Before the region that is presently Union County was settled, the site of the present church was already recognized as an excellent spot to camp and rest. The site was on the main trail from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River near the intersection with the main trail running north from Ft. Massac. The knoll was high enough to escape being flooded during high water and offered easy access to five nearby springs. Travelers became accustomed to meeting at the "campgrounds" as they made their way through the area, sometimes visiting for as long as a week.
In the 1830s, Hilemans, Haltermans and others settled in this section. During the winter of 1838-39, one route utilized for the "Trail of Tears" was this pre-existing one. An unusually severe and early winter prohibited their passage across the Mississippi River. Hence, the Cherokee were forced to spend the winter in three camps in southern Illinois, one of which was this campground where it is thought about 3,000 wintered over. Before the severe winter broke, many of them had joined George Hileman's two children buried in an adjacent field in 1836.
After the "Trail of Tears", brush arbor meetings were held on the site. In 1850, Mr. Hileman and his wife deeded to the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination the site of the church. The Hilemans deeded the land for the cemetery in 1854. A growing congregation and desire for more protection from the weather than a brush arbor provided led to the erection of a small shed which also served the nearby families as a schoolhouse. Growing families made it necessary to build a larger, more comfortable structure. A fund was created with contributions from individuals and organizations such as the Grange. When the fund had reached about $300, the church and lodge members built the first building that offered real comfort - a single story log structure complete with split log benches supported on wooden pegs.
The community used this log structure for more than 25 years before replacing it with a two-story frame building begun in 1876. This building remained in service until a fire in 1905; the fire was so intense that the congregation counted it a miracle they were able to save the organ from the flames.
Services were held nearly a year in members' homes before the present building was completed, and was "dedicated debt free" on August 11, 1906. Electric generators were installed in the 1930s; REA connected to the building in 1942. In 1952, the basement was dug under the church by hand, and the youth promptly claimed the new space as their own.
The oak floors were laid and a new ceiling was completed in 1959; the present furniture purchased in 1960; the gas furnace was installed in 1067; "indoor" plumbing in 1972; three classrooms were added in 1980; central air conditioning in 1981; steel front doors were added in 1991; a sound system added in 1992; and the entire interior remodeled and a new roof in 1999. The cross at the front of the church was constructed by Elder Ed Fuller in 1980.
In May 2000, the congregation celebrated their 150th anniversary.
As pleasant as the physical facility is, perhaps the most impressive thing to be said about Camp Ground church is that in its 150+ year history, the doors (when there were doors) have never closed and a ministry has been maintained.