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Cane Ridge Revival: Home

Photo of the Original Cane Ridge Meeting House

Image from Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, KY, 9-CANRI, 1-2

Interior of the Cane Ridge Meeting House, near Paris, KY

Image taken by staff of B.L. Fisher Library

Interior of the Cane Ridge Meeting House, near Paris, KY

Image taken by staff of B.L. Fisher Library

In 1801, Rev. Barton Stone, a Presbyterian, led the Cane Ridge Revival, which many see as the influential start of the camp meeting movement. Estimates of 20,000 to 30,000 gathered in rural Kentucky, where Methodists and Baptists assisted the Presbyterian leaders. Rev. James Finley, a Methodist pastor and son of the first Presbyterian minister at Cane Ridge returned to Kentucky as an unconverted young man, and later wrote his account of the event:

“In the month of August, 1801, I learned that there was to be a great meeting at Cane Ridge, in my father's old congregation. Feeling a great desire to see the wonderful things which had come to my ears, and having been solicited by some of my old schoolmates to go over into Kentucky for the purpose of revisiting the scenes of my boyhood, I resolved to go…

We arrived upon the ground, and here a scene presented itself to my mind not only novel and unaccountable, but awful beyond description. A vast crowd, supposed by some to have amounted to twenty-five thousand, was collected together. The noise was like the roar of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching at one time, some on stumps, others in wagons, and one -- the Rev. William Burke, now of Cincinnati -- was standing on a tree which had, in falling, lodged against another. Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously. While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected…

After some time I returned to the scene of excitement, the waves of which, if possible, had risen still higher. The same awfulness of feeling came over me. I stepped up on to a log, where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity. The scene that then presented itself to my mind was indescribable. At one time I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment, as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens…”