Hortense Camp

in the Wesleyan tradition

100 Years Celebration: 1904 - 2004

Lillie Mae Watts

(Lived in the home of Grooms and Estelle Middleton)

I attended the Hortense Camp Meeting for the first time in August 1921.  At this time I sat in the car and kept Julian Middleton who was one year old.  Those years were before insect sprays, so we had to fan mosquitoes while we sat in the car.  Of course, there were no glasses in car doors then either.

The rides from Atkinson to Hortense were always long as the roads were bumpy, dusty and full of children.  For a long time Mr. Middleton had a "Roadster" with only one seat.  The parents and two small children sat on the seat and I sat in the door with my feet on the running board.  Going home I would fall asleep and Mrs. Middleton would hold the sleeping baby with one arm and hold me in the door with the other one. 

The two story "Boarding House" had kerosene lamps.  Downstairs was a kitchen with a wood-burning cook stove, home made tables and benches. Oilcloth was used for table covering.  After the oldest Middleton children were old enough to go under the tabernacle, I would take the young ones wiht me to the Boarding House and I would assist Aunt Lou in the kitchen.  My main job was to peel some items used for the noon meal.  I couldn't get too involved helping Aunt Lou because my main responsibility was the children left in my care.  They were not allowed to run wild and be noisy inside.

The Sunday menu usually included macaroni and cheese.  Aunt Lou would cut chunks of cheese for herself to eat.  She apparently didn't get to enjoy this delicacy very often at home.

When the morning service was dismissed, I would leave Aunt Lou, take the children in my care and return to the Middleton car.  It was usually parked under a shade tree near the back gate of the fenced area.  Our lunch was served from the trunk and the hood of the car.  Mrs. Middleton and I would have spent Saturday butchering young chickens for frying Sunday morning, baking cakes, teacakes, etc.  The perishable items were prepared Sunday morning because there were no ice chests in those days. 

Many times camp workers, visitors and family members were invited to share the noon meal with us.  Only those who boarded were allowed to eat in Aunt Lou's kitchen.  Some people arriving in horse and wagons would usually park under pine trees outside the fence down near the sulphur pump.

In August 1958 I helped Iris Middleton Smith cook for camp meeting in the first cement block kitchen/dining hall.  We camped in the corner cabin, built years before by Mr. R.C. Harrell for his family.  Iris had a six-week-old baby boy, so this made it easier for her to have him close by.

I always enjoyed the singing and preaching from where I sat in the car.  They would try to park near the front gate at night so those in the car could see and hear the service.  By 1975 integration was in full swing.  I had learned to drive, so I became the chauffeur for Mrs. Middleton.  At that time I was allowed to go under the tabernacle and sit with her.

I have many fond memories of my association with the Hortense Camp and have made many friends through the years.