What began in 1940 under a big tent in Etowah County’s Gallant community remains alive — but, unfortunately, on hiatus — 80 years later.
The great preaching and joyful singing that fills the annual week-long Brasher Springs Camp Meeting, normally held each July in Gallant won’t be heard this year because of COVID-19.
According to longtime attendee Laura Salmon, “Brasher Springs is not holding regular services this year because of our love for each other — and some of us are older than dirt and (the) camp meeting.”
The big tent has been replaced by a modern open-air tabernacle, but the event remains heavily attended.
Brasher Springs is evangelical and interdenominational, and is a nonprofit organization totally funded by donations and free-will offerings.
The first camp meeting was organized by the Rev. John Lakin Brasher, who had been born in a log cabin on July 20, 1868, not far away in Clear Creek, Etowah County.
At the time of that first meeting, Brasher was one of the best-known Methodist evangelists in the country. He was a leader in the Holiness movement within the Methodist church.
He was licensed to preach at the age of 21, married Minnie Eunice Moore of Gallant a year later and joined the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1891. A year later, he was assigned to a four-year term as pastor on the Wedowee circuit in Randolph County.
From that austere beginning in one of the state’s most rural areas, Brasher began an illustrious preaching career. He graduated in 1899, as valedictorian, from the U.S. Grant School of Theology in Chattanooga.
In 1906, after serving as pastor of St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Boaz, Brasher was chosen as the first president of the John H. Snead Seminary (later to become Snead State Community College) in that city. Five years later, he moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, to become president of Central Holiness University (later John Fletcher College). In 1927, he returned to Alabama to his former congregation in Boaz.
Through the years, Brasher was well-known for his evangelistic work — he held meetings in 35 states and 40 Alabama counties. He once said that he had traveled 650,000 miles by train during his evangelistic career.
A significant note: From 1903 to 1939, Brasher served as secretary of the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Brasher retired in 1942, but continued preaching — frequently at the camp meeting that bears his name — in various conference churches and camp meetings throughout the country.
At age 100, he preached an hour-long sermon, broadcast on Gadsden radio station WJBY, at the opening of the 1968 camp meeting. It was said that he was then the oldest active preacher in the United States.
Although he didn’t fill an active pulpit at the time, he was in great demand as a guest preacher. He was a member of the North Alabama Methodist Conference for more than 80 years.
After a distinguished career as a college president, evangelist, preacher and writer, Brasher died six months shy of his 103rd birthday on Jan. 25, 1972.
For information regarding the 2021 camp meeting, contact Wesley Johnson, president of the BSCM, at 256-493-9575 or Ben Johnston at 256-547-2204. The address for BSCM is 77 Brasher Cut-Off Road, Gallant, AL 35972.
A key Bible verse for the annual event is Hebrews 12:10: “Everything that God does in our lives is to guide us into being partakers of His Holiness.”