Sunday, May 14, 2017

Religion in West Texas — Historic Camp — Paisano Baptist Encampment

"These are hallowed grounds. You'll find God here. Come walk with Him."

This statement can be found on the Paisano Baptist Encampment's website. I was fortunate enough to visit the campground the weekend of April 24-26, 2009 for a writing retreat. Its history intrigued me, so I felt this would be a great topic to share with readers.

Located just outside Alpine on the highway to Marfa, the encampment has been the local gathering ground for a week of renewal and inspiration since 1915. The first attendees slept in tents or in bedrolls on the ground. Meals were served from Army chuck wagons. The picture above is of the cooking staff in 1921.
Meals were eaten under an eating shed, and services and Bible studies were held under a tin-roofed tabernacle. At the first camps, ranchers, families, businessmen, preachers, and worshipers sat around a campfire and discussed expenses. Each gave what they could so that the camp could continue.

In the picture above, also taken in 1921, note that the women and girls wore dresses, and the men dress pants and white shirts.

Eventually families and churches started building cabins. The present tabernacle was built in 1950. At that time water, sewer, and electrical utilities were added, as well as trailer parking areas.

Today an offering is collected at the last service that fully funds the camp. A foundation now helps with expenses outside the budget. A full time manager and assistant oversee camp maintenance. The encampment is also used by other organizations.
The annual encampment takes place in late July. Services begin Sunday evening and end after breakfast the following Saturday morning. Though the encampment is run by the Baptist, individuals and churches from other denominations participate. I've been told that on a warm summer evening, nothing is more beautiful than voices raised in songs of praise echoing through the mountains.

The sign above greets visitors as they enter the encampment. Below is a picture of some of the cabins at the encampment today. Some are very small, others are larger with bedrooms, kitchens, and modern baths.
My husband and I stayed in one of the renovated cabins and were very comfortable. There are very few lights at the encampment, so the star show is magnificent. A flashlight is needed to navigate from one area to the other.

I hope one day to be able to attend one of the gatherings in July.

The vintage pictures above were taken from Information on Paisano Encampment was taken from


  1. I wonder if this is the only encampment as such in that area. A couple in our church go to a week long encampment like this each July. She was born and raised in Sonora, and they are Christian to the core. I'll have to ask her, for she always says, "Well, we're off the camp meeting for a week."
    I really enjoyed reading about this and the photos, too. Thanks.

    1. I believe it is the only one. They do have people come from all over. It's a big to do and evidently attendees come year after year.

  2. I'm always amazed to see white clothes on children in these times. Can you imagine the temperatures in July without air conditioning?

    1. I guess they were cooler, but in pictures I've noticed in the 40s many of my clothes were white. And they had to be starched. I don't know how we survived without ac, but we were used too the heat.

  3. This article reminds me of Southern Baptists revivals where ministers and religious speakers would come to minister and inspire.
    This was such a lovely post, Linda. I particularly liked the opening quote. I am certain it was as comforting back then as it is now.

    1. The same happens here. Unfortunately I never got to attend. You have to make reservations early. Many of the cabins are owned by families and usually fill up quickly. No way could I camp out there in a tent in July. I love the quote also.

  4. Paisano is not the only one of its kind. The Bloys Cowboy Camp Meeting is held nearby in August. They used to all be one gathering, but some Baptist preachers felt "the Presbyterians were taking over," so they split into two groups many decades ago. For a full history, read Katy Stokes excellent history, Paisano, the Story of a Cowboy Camp Meeting.
    For some home movies of Paisano in the 1950s, visit


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