Celebrating the history of ‘Albright Park Assembly Ground’

HERSEY – The celebration of the 110th anniversary of the old Albright Park Assembly Ground located near Reed City took place over the weekend with lots of love, laughter, music and much to do.

In addition to tours, there were displays, music, swimming, climbing the wall, tubing, and lots more. A group of Girl Scouts from the Traverse City District spent Saturday at the camp having all sorts of fun. They spent the evening in the old tabernacle listening to music provided by Doran and Betty Lou Bittner of Paris, before they headed for nearby cabins to spend the night.

Monday meant the beginning of a Christian Sports Camp/Vacation Bible School full of activities planned by Reed City United Methodist Church and Albright Camp.

But that’s the present. There was that 110 years of “past,” now moving one day at a time into the end of the 111th year, and another celebration already in the plans.

More events and activities will be offered next year about this time, but for now, let’s take a glance at a history provided by Wava Woods, longtime collector of materials from the campground “just up the road.”

Entitled “Albright Park Assembly Ground,” it reads: “Under the leadership of Rev. J. Riebel and Rev. H. Voelker, pastors at Reed City and Hersey respectively, and Rev. F. Klump, presiding elder of the Grand Rapids District, the first camp meeting to be held in the vicinity of Albright Park was held in the J. Hainbecker’s woods, about one-half mile west of the present campsite, in the year of 1898.

“In 1901 Rev. J. Riebel leased the present site from the Pere Marquette Railroad as a campsite. The beautiful grove on the Hersey River made it an ideal location for a camp. When an attempt was made in 1907 to purchase the property, Brother Riebel discovered that the property was not for sale.

“Disappointed, but not discouraged, he went upon his knees one night, earnestly praying that God would in some way bring it to pass that the property would be offered for sale. During the same week he received word from the company that the property could be purchased and at what he regarded as a reasonable price.

“The Camp Meeting Association purchased ten acres for the sum of $200. Much credit for the success of the camp is due to Brother Riebel’s perseverance and foresight in those earlier years.

“The Camp meeting Association was officially organized on June 16, 1901, when a committee of members from Hersey and Reed City met and organize the Evangelical Camp Meeting Association of Hersey and Reed City of the Grand Rapids District.

“Trustees were duly elected at that time, according to a report in the Reed City paper. The meeting that year was the most successful held up to that date. In the early years, the preaching was done by the pastors and the presiding elders of the Grand Rapids District, and was largely in the German language. In fact, Albright park was known for many years in the community as ‘the German Camp Meeting.’

“Bishop Thomas Bowman came to the grounds in 1904 as the first “outside speaker.”

The material goes on to say that “the name Albright Park was chosen in 1907, and the first tabernacle was actually a large tent purchased in 1902.” A tabernacle large enough to hold 750 people was built in 1919, and several cottages were added in 1920.

“A large fireproof and burglarproof storehouse was built in 1939. In 1940, a fine toilet system was completed. The first lighting equipment was gasoline torches.”

A chapel in the woods was built around 1945, and many other things including a stone pulpit, an outdoor fireplace, and a hospital cottage and nurse headquarters.

A book full of stories and information gathered by Wava Woods will be finding its way to the printers soon.

Plans are already being made for the 111th anniversary.