Uncle George, Bertha and the Camp Meeting
Friday's Memory, September 14, 2018
This month we are gearing up for the Camp Meeting which will take place on Saturday, September 29th at Skillman Park in Skillman, NJ from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM. This is our third annual Camp Meeting to commemorate the Camp Meetings that used to be held in the 1800’s on the last two Sundays in July and the first two Sundays in August.
One of the featured singers at the Camp Meetings was my third great uncle, George Blackwell who was the grandson of Frost Blackwell (my fourth great-grandfather). Some of you may recall a past Friday Memory when I introduced you to my great-grandfather, Frost, who was a slave owned by Andrew Blackwell, a wealthy Revolutionary War veteran and member of the renowned Blackwell family from Hopewell Township, NJ.
When it came to collection time at the Camp Meetings the people would holler to Uncle George and say, “I’ll give you a dollar if you sing, “They Stole My Mother Away.” According to the old-timers this song, which is an old slave song, would draw people from miles around who especially came to hear him sing that song.
Uncle George, who was also called “Petey”, was raised with his grandfather on the Still House Farm on what is now Pennington-Rocky Hill Road near the Distillery which stands to this day. Uncle George made apple whiskey that was used for all sorts of medicinal purposes--even giving a baby a spoonful to help with teething!
This year the Camp Meeting will feature songs that I guarantee will stay in your memory bank for days. Starting things off will be the incomparable Bertha Morgan who will open with a voice so powerful that it will stop you in your tracks. The first time I heard Bertha was at my Aunt Marvel’s funeral who died in 2015. My aunt had been a sickly child who was not expected to survive to the age of 10 but went on to live until she was 100 years and 2 months old. I watched Bertha as she approached the dais and proceeded to sing, “Soon I Will Be Done With The Troubles Of This World” and time stood still! I knew immediately there was no way we could have a Camp Meeting without this woman. This will be the third year she will open for this year’s headliners, the Capital City Singers who are back by popular demand.
So whether it was Uncle George a century ago, or Bertha Morgan today stirring our souls, we will gather on Saturday, September 29th in Skillman Park. The only thing we ask is that you bring a chair or a blanket and your appetite for good food and good singing for a hand-clapping good time!