Group hopes to revive fellowship at Maple GroveSeptember 5, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
HUNTINGBURG — When Huntingburg native David McIntyre was a kid, he attended church camps at Maple Grove Camp just southwest of Huntingburg’s city limits off County Road 585 West. During one of those camps, he experienced a spiritual awakening that led him to pursue a 45-year career as a Methodist minister.
McIntyre isn’t the only one with formative memories from Maple Grove. Daniel Smith of Huntingburg remembers spending many days at the camp with his grandparents, Alvin and Laverne Elshoff, picking up sticks and trash to maintain the camp, bobbing for apples and hiking the trails that surround the camp.
When he got older, Alvin paid him a few bucks to mow the campground every summer. Smith is the sixth generation of Elshoffs to be involved with Maple Grove, so when Huntingburg United Methodist Church decided to dispose of the property in 2018, he was among those who decided to set up a nonprofit to take over and revitalize Maple Grove. McIntyre, Diana Alpers Wright, Gail Kemp and Elizabeth Elshoff were also part of the initial group.
In 2019, the group formed The Historic Maple Grove Foundation, a nonprofit that plans to acquire the property, fix it up and turn it back into the community gathering space it once was.
Maple Grove’s history goes back almost two centuries to the Great Revival, an evangelical movement that swept through the Allegheny region following the Civil War. A hallmark of the Great Revival were camp meetings where people would gather for several days at a time to hear preachers preach.
Maple Grove, then owned by the Gerhardt Niehaus family, was a site for such meetings.
In 1844, a log church was built on the site, and various cabins and other facilities followed over the years. Some of those structures, including the church, still stand. There is also a cemetery on the property where some of Dubois County’s earliest inhabitants, including some of Smith’s ancestors, are buried.
Since its founding, the Maple Grove Camp has changed hands a few times. The Huntingburg United Methodist Church took ownership of the property in 1969, and currently owns it. Once the Historic Maple Grove Foundation is ready, however, the church will donate half of the property — which includes the historic structures — to the foundation, and the foundation will purchase the other half, said Arlene Wagner, a member of the Historic Maple Grove Foundation.
The foundation is ready to begin its fundraising campaign and will hold a kick off event, Easter in September, at the camp on Sept. 21 and 22. The group chose to call the event Easter in September to call in the themes of rebirth that go along with the holiday.
“We want to celebrate the resurrection of historic Maple Grove,” said Cathy Powell, a Huntingburg resident and member of the Historic Maple Grove Foundation.
The event will include two catered meals, one at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, and the other at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, so event organizers ask anyone planning to attend the meals to RSVP by Sept. 11 to 812-631-0360.
The event also includes carnival booths, golf cart tours, hay rides, yard games, live music, campfire vespers and speakers.
Easter in September will be an example of the sort of events organizers envision taking place once the camp is restored. They also want to hold weddings, church camps, Easter sunrise services and Christmas Eve services at the camp.
Most importantly, they want future generations to be able to experience the camp in ways similar to what the founders of the site did in the 1840s.
“Just to go out there and see the same trees and feel the same things they felt is pretty cool,” Smith said. “The fellowship with so many people and the laughter is what we’re trying to bring back.”
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