NOLANVILLE — Photographs and memories are all that’s left of two campgrounds along Old Nolanville Road that drew hundreds of people in the mid-20th century to learn about their faith and fellowship together.
Soon those photos will be available to the public in a Bell County Museum exhibit.
In 1982, Robert Mattson, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Lampasas, collected more than a dozen photos of the Nolanville sites known as the Baptist campground and the Nolanville encampment. A Nolanville native, he researched the campgrounds, which were located along Nolan Creek, and held on to the photos for the next three decades.
Mattson focused his research on the Baptist campground that no longer exists.
“Not too far from both campgrounds is Kaiser Spring, and that’s where people would get water,” Mattson said.
Revivals were held at the campground, where people enjoyed meals and listened to preaching twice a day.
“In the late 1800s and early 1900s, they started having camp meetings in the campground,” he said. “In the 1940s, they moved the old tabernacle into town and quit having the camp meetings every year.”
The Nolanville encampment lasted longer. Five families who established the Nolanville Church of Christ started the encampment in the late 1800s. The site drew thousands of local residents, said Mattson, who attended an ice cream social there when he was young. The last encampment was in 1996.
During Mattson’s tenure with the Keystone Square Museum board in Lampasas, he decided to donate the historical photos to the Bell County Museum.
Museum Director Stephanie Turnham was excited to receive the photos earlier this year.
“This is early documentation of Nolanville and we really hadn’t had a lot from there, so this is some wonderful stuff for us,” she said. “Religion and spirituality have been a very important thing for Bell County people. I think this tells an important part of life for people in early Bell County history.”
Mattson was pleased to provide the photos to the museum to help capture the traditions carried on in the last two centuries.
“What all the people have done I don’t want it to be forgotten,” he said. “A lot of people’s lives were changed through that encampment. They came to know Christ and lived long productive lives for the community and that stuff doesn’t need to be lost.”
The museum will process the historical photos and prepare them for a community exhibit, Turnham said.