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Brush Arbors Once Existed in Early America

Updated on July 6, 2017
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Camp meetings were normal for the time when believers met in these structures known as Brush Arbors.
Camp meetings were normal for the time when believers met in these structures known as Brush Arbors. | Source
Thomas Campbell.
Thomas Campbell. | Source

NOTE: if you like lengthy hubs, I want to apologize to you right now. This topic, in my honest opinion, did not call for a hub that ranged in the 5,000-word hub area. This one said all that I wanted it to say. Thanks, Kenneth.

Some of Mankind's Greatest Milestones

July 20, 1969 was when Apollo with the first two humans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon. Armstrong, mission commander, landed on the moon's surface.

December 17, 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. The Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane.

Surely and without argument, these events were (and always be) held in the utmost respect. But does anyone today, in 2017, know the definition of a Brush Arbor? Or when this very special event occurred? In circa. 1809, a religious reformation movement dubbed by the name, Brush Arbor where immigrants including Thomas Campbell, a "seceder," an early Presbyterian minister from Scotland to Pennsylvania brought the Christian Association of Washington to the first congregations of Christianity in early America.

On May 4, 1811, The Association reconstituted itself, May 4, 1811, as a congregational-overseers church. It built a meeting house named the Brush Run Church. Along with the Cane Ridge Meeting House in Paris, Kentucky, was considered to be one of the first churches in (the) Christian group later called the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The first meeting can be described as exciting at Brush Run Church, June 16, 1811, when three people requested immersion, the earliest form of water baptism. These Christians had not been sprinkled, so Thomas Campbell baptized them. Thomas Campbell's first child, Alexander, his first child, born March 13, 1812, made the query of infant baptism of a pressing importance to him.

He restudied the entire matter of infant baptism and became convinced that (to him) was without New Testament sanction. He then decided that children (infants) need not be sprinkled. A deeper question was born. If infant baptism is without New Testament sanction, then those who had been sprinkled in infancy could not been recognized as being baptized. Then on June 12, 1812, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, their wives, and three others were immersed (baptized) by a Baptist preacher, Rev. Mathias Luce, in Buffalo Creek on a simple confession of faith in Christ.

 Brush Arbor Pleasant Grove UMC  Dahlonega, GA.
Brush Arbor Pleasant Grove UMC Dahlonega, GA. | Source
Historical marker to mark early  brush arbor meetings.
Historical marker to mark early brush arbor meetings. | Source

Brush Run Church

expands as Campbell, his son, Alexander, and in all probability, the Rev. Mathias Luce who had baptized the Campbell's, all continued to share the simplicity of the Gospel all without the verbal teaching that infants, not knowing their right from their left hand, was clean in God's all-seeing sight while others, (adults) came to learn the Gospel and follow in the New Testament's best example of baptism: Jesus being baptized by John in the River Jordan.

These records and accounts of Thomas Campell and his family leaving Brush Run Church, are sketchy to say the least. And so are the account of when the first Brush Arbor came to be. From the earliest (established) church denominations, the Brush Arbor came to the forefront of newly-saved Christian converts meeting with anointed (or "called") ministers who mostly traveled from settlement to settlement to share The Bible, but not that much in a house, town hall or known church building.

Those early Christians relied on the common sense and leadership of other preachers (besides Campbell) to hold neighborhood revival meetings to keep the name of Christianity going and growing. When a structure was unavailable for church revivals, people built Brush Arbors which are nothing more but a place with wooden benches and seats (probably given by other Christians) and the Arbor had a roof made of tree limbs with the leaves attached.

Early brush arbor meeting display.
Early brush arbor meeting display. | Source

Personal Confirmation

of the topic of this hub: Brush Arbor, is when I was the age of seven years of age. My family and I lived in an area of The New Hope Community near my now-hometown of Hamilton, Alabama, which is the County Seat of Marion County, and my dad, being a good sharecropper, agreed to make the renter, (a) Mrs. Verta Dobbs, Hamilton, a widow who owned many acres of land to plant.

During our family's time of living on this home site, my dad along with Mrs. Dobbs, a devout Christian, took her and her oldest granddaughter, Debbie then-Dobbs, (and also my first playmate), to go up the Farm/Market highway 29, to the first Brush Arbor that "I" had ever witnessed. Fact is, this was the very first time that I had ever been exposed to religion.

Truth is, seeing the people worship under this Brush Arbor scared the living daylights out of me. No. I am not making light of anyone's worship or belief systems, but I noticed that Mrs. Dobbs was actually enjoying herself listen to the fast-tempo singing and playing and ever so often, a man or woman would shout praises to God and share a personal testimony with everyone.

To be totally honest. I had trouble with writing this hub. Not about the topic, but how to present it. This is the very first hub that I have presented about Brush Arbor(s). I did not really know how this would be taken when published. So I prayed silently as I wrote this and well, I will just let the chips fall where they may.

No pun intended.

 Living Faith Ministries is probably the result of an explosion of believers who grew from the Brush Arbor now into tent revivals and other structures.
Living Faith Ministries is probably the result of an explosion of believers who grew from the Brush Arbor now into tent revivals and other structures. | Source

© 2017 Kenneth Avery

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    • kenneth avery profile image
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      Kenneth Avery 5 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear MizBejabbers,

      Thank you, dear friend, for taking up for brush arbors. I suppose that I was fearful and felt trepidation toward what is thought of as a non-political correct topic and as you know as well as me, some entities of the Federal Govt., will all but get ugly about using His name, Jesus, or even meeting on a public ground to discuss His work or even how we love pigs on the farm.

      I have been hit with free speech a few times and I was just playing this close to the vest.

      But I am very Glad that you know a lot about brush arbors and circuit riding preachers. My parents and grandparents talked of these things and I remember when these people who helped build this great country, if the spirit of God was really touching a person, others said, "that man is getting happy," and I wish this one thing would be infectious.

      Write soon.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 6 weeks ago

      Dear friend, Ken, I don't know why you would have any trepidation writing this article on brush arbors. They're as Southern as fried chicken. I can't remember whether I ever went to one or if I just imagined it because my grandma used to talk about them so much.

      Her father and uncle were circuit riding preachers who moved to the Ozarks in the 1850s , so the brush arbor was very common in that neck of the woods back then. I think that although churches were in abundance in my childhood, sometimes rural churches like hers would build a brush arbor and have "an all day sangin' and dinner on the ground" just for nostalgia.