The Louisiana General Ministerial Assembly of the Church of God now known as
Church of God Ministry and Retreat Center was organized in 1943 and the annual
state camp meeting, which operates under the direction of the Assembly, was initially
held in New Orleans. As the number of attendees grew, it became increasingly apparent
that larger and better facilities were needed and the people made an appeal for such.
This appeal resulted in discussions which led to the formation of a committee to find a
campsite that could be used as a permanent meeting place. Members of the search
committee were Brothers Cicero Finley of Ferriday, Morris Barnes of Palmetto, and Herman
Fontenot of Oak Grove. The committee soon found several acres of land in palmetto which
were selling at a price of $150.00 per acre. Approximately twenty (20) acres were purchased
to be used as the state campsite.
During these days of growth and venture, Rev. George W. Burns of New Orleans served as
chairperson of the Assembly. He was greatly assisted in his efforts by the Assembly’s secretary,
Rev. Olita B. Fontenot of Oak Grove. In her later years, Rev. Fontenot went on to become
chairperson of the Assembly. It is interesting to note that in the 67-year history of the Assembly and the
45-year history of the campground, there have been only three state chairpersons. Rev. Burns,
who served for a combined total of more than thirty (30) years, had the longest tenure by far.
In September of 1985, Rev. Thomas T. Riggins began his first term as chairperson. Our present
chairperson is Rev. Dale M. Fontenot.
The first day of building at the new campsite was unusually difficult. At every point suggested
for digging the foundation, a plant stalk appeared in the underground; these stalks called
“Palmettos” were common for the area. Many of the men became disheartened and wanted
to stop digging. However, the perseverance and encouraging words of Rev. Arthur Lewis
of Ferriday kept them going. He said, Men, we must dig a little further. Let’s not give up now.”
Inspired by Rev. Lewis, the men continued to dig, and finally, a hole was dug for the foundation.
Once the hole had been dug for the foundation, the cement truck was called. It came, but
unfortunately got stuck in a stump at the campground and had to be pulled out by a
wench truck. That evening after the cement truck had been extracted from the stump,
a concrete foundation was poured. This would be the site for the camp’s dining hall.
A host of men from across the state met in Palmetto on that very first day including Brothers
Ben Bright, Otis Bowie, Fred Dixon. Edward. Herman and Huey Fontenot, Jesse and Pete Lewis,
George Burns and Arthur Lewis.
The first place used for worship was an old jail structure donated by Rev. J. D. Brown
and hauled to the campsite by Bro, James Ellie Lewis. This makeshift tabernacle had dirt
floors and a tree-supported roof. In the early 1970s, the original makeshift tabernacle was replaced with another which has since been remodeled and enlarged. As of 1989, the campground included two dormitories, two semi-private motels, a concession stand, an air-conditioned dining hall and
kitchen, nursery and laundry facilities, and a recreation area with equipment.
In the mid-1980s, officers of the Louisiana General Ministerial Assembly along with lay businessmen
began the process of planning with the purpose to erect a multi-purpose building for the state
campground. This building grew from a vision to address the growing needs of the assembly.
The proposed multi-purpose building would be air-conditioned and winterized for year-round use.
It would include an assembly building that would seat up to four hundred persons, a worship center, conference rooms, a lounge, an office, a kitchen, and a dining hall. The building was completed
in 1990 with all the amenities stated above.