Researchers interested in Cherokee County history will be able to hear personal stories of one of the county’s oldest religious traditions when the Cherokee History Center opens next spring.

Holbrook Camp Meeting saw what looks like a ghost town most of the year come back to life as families returned for 10 days starting July 9 for Christian worship and fellowship. This week, History Cherokee’s Oral History committee conducted 17 oral history interviews with over 35 participants from families who have been attending the annual camp meetings for 183 years.

The campground dates back to the early 19th century when Jesse Holbrook received 40 acres of land—which he reportedly earned in exchange while he shod a horse—and then sold the land for twenty dollars to the local Methodists to be used for the campground. The focal point of the campground is the historic 1890’s covered arbor where services are held three times each day during the 10-day camp meeting. Encompassing the covered arbor sits 74 cabins, or “tents”, which have been constructed by early generations of campers and have been passed down through family lineage.

“Being able to collect stories from families who have been attending camp meetings since the early days is a phenomenal opportunity for us at History Cherokee to actively discover, celebrate, and preserve this history for our community,” said Kaylee Johnson, collections and exhibits manager of History Cherokee.

Oral history is the collection of memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. The recordings of the interviews conducted at Holbrook Campground will be transcribed, summarized, and then indexed into the digital collection software used by History Cherokee.

While History Cherokee staff was on site during the oral history interviews, they saved the recordings to flash drives so the families could also have a copy of the interview.

“Knowing that technology is as simple as it is today, it was a real treat being able to pass on the interviews to family members of the interviewee within minutes of leaving their tent and hearing their stories,” said Janice Lawson, History Cherokee volunteer. “It’s wonderful knowing that their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren will have access to hearing their family history at Holbrook from the folks who lived it.”

These interviews will be available to researchers who are interested in learning more about Holbrook Campground, genealogy, or Cherokee County history when the new Cherokee County History Center opens in spring 2022.

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