Montreat History Spotlight
A look into the beginning of summer religious conferences in Montreat, 1897 -1907
Four months after the Mountain Retreat Association was chartered, the first summer conference was held in Montreat from July 20 - 30, 1897.
All the speakers and attendees camped out in tents where Howerton Hall and other buildings now stand. A dining tent and kitchen was erected.
That first conference featured worship led by the Reverend F. M. Lamb from Salem, MA, who took turns in leading the singing with a Mr. Brown from New York (both shown below). A small pump organ provided the music. Wagon loads of local mountain residents would come and join those camped out in Montreat for the singing and services.
Some of Montreat's early leaders were there, including founder and president (1897 - 1899) Rev. John C. Collins of New Haven, CT; Evangelist and founding board member Weston R. Gales of Chase City, VA, who also served as Montreat's general manager from 1899 - 1902; founding board member Charles Alden Rowland from Athens, GA.
In the second year, the 1898 summer conference was led by the Rev. Reuben Archer Torrey (at left) of Chicago and Henry Burton Gibbud, who founded of the Florence Crittenden Home (now the Rescue Mission) on Bleeker St. in New York City. In 1898, Torrey headed the Chicago Evangelization Society, later named Moody Bible Institute, and Gibbud was serving on the faculty of the Bible Normal College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
With foreign missionary work a priority topic during the late 1890s and early 1900s, MRA General manager Weston Gales organized a mission conference in 1901 (see below).