Louise Jacobs Cody
(Daughter of Jesse and Mattie Lee Jacobs)
My most precious life-long friend, Iris Middleton Smith, asked me to write about what I remembered about the Hortense Camp Meeting. I don't have the time to write, and you don't have time to read all I remember about this special place and special time of the year.
I will start off by saying my grandmother, Francis (Fanny) Harper and her sister, Aunt Etta Smith and Aunt Nolah Sloan were the first ones to stay in the boarding house when it was built.
On August 19, 1919, our mother, Mattie Lee Harper, and our father, Jesse James Jacobs, were married after the Sunday night closing service at the camp ground, so it was only natural that each year they spent their anniversary at the Hortense Camp. I believe I was conceived there as I was born in May. I was not the first child they had. They were very busy fulfilling God's word to replenish the earth and they had nine children before God said that is enough. We would tell people we would have brought the whole family but it was a rainy day (we travelled in a truck). We all looked forward to going to camp meeting because this was not only THEIR anniversary but it was OUR vacation. We all loved it up there.
We piled in one of the back cottages. Mama would bring three or more cakes, plus teacakes, and the food looked like it was enough for an army. Then daddy would bring more every time he was able to come. He was not always able to stay with us the whole time. Mama would bring chambers, a big tin wash-tub for us to bathe in, plus all the other things we needed. We could not wait to see who was there, the Middletons, our loyal and beloved friend Lillie Watts, the Days, Mattie Hodge and her children, her sister Nellie Long and son W.C., the Lewises, the Rowells, the McGraws, the Spauldings, the Ammons, my dear friend Willodeen Spaulding Horne, Eula Mae Knight Highsmith, her sister Opal and many, many others.
I also remember shelling peas and butter beans for the boarding house and guest kitchen. Every one in a circle, talking about the old times. What beautiful and encouraging tales they told. It was a real blessing to listen to what these dear Godly women had to say. It did not seem like work, but like being told another chapter out of the Bible. They would talk about something that happened 20 years before and I could not believe at that time anyone could remember 20 years before. They were quite possibly no older than I am now, or maybe not as old.
The very best part of camp meeting was the privilege of being in Sister Ruth Newton's children's services. She taught us all the old time songs that are still deep rooted in our hearts and taught us all the hand movements with them. "Yes, Jesus Loves Me", "This Little Light of Mine", "I Have the Love of Jesus Down in My Heart", and many, many others. She would tell us a Bible story and it was like we were all living what she was saying. No one moved. We were spellbound. That was the shortest hour of my life. I have never met anyone like her. Sister Ruth prayed for each one of us, I believe, all her life. She loved us as much as we loved her.
In 1942 there were only four girls still at home with mama; the others were all in the military services. I was eleven years old and had spent the last four months in Warm Springs for another operation. The doctors wanted me to stay longer but mama wrote me that camp meeting had started and they were there. I had never missed camp before. I cried so hard and so long the doctors agreed to let me come home if I would allow a nurse to come dress my leg every other day. So they brought me straight from the hospital to the camp. The nurse came every other day from Nahunta to dress my leg. Now that I was here I was so embarrassed for people to see me in half cast with an ace bandage over it. Me on crutches and hurting, but I was here. I never thought of anything but getting here, but I soon realized this was not going to be as easy as I thought. I never thought about trying to get around in sand and sand spurs. I was so embarrassed that I left the cottage early and stayed until after everyone left the tent so they would not see what a struggle it was for me to be there. Only by the grace of God I made it. Glenn Day must have been run out of their cottage so the Day girls, Reba and Ruby, could get dressed because he always took time to come over and talk to me before each service.
During our leisure time we cut palmettos and made all kind of things like brooms, shoes, place mats, fans and baskets. We had fun doing all these things. We had very little leisure time. My mother's cousin, Roy Harper and his family would come and sing during a special service. Not only did we get to enjoy the services but also we got to visit our friends and relatives to gather fresh vegetables, pick grapes, etc.
I guess we all had our times of embarrassment. I had at least one every day, but I think this was the most embarrassing time. My sister, Geneva, Billie Sheppard and I thought we were old enough to stay in the boarding house. Three young, maturing teenagers. We thought we were grown until the morning after our first night. The rooms at the boarding house did not have any indoor plumbing, so we found an old chamber that had not been used in years and cleaned it up and never thought to test it to see if it leaked. Well the next morning we heard all this action downstairs and Mrs. McGraw came up the stairs letting the whole camp know the Jacob girls' chamber leaked. We did not know it until she came up to tell us. You can imagine, if you knew Mrs. McGraw, what she said and how loud she said it. We wanted to go hide until we could get back home. But we stayed and by the grace of God we lived through it. Mrs. McGraw never did forgive us for messing up her clothes. She was as mad as an old setting hen. I really did not blame her because she had such beautiful clothes (I have heard since then that 'the leaking chamber' happened every year to someone).
"MOST" of our family accepted the Lord at this camp at some time or another. "ALL" were renewed every year.
In 1955 my parents moved back to the camp to be the winter caretakers. I was living in Brunswick and I had a five-week-old baby boy, Ronald Luther Cody, Jr (Butch), and I went to see them. What a happy day we all had. My dear friend, Iris Smith, brought her oldest daughter, Vangie, out for me to see. We had such a blessed time. We walked over the grounds, daddy showing us all the trees and scrubs they had cleared out. We have many happy memories of the camp ground, with and without the services going on. When we go back now we still look for the same families that we looked for in our youth, plus new friends. One of the first ones we look for is Lillie Watts; she is one of the oldest and dearest friends to all of us. We all love her.
When we start singing at camp meeting, I can still see my mother and hear her singing on the first or second row on the left hand side. It always brings tears to my eyes to remember how she dearly loved those Holy Grounds.
Let's don't forget these beautiful grounds did not get this way without a lot of work. Let's all make an effort like our parents did to go and help.
What a blessed memory we have and what a great work God has done in each of our lives that had the privilege of attending the Hortense Camp Meetings.
God bless all of you.