History Summit Grove Christian Camp
The history of Summit Grove Camp and Conference Center may be traced through a succession of camp meetings. These originated with a handful of Methodists who held their first meeting in a barn, owned by a Mr. Lowe, in the year 1816. A short time after this barn meeting - possibly the next year - the first Camp Meeting was held in Mr. Lowe's woods under the auspices of what was then known as the Eastern Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The camp continued to be held in Mr. Lowes' woods until the beginning of the Civil War.
At the close of the war in 1865, it was re-established in a new location known as Raymond's woods. This is the site of the present camp, where it continued for three years. At that time, all of the 500 to 600 tents were canvas. They were erected along ‘avenues’ which bore the names of the various Circuits of Districts from which the ‘tenters’ came. The avenues all focused toward the center like the spokes of a wheel, where the Tabernacle now stands. In addition to the 500 or 600 tents occupied, there were hundreds of families who came in large canopied farm wagons and lived in them until the close of the camp.
In 1868, the location was changed to Freeland. Maryland, where it continued until 1872. The present site was purchased, and the Summit Grove Camp Meeting Association was organized.
In 1872, the camp's name was officially changed to Summit Grove. For more than 60 years the Summit Grove Camp Meeting Association provided the facilities of Summit Grove Camp for use by the Methodist Conference of Baltimore. Many of the outstanding preachers of that day spoke from the platform of the Tabernacle. The cottages were still fully occupied, until the 50th anniversary held in 1922. After 1922, the attendance began to drop off. By 1935 Summit Grove was only a shadow of what it had been. The buildings were in disrepair and many of them were unoccupied.
THE NEW OWNERS
It was at this time that Rev. William Darling, pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Christian Camp church in York, discovered the camp and found it was for sale. He immediately notified Rev. S. W. McGarvey, Sr., the District Superintendent, of the availability of this beautiful oak grove with its many buildings. It was decided to rent the grounds for a camp in 1935. This proved to be both a successful venture and the beginning of negotiations with Mr. William Gisriel, Sr., for the purchase of the 43-acre tract of land with approximately 50 buildings. All of the buildings were in need of much repair. Fire had taken its toll on several occasions destroying some of the facilities.
The grounds were purchased in 1936 for $10,520.00 from the Summit Grove Camp Meeting Association. From the very beginning, Summit Grove attracted many Alliance people from churches which are now located in the Eastern PA District, Mid-Atlantic District, as well as others from Western Pennsylvania and New York State.
Almost from the date of the purchase of Summit Grove, all of the cottages were reserved by pastors and laymen from the Eastern District Churches, with a few still in the hands of Methodist people from Baltimore. These cottages took care of approximately 250 people.
THE NECESSARY IMPROVEMENTS
As a result of a tragic fire in 1936, the dining hall, hotel, and several cottages were destroyed. The fire made it necessary to build the first sections of the present dining room. That same year an office building, book store, and lunch stand were erected.
The original Tabernacle built prior to 1881 was octagonal, and approximately 80 feet in diameter. In 1938 it was enlarged by extending the east side, and in 1959 a new platform was built with the final extension of the west side. The concrete floor was completed in 1971. These improvements doubled the seating capacity so the Tabernacle could now seat more than 1500 people. The Tabernacle bell, engraved with the names of the original members of the Board of the Summit Grove Camp Meeting Association, hangs in the Tabernacle and still rings to call the campers to the services. The Youth Tabernacle was built in 1945.
It wasn't long until additional accommodations were needed which resulted in the construction of three 20 room dormitories. Plans to replace the cottages, which in most cases were beyond repair, were discussed from the beginning. However, with the coming of the war, building materials and supplies were not available so nothing was done to replace even the most dilapidated of the cottages. Because of the extremely poor condition of some, they were no longer used. With everything being rationed or just not available, it was found impossible to maintain even the ones being used in order to keep them fit for human occupancy. By the end of the war the cottages were in such a state of disrepair that many felt they were both a health and fire hazard.
THE POST WAR UPGRADES
At the close of the war, the Executive Committee voted to purchase some Army barracks which were being dismantled. These were reconstructed into six buildings, each having five 2 room apartments, and 3 double cottages. In 1956, six new cabins were constructed on the west side of the grove.
In 1957 on the recommendation of a special committee, the conference voted to raze all of the original cottages. Following this, new cottages were built on the west side of the grounds. A water line from New Freedom has been maintained to guarantee a good water supply even though two deep wells on the grounds have the capacity to fulfill any water needs. Almost immediately it was necessary to erect additional accommodations. Plans were approved for a 12 room block motel which was built in 1959.
THE CHANGE IN GOVERNANCE
Summit Grove continued under the direction of the Eastern Pennsylvania District until 1990. At that time it was decided that Summit Grove should be governed by its own board. An interim board was setup to run the operations of Summit Grove while plans and the bylaws were prepared.
In 1992, District Conference started official action to give the Summit Grove Board of Directors full trusteeship of Summit Grove Christian Center. The Summit Grove Board of Directors immediately began developing an organizational structure to administer all aspects of the Summit Grove Christian Center as an independently owned and operated Christian Conference Center. The new organization would be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Eastern District.
In 1994, all documents were approved and Summit Grove began to be operated under the authority of the board of directors. The Eastern Pennsylvania District still maintained final authority for major decisions that the Summit Grove Board of Directors brought before them.
In 2000, Summit Grove totally separated from the Eastern Pennsylvania District and became a 501(C)(3) corporation governed by a self perpetuating board of directors under the name Summit Grove Christian Conference Center. All assets of the conference center were transferred from the Eastern Pennsylvania District to the new corporation.
Summit Grove Camp and Conference Center proudly continues to serve, under the banner of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, many C&MA churches and groups, as well as, people of different denominational and ethnic persuasions. We are serving God in the camp setting, and look to Him for opportunities to continue to grow the ministry.