Camp Welfare

Off U.S. 21, Ridgeway, South Carolina

Historic African-American religious camp south of Great Falls, SC


Camp Welfare, Zion Church

South Carolina Department of Archives and History

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Camp Welfare is significant as an excellent example of a black religious campground. Camp Welfare was founded shortly after the Civil War by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The trustees of Camp Welfare acquired the present property, which had been their meeting place since at least 1876, from L.G.H. McMaster in 1878. The meeting was held annually during the last week in August, traditionally “lay-by” time, the time between final cultivation of cotton and corn crops and harvest time. The camp is a collection of approximately 100 one-story, frame, weatherboarded cabins called tents. The gable-roofed tents, probably constructed around the turn of the century, have one room and a center front entrance sheltered by a shed-roofed porch. Some of the tents have been altered with the addition of corrugated metal or plywood siding, and a few of the more modern ones are constructed of concrete block. The tents were designed for sleeping only, cooking was done outdoors and there were community bath houses. Many of the families who attended the camp continued to attend through several generations, passing their tents down through the family. The cabins are arranged in a double U shape. The focal point of the camp is the arbor. Originally a true bush arbor, the arbor is now a rough, gable roofed wooden shelter with wooden benches. Also located at the camp is Zion Church. Built ca. 1930 the church is a frame building with a gable roof surmounted by a belfry. Listed in the National Register December 6, 1984. - SCDAH

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 6, 1984
Reference number
Areas of significance
Ethnic Heritage - Black; Religion
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event
Property type
Historic functions
Religious structure; Camp
Current function
Religious structure
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899; 1925-1949
Significant years
ca. 1876; 1930; 1930
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 101
Contributing structures: 1

Update Log 

  • September 2, 2014: Photo imported by Michael Miller
  • October 31, 2013: Updated by Michael Miller: Added "Description" & "Overview"