few counties of southeast Alabama, and possibly northwest Florida. She also has been resourcing information from county histories, church histories, Google Maps, and references such as The First Fifty Years: A Brief Review of the Assemblies of God in Alabama (1915-1965), by Robert H. Spence, 1965.
Her great grandfather, Lafayette Snellgrove, and her great-great uncle, Handy W. Bryant, and their families were born and raised in Coffee, Dale, and surrounding counties in Alabama. They attended many Pentecostal revivals and camp meetings around Wicksburg, New Brockton, Midland City, and as far away as Florala, in the first decades of the twentieth century. Lafayette and Handy were both ordained ministers, and her great-great aunt, Daisy S. Bryant, was licensed to preach. They attended the organizing meetings for the southeastern District in 1915, 1916, and 1917. She also located Handy Bryant’s name on some of the early rosters of the Churches of God in Christ. See links to these rosters at the blog entry for Church of God in Christ and in unity with the Apostolic Faith.
Rachel is especially interested in the early locations of camp meetings and the history of how churches were established because of these early meetings. Her research has taken her to reports of revival services in early publications such as the Word and Witness and the Christian Evangel (forerunner of the Pentecostal Evangel). Recently she posted some photographs of early camp meeting locations and historic churches in Alabama. These photos can be viewed on a photoset at Flickr.com called Early Pentecost in Alabama.
She also has a blog called Wiregrass Journal, which includes some of her own family history, in addition to information on various early Pentecostal revival meetings and camp meetings in Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Houston, and surrounding counties in Alabama.
While in most cases, we know the names of the founding pastors of various congregations in Alabama and other places, as Rachel points out, “An important part of Assemblies of God history that may slip away more easily than the names of the founders are the locations of the early Pentecostal tent revivals and camp meetings—the temporary places where the Holy Spirit changed people’s lives permanently.”
The photos she has posted online of various churches and campground sites in southeast Alabama are part of a project to document the locations of early revivals and camp meetings of the Pentecostal organizations in south Alabama, especially the Assemblies of God and predecessors in the Wiregrass area of southeast Alabama. Sources for related information are also cited. To read details about the project, go to: Wiregrass Journal: Introduction
Her latest blog entry includes photos and additional information that she has found on early revival locations in southeast Alabama. See: Wiregrass Journal: Documenting the Early Days of Pentecost in Alabama
This is an extremely worthwhile project. It is hoped by posting information such as this on the web, that additional contacts can be made with others interested or with knowledge of early camp meetings in southeast Alabama and other places. If you have additional information or questions, please e-mail Rachel at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Rachel Dobson at P.O. Box 864838, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35486.
Posted by Glenn Gohr