Brief History of Ocean Grove
During the Victorian era of the late 1800’s, many new communities were planned across America. Prompted by a need to escape the rapidly growing urban and industrial regions, attempts were made to establish communities built on ideal principles, places that were both physically and spiritually healthful. Some of these new communities were seasonal resorts or camps established to provide rest, relaxation and relief from the summer’s heat.
Methodist Camp Meetings - open air revivals held in woodland or seaside settings and lasting many days - gained popularity. Some grew into enduring communities. Permanent structures replaced many of the original tents. Ocean Grove is one of the few camp meeting sites left that remains true to its original purpose and still holds a Camp Meeting Revival every summer.
Shortly after the Civil War, in the late 1860’s, a group of God’s people set off on a search “to find a suitable place to fulfill their dream that God should have a place for a church by the sea where His children could gather and reap physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.” After searching the Jersey shore, Ocean Grove was selected by its founder, Dr. William Osborn, for its high beach, thick grove of pine, cedar and hickory trees, and the absence of disease-bearing mosquitoes. Natural boundaries were determined by two lakes and the ocean.
On July 31, 1869 the first religious meeting ever held in Ocean Grove was held in the tent of one of the founders. About 20 people gathered for prayer and, it is recorded that during the course of the meeting, Rev. Ellwood Stokes, who would become the first president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, felt compelled to speak. About an hour into the meeting, he said that he felt called upon by God to speak the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God…” After having spoken those words, he said it was as if God had taken hold of the land as His own!
In December of 1869, an organization was formed under the name, “The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church.” The following year, a charter was obtained from the New Jersey State Legislature that set this land aside as a place for the perpetual worship of Jesus Christ. More than a century later, we are still about that same business!