Although there is a newspaper record of Camp Meetings in general taking place as early as 1817, the Camp Meetings specifically associated with us (SLI) in Burgen, NY, apparently began sometime in the mid-to-late 1840's. Those in charge of the Bergen, NY grounds finally took a request for an official NYS charter to the NYS Legislature in 1857 where the charter was issued in the name of Genesee Conference (Methodist Episcopal) Camp Grounds. This remained the official name through 1888.
Disagreements in religious doctrine seemed to be present from the beginning and may have even been part of the motivating factor for asking for an official charter in the name of the local Methodist Conference so the doctrine could be somewhat controlled. The first major split in the church occurred in 1843 when a significant number of anti-slavery Methodists broke away from the mother church and formed The Wesleyan Connection (later the Wesleyan Church). The second major split in the church occurred in 1844 (New York) through 1845 (Nashville) when the Slave-Owning States ("South") broke away from the Non-Slave Owning States ("North"). The third major split in the church occurred in 1860 when a significant number of Holy Spirit (emotional) Methodists broke away from the mother church (the clergy leaders were removed by General Conference action) and formed The Free Methodist Church.
The Methodist Episcopal Camp meetings and the Free Methodist Camp meetings began to conflict with each other and harassment became involved. There were no Methodist Episcopal Camp Meetings in 1870-1871 because the harassment had become intolerable. So the Methodist Episcopal's set out looking for a new location and found and purchased acreage along the east shore of Silver Lake in late 1871. The summer of 1872, a massive effort of volunteers worked hard to prepare the heavily treed acreage into a usable and partially cleared camp ground with the goal of starting camp meetings back up in 1873. The informal and un-official naming of the Genesee Conference (Methodist Episcopal) Camp Grounds to "Camp Wesley" is not recorded anywhere, perhaps because it was un-official. Nevertheless, it was widely used--even posted on the Sutton's train stop. A second un-official naming took place around 1886 when it un-officially became the "Silver Lake Chautauqua Assembly." After two years of debate, the Conference officially approved a new name for the Genesee Camp Grounds which was "Silver Lake Assembly" in 1888 which was then added into the Charter. The Silver Lake Assembly continued as the official name until the Assembly and the Conference adopted the institute-style of teaching and learning in 1920, once again changing the name in the charter, just two years after the fire destroyed the Assembly's big feature Amphitheater / Auditorium.
The Silver Lake Institute (SLI) was officially re-confirmed in the court action of making SLI an independent organization separate from the Methodist Church. This charter change was re-stated in NYS Supreme Court, Warsaw, NY, on Feb. 2, 2016.
Shown above is most likely the earliest lithograph of an American Camp Meeting originally published in London in 1819 .
THIS PERIOD OF TIME
RE-CONSTRUCTION CUT OFF BY THE
UNEXPECTED PRESIDENCY IN 1876
UNEXPECTED PRESIDENCY IN 1876