Nearly a century ago, a few Christians with a vision of things to come and a burden for the lost planned a camp ground in the area between Schenectady, Troy and Albany. At that time the Albany-Schenectady electric line ran along the highway. Rev. A. H. Wilson and Cola Wilson of Amsterdam, riding along the highway, spotted the grove of large trees back from the road. On making inquiry, they found four acres for sale.
In the fall of 1918, the four acres of woods were purchased for a Holiness Camp Meeting. It seems as if certain scripture gives voice to the work, Hebrews 9:2, “For there was a tabernacle made...” and Hebrews 9:5,6, “Of which we cannot speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained...”, a committee was formed and work began. The trees were felled and a tabernacle was constructed, mostly from lumber that grew on the plot. It had a sawdust floor.
Before camp opened, Rev. Cola Wilson died with the flu. Those who gave their time and carried the burden of prayer were Rev. A. H. Wilson, Rev. D. E. Wilson, Rev. William Van Noss and Rev. Jasper Hamm. Laymen with the same vision and willingness to help were Charles Van Allen, Will Alberto, Louie Ginter, August Knapp and others.
The first service was held Decoration Day morning with Rev. A. E. Blann of Northville preaching. In the afternoon service Alvin Young delivered the message.
The first camp meeting began June 26 and ended July 6,1919. The practice of going over the 4th of July established so long ago is still the custom. Rev. Preston Kennedy of Binghamton, Rev. W. A. Ashley of Napoleon, Ohio and Rev. H. J. Olsen of Trappe, Maryland were the evangelists. Blanche M. Avery of Altamont, NY was a teacher at the New York State Normal College in Albany and she was the children’s worker. Alvin Young served as the music director, a position he filled for many years. Upon his retirement, Kenneth and Betty Masterman from Haverhill, Ma. and Albany, NY respectively, directed the music for several years.
The grounds were full of fallen logs, water holes, white tents and mosquitoes. But about every tree on the back of the grounds was an altar of prayer. Souls were saved and believers were sanctified. Shouts of praise could be heard from those whom the Lord had blessed.
The next project was to erect cottages. Peter and Lester Sharp, father and brother of Mrs. August Knapp, erected the first ten as you enter the grounds. These were followed by 20 cottages along the drive in the back, the work being done again by Lester and Peter Sharp along with J. E. Stalker.
Some of the evangelists of the camp in yesteryears were Preston Kennedy, Captain Potter, Rev. A. P. Blann, Rev. Jesse Whitecotton, Rev. Stalker and Rev. A. J. Shea. Alvin Young continued as song leader and soloist.
A dining hall, dorms, new bathroom facilities and other improvements were made as the need arose. When Rev. 0. L. Fay was Conference President, the dusty or muddy road around the grounds was paved mostly due the generosity of Lawrence and Gary Boel. Mothers of little children really appreciated this advancement.
A few rules of by-gone days were: positively no dogs or cats allowed on the campground and no selling of candy and refreshments on the grounds. The old tabernacle fulfilled the scripture of Isaiah 33:20, “a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one stake thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any cords thereof be broken.”
The old tabernacle stood many years until the weight of a very heavy snowfall caused the roof to cave in. That summer the campers gratefully worshipped in a huge tent, but desiring a permanent building, money was raised to rebuild. Under the leadership of Rev. A. J. Whitney and contractor Delbert Hallenbeck, a beautiful new tabernacle replaced the old.
Over the years the large trees that kept the area rather swampy have been removed and beautiful lawns and flower gardens, carefully tended by our caretakers, have made Victory Grove a very pleasant and attractive camp ground. New faces and new needs continue to bring change and improvement. A children’s tabernacle was erected in honor of Rev, and Mrs. A. J. Whitney. This lovely building provides a place for the children to worship while the big tabernacle is in use.
During the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996, Rev. Donald Myers and his wife worked very hard along with Gordon Myers, the Hallenbecks, and several laymen and preachers from the Central Zone to build a hospitality house for the workers.
This was made possible in part because of the generosity of the Gary Boel, Jr. family. This was dedicated during the camp in 1996. In it there are four self-contained large bedrooms and a common kitchen and living room.
So the work goes on. Generation after generation continue to enjoy the fruit of many of God’s cheerful givers, faithful laborers and vision-driven Christians.
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Scanned from original 12/8/00 by George Johnsen