Wood plank seating and worship area (1897).


Dining tent and cooking area near stream (1897).


In 1907, a tent conference was held by Methodists and Presbyterians at Montreat.


The “Seven Pioneers,” first PCUS missionaries to Korea, in Seoul, 1893. Top row, left to right: Mary Leyburn (Mrs. W. M.) Junkin, Patsy Bolling (Mrs. W. D.) Reynolds. Middle row: Yi Chai-Won (language teacher), Lewis Boyd Tate, Rev. William McCleery Junkin (holding his son George), William Davis Reynolds, Martha “Mattie” Samuel Tate (Lewis Tate’s sister). Front row: Selina “Linnie” Fulkerson Davis.

Some of the attendees at the 1897 summer conference, including the conference singers Rev. F. M. Lamb, pastor from Salem, MA (shown 1) and a Mr. Brown (shown 2). Others are: John C. Collins (3), Charles A. Rowland (4) and Weston Gales (5).


A look into the beginning of summer religious conferences in Montreat

Four months after the Mountain Retreat Association was chartered, the first summer conference was held in Montreat from July 20 – 30, 1897.

All the speakers and attendees camped out in tents where Howerton Hall and other buildings now stand. A dining tent and kitchen was erected.

That first conference featured worship led by the Reverend F. M. Lamb from Salem, MA, who took turns in leading the singing with a Mr. Brown from New York. A small pump organ provided the music. Wagon loads of local mountain residents would come and join those camped out in Montreat for the singing and services.

Some of Montreat’s early leaders were there, including founder and president (1897 – 1899) Rev. John C. Collins of New Haven, CT; Evangelist and founding board member Weston R. Gales of Chase City, VA, who also served as Montreat’s general manager from 1899 – 1902; founding board member Charles Alden Rowland from Athens, GA.

In the second year, the 1898 summer conference was led by the Rev. Reuben Archer Torrey (at left) of Chicago and Henry Burton Gibbud, who founded the Florence Crittenden Home (now the Rescue Mission) on Bleeker St. in New York City. In 1898, Torrey headed the Chicago Evangelization Society, later named Moody Bible Institute, and Gibbud was serving on the faculty of the Bible Normal College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

With foreign missionary work a priority topic during the late 1890s and early 1900s, MRA General manager Weston Gales organized a mission conference in 1901.

The first foreign mission conference to be held at Montreat was organized in summer 1901. Speakers for that first conference included: Dr. S. I. Woodbridge of the Southern Presbyterian Mid-China Mission; the Rev. W. M. Junkin, one of the original seven Korean missionaries sent by the Presbyterian Church of the United States (PCUS) shown at right; Rev. Willis R. Hotchkiss, a Quaker who went to Africa in 1895 for the African Inland Mission.

As the early 1900s progressed, summer conferences got larger. Montreat also hosted conferences developed by other groups, a practice that still continues today.