Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Sullivan Family, Camp Meetings near Confidence Church
To get crops "laid by" (that is, finish cultivation—plowing and hoeing) and attend the grand old "Camp Meetings" were highlights of summer days in the late nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries in north Georgia.
Good old William Sullivan, who
An account of one such Camp Meeting in August of 1885 has been preserved in an article written by George A. Smith in 1901. In the paper Smith tells about the William Sullivan family and how a family reunion was incorporated into proceedings of the Camp Meeting in the summer of 1885.
Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan (1811-1895) was present at the Camp Meeting. Her beloved husband, William Sullivan (1805-1881), had died four years previously. No doubt, she remembered many times they had attended camp meeting together. Elisha Sullivan, a son of the late William and Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan, had a large tent set up at the meeting grounds. It was Elisha's desire to honor his dear mother and to incorporate the family reunion into that Sunday of the grand camp meeting. After morning services, a solemn and meaningful gathering took place in Elisha's tent.
Mr. George Smith described the occasion thus in his article published in The Wesleyan Advocate:
"Elisha who tented gave a special dinner for his mother and the children present—a sort of family reunion. The surrounding circumstances and the occasion itself were calculated to solemnize the scene, and this solemnity was deepened as they were being seated at the table. The 'Old Mother of Israel' (Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan) was seated first.
And then next to her the oldest child, and then the next oldest and so on until all seven of the nine present were seated."
All of her children but two daughters were present at the meeting, and many of her host of grandchildren. Nine of the Sullivan-Mashburn descendants had tents set up.
Four of Mrs. Sulllivan's sons were preachers, Elisha, in whose tent the reunion occurred, was a prominent minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Three other sons, William, Asbury and James, were ordained practicing ministers in the Methodist Episcopal Church (North). All were participating in the camp meeting, and the presiding elder, the Rev. A. C. Thomas, "showed equal respect to those who belonged to the M. E. Church and those who belonged to the M. E. Church South. They all preached, prayed and exhorted in that commendable spirit which…characterizes all true and earnest worshipers."
The gathered Sullivan family then turned their thoughts to their father, William Sullivan, and honored his memory by quoting the comforting scripture, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25). They anticipated the time in the future when all believers will be reunited on high "around the table of the Lord." And, they were assured, "unlike at this camp meeting, in glory there will be no vacant seats."
The eldest son of William and
Mashburn Sullivan was James Sullivan, licensed to preach in the year
was ordained by the beloved Rev. D. D. Cox. It took Rev. Sullivan four
horseback to get around to his small churches in his charge before the
War curtailed much of his travel. After the war, his assignment was in
Ellijay Circuit which extended as far as Jasper, Waleska and Spring
also had pastored churches in
The paper by Adam Smith did not give details on the other ministers of beloved Mrs. Rebecca Mashburn, but present and celebrating with her on that August Sunday in 1885 were Rev. Elisha Leander Sullivan (1830-1897), who was hosting the dinner in his tent, Rev. James Sullivan, the eldest of the boys mentioned in the above paragraph, Rev. Asbury Sullivan (what a strong Methodist name he had been given by his parents) and Rev. William (named for his father).
Accounts of reunions such as that of the Sullivan family held in 1885 give insight into the contributions of hardworking, salt-of-the earth people such as William and Rebecca Mashburn Sullivan.
The 1850 Union census, the first
names of those in the family, records William and his wife Rebecca and
as follows: James, 21; Mary, 17; William, 15; Sarah 13; Daniel
Elizabeth, 8; Miriam, 6: Sofrona, 4; and John 11 months. Elisha
19) and his wife Mary (age 18) were already set up in their own
the time of the 1850 Union census. About 1888, the Rev. William Harvey
(1835-1902) and his wife, Mary Angeline Early Sullivan went as
Sketches of Union County History, Volume 2 (1978), pages 72-77.]
Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance wirter, poet, and historian. She may be reached at email firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411