From the August 2, 1985 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye!,” shouted the town crier after ringing a large brass bell at the end of Pier 44, Vineyard Haven.

The Oak Bluffs Camp Meeting Association’s sequicentennial celebration this past weekend began with the words of Napoleon E. Poyant, a town crier by profession. He directed his cries at a handful of distinguished Oak Bluffs residents who stood on the wharf in 19th century attire. And it was truly a scene out of the last century.

The Pilgrim Belle, a 192-foot ship designed to resemble the cruise ships of decades ago, had just arrived from Hyannis. A horse and buggy waited by the dock. Fred Fisher Jr. held the reins and was dressed in a top hat.

Mr. Fisher took the guests by buggy to Cottage City and the Tabernacle — just as folks did in the last century.

The evening was designated Descendants’ Night, one of several programs offered by the Camp Meeting during these weeks of celebrating a century and a half of history.

In the Tabernacle a sign hung from the ceiling: “The Best of all, God is with us.”

Philip Buddington, choral leader, directed the 100-strong singers through hymns. The next to last song was Jacob’s Ladder.

And then came these words of song:
In this sacred Tabernacle
Where so many feet have trod
Under graceful, soaring arches,
Where so many come to God.
We must now ponder the work
              of the Lord,
How o’er the long years
              His mercy poured
Fourth on those dwelling here
              now and before,
A blessing for all, today
              and evermore.

The song was written specifically for this year’s celebration by Anita Buddington.

To Rev. Richard D. Bell, Descendants’ Night was a special form of celebration for the association. It was a way to spread friendships that have passed down through generations of campers. To Reverend Bell, the association is not just a collection of quaint buildings, but also a gathering of people of spirit.

To Evangeline Berry of Trinity Park, her memories go back to days of her youth. “I remember those Saturday afternoons when everyone used to dress up on Circuit avenue and carry a parasol to handle the sun.”

To Craig Lowe, 32, a sixth-generation seasonal resident of the Vineyard. “My great-grandmother in 1898 saw the famous waterspout in Vineyard Sound.”

Each person rose and moved slowly toward the microphone.

Albion Hart, 77, association treasurer, said he recalled when as a boy he took a pail full of white beach pebbles and wrote the name “Hart” in the newly poured tar sidewalk in front of his family’s Washington Park house. “The house is no longer there,” Mr. Hart said sadly. “But the pebbles are still there.”

Dr. D. George Davies remembered the nine clocks hanging on one wall of his family cottage. “Eight didn’t work, but one did.”

Allen Steele, 81, recalled days when a gingerbread cottage cost $500. The cost wasn’t $500 a week. It wasn’t $500 for a year. No, in Mr. Steele’s day, you bought the whole cottage for $500.

Russell M. Canning, an association director, remembered riding in an open-air trolley. “The antiques inside our house in those days were more valuable than the house,” he said.

Robert L. Brown, 79, spoke of wearing a top hat and tuxedo. His great-grandfather William Butler deeded the land over, creating the Camp Ground as a permanent place for summer religious gathering.

Reverend Bell spoke his turn. “We came in 1958 and since then we’ve made a lot of wonderful friends.”

Mr. Bell asked the audience: “How many of you were here 50 years ago?” Thirty people raised their hands.

“How many of you have been here 60 years?” Fifteen people raised their hands. “How many of you have been her 75 years?” Eleven people raised their hands.

“How many of you have been here 80 years?”

Elsie M.L. Rose, 92, raised her hand. “I was eight years old when I first came here,” she said. A woman sitting near her said: “And she still drives her car.”

On Sunday, August 4, as a finale to the church service of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, there will be a special dedication ceremony for the slate anniversary plaque made as a part of the 1985 sesquicentennial celebration of the association.

The plaque, which is embedded in hardtop at the main entrance to the Tabernacle, consists of a two-inch-thick round slab of gray-black slate, 36 inches in diameter. It originated from the stoneyard at Wethersfield, Conn. The slate is carved with the Camp Ground seal and is surrounded by a gingerbread design. It is set in the ground according to the geographical points of the compass. Here it will remain as a permanent memorial of the occasion of the Camp Ground’s 150th anniversary.

Compiled by Hilary Wall