The modern town of Oak Bluffs traces its origin to a camp meeting held at the site, then a paradise or a wilderness — most people thought the former — in 1835. Hebron Vin­cent of Edgartown made this record of the first camp meeting, in his history, published long ago:
The first camp meeting held in this beautiful grove was in the year 1835, and commenced on Monday, the 24th day of August. A meeting has been held here every year since, excepting that of 1845, when it was removed to Westport Point.
The area cleared up for the pur­pose at this time was quite limited in extent. A small rough shed had been erected, as usual, called the “Preachers’ Tent”, with an elevated seat and stand in front to answer the purposes of a pulpit. In front of this was the usual arrangement of a temporary altar, consisting of a railing enclosing about twenty-five feet by twelve, of ground, with seats to be used, mainly, by the singers in time of the public preaching ser­vice, and as a place for penitent sinners to come into from the con­gregation for the prayers of God’s ministers and people during the time of public prayer meetings, which generally follows the after­noon and evening sermons.
Beyond the altar Were some rough board seats for the accommodation of the congregation.


Nine Tents at the Ground

Only nine tents graced this first circle. There might, perhaps, have been some sails extended in the rear of the tents, for awnings, under which to take meals. A well had also been dug for the supply of pure water.
The presiding elder of the district being unable to be present, requested that the Rev. Thomas C. Pierce might be appointed to superintend the meeting. He conducted the first public exercise, which was on Monday evening, at which he delivered a forcible, an affectionate, and a well-timed address...
The number of preachers in attendance was of course small; the exact number is not now known...The meeting was one of great spirituality. Both ministers and people seemed each to understand their appropriate work “and to attend to it”.
The waving trees, the whispering breeze, the pathetic appeals, the earnest prayers, and the songs of praise, as well as the trembling of sinners under the Word, and the shining countenances of Christians lighted up with holy joy, all conspired to say, “Surely the Lord is in this place.”
Of the immediate effects it is stated that “soon after the afternoon sermon of Tuesday a public prayer meeting was held, at which it was believed that eight souls were converted to the Lord.” The published account of the meeting thus continues:


Rain Prevented Open Meetings

“On Wednesday the work of the Lord progressed among us, and new victories were achieved. The exercises of the public prayer, and of public preaching in the evening, were prevented by rain. We re­gretted that many friends, and prob­ably many anxious inquirers after the truth, were obliged to leave the ground; but on the other hand, our brethren, being confined to their several tents, had a better opportun­ity to labor for God, and for the unconverted in their own companies, and also to get to their own souls a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. The public prayer meeting on Thurs­day afternoon was powerful and glorious, and there were several con­versions.
“Friday was emphatically ‘the great day of the feast’. Heavenly music saluted our ears at an early hour which, if it could not be called a serenade of angels, was certainly that of happy souls saved from sin. The spirit of devotion during the morning exercises in the tents was deep and general among the hosts of God’s elect.”
The number converted during the meeting was estimated at sixty-five.