First camp meeting in Queensland—1898

Big camp is something of an institution in the Adventist Church, but the first camp meeting in Queensland was made special by one little old lady.

The big tent back in the day.

New Seventh-day Adventist believers were excited that a camp meeting would be the first to be held in the colony of Queensland and that Mrs Ellen G White would be in attendance.

Suitable grounds were hired on Logan Road close to the Logan Road railway station and the date set to commence the camp was October 14, 1898. Trams travelling between The Valley and Woolloongabba carried large calico banners announcing, “Camp meeting, Logan Road”. This free form of advertising drew many listeners to the big tent.

I thought I heard the angels sing . . . I was sure that angels were in these clouds.

Campers came not only from the city of Brisbane but from Rockhampton and Toowoomba and other places. Groups of people from these towns made pleas for Mrs White to visit their area while in Queensland and received a promise of commitment to come.

Mrs White had been reluctant to travel north due to the number of ministers who were already planning to attend the camp. She also wanted to continue her writing, which would be delayed should she travel. However, convicted that the people were like sheep without a shepherd, she made plans to attend the camp. Travelling north on the train to Queensland she saw in a vision of the night two white clouds. She was reminded that clouds filled with angels had announced the coming of Christ to the world and felt that these two clouds held special significance for her trip north. She wrote that when the two clouds came together, “I thought I heard the angels sing. Then the clouds would move apart, but again they would come together. I was sure that angels were in these clouds” (Manuscript 4, 1899).

Ellen would interpret that these clouds meant Brisbane. With a city divided in half by the Brisbane River, she felt it was appropriate that two churches be formed: South Brisbane church in Logan Road, which was erected in 1899 with about 40 members, and a similar sized group of believers in North Brisbane who met in hired halls.

Ellen fulfilled her promise to visit Rockhampton for a few days immediately following this camp meeting and the following year attended the Toowoomba camp meeting when the Queensland mission was organised into a conference. She wrote: “It seemed to be astonishing to them that Mrs White, a woman of seventy, could talk without notes and with such a clear and distinct voice for an hour and-a-half. One man said that she was a good recommendation for a vegetarian diet” (Letter 86, 1898).

Marian de Berg is administrative assistant at the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre.