Cypress Methodist Campground in the rural Dorchester County community of Ridgeville is a United Methodist revival camp with a heritage that dates back to the country’s first Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury. The site originated in 1794 during the Great Awakening religious movement, and its churchyard includes the graves of some of the area’s early settlers.
Bishop Asbury stopped and preached to the crowd of people who had gathered here on his circuit, or route, which was how the Methodist Church once conducted services in rural places. His 1794 journal states that he “Rode to Cypress, where I could not rest without giving them a little sermon.” Campsites such as this one formed because worshipers would stay in tents for days to experience the revitalizing preaching while also enjoying a sense of community.
Though tents were eventually replaced by hewn cabins, the term “tent” still applies to the 53 structures that surround the covered tabernacle where people congregate for worship service. Cypress Campground began with 34 permanent tents and has since grown to 53. They are all of similar structure, most consisting of one-and-a-half story buildings with sleeping space, a small dining room, a fireplace, and earthen floors.
In April of 2008 a fire that officials suspect was arson destroyed five tents and damaged a sixth. Sadly, another fire burned eight more tents just a month later. The tents, owned by families and passed down through generations, have been rebuilt.
Camp meetings at Cypress remain a popular way for nearby Methodists to gather and experience fellowship in a community that, for a week each October, holds few outside distractions. A similar site, Indian Field Campground, exists in nearby St. George.
When camp meetings are not taking place, a white church of block construction sits within the boundary of the tents. Churchgoers gather in this building every week, which was constructed in the 1940s and replaced an earlier structure.
Snowfall 2018 – Cypress Methodist Campground
Snowfall in the Lowcountry of South Carolina is a rare sight. On occasion, we may have small flurries, but it not common to see more than an inch of snow for any substantial period of time. In January of 2018, snow blanketed most of the state, reaching 10 inches in places and lasting for nearly a week. Photographer Ginger Parker shares some beautiful images of Cypress Methodist Campground during this rare Lowcountry snowfall.
Cypress Methodist Campground is listed in the National Register:
Cypress Methodist Camp Ground is one of only a few campgrounds in South Carolina which, up until the time of its nomination, continues to host annual week-long camp meetings—a vestige of the Great Awakening in American religious life in the nineteenth century. Cypress is significant for its association with Francis Asbury, pioneer of American Methodism, and for its long, uninterrupted use as a site of revivalism for almost 200 years. The campground is in the general shape of a rectangle of 34 tents, or cabins, made of rough-hewn lumber. These cabins, rectangular shaped, are generally 1½ stories and contain earthen floors.
The typical floor plan features a hall extending the length of the cabin with as many as three rooms on the opposite side. The second story is accessible by a small stairway or ladder. In the center of the rectangle is the tabernacle, an open-sided wooden structure that is the focal point of these revival meetings. Serving crowds too large for church buildings or homes, the campground responded to both religious and social needs. The tents allowed people to stay overnight, and the campground term remained even though tents were gradually replaced by the current rough-hewn cabins. Cypress Camp Ground was functional as early as 1794, and an adjacent cemetery contains graves from the early 1800s.
Other Early Campgrounds in South Carolina