News

Santa Claus marks 125-year-old campground tabernacle


Photo courtesy of Satna Claus UMC

Santa Claus Methodist Church established the campground in 1884 and built the tabernacle from area timbers at a cost of $50.

Do you believe in Santa Claus? We do! A jolly ole fellow came to Santa Claus, Ind. at Christmas and decorated the old campground tabernacle, a sacred place for 125 years.

Santa Claus, Ind. is a commercial place at Christmas but the United Methodist Santa Claus Campground is busy throughout the year. The campground was well-known for spiritual annual camp meetings one week in August. About 1852, meetings were held by moonlight or with lantern light praising God. Many guests made commitments to Christ. Members of the Santa Claus Methodist Church established the campground in 1884 and built the tabernacle from area timbers at a cost of $50. Family-owned cabins were built around the tabernacle and families moved to the campground for the week.

The foundations for the structure came from area sandstone – just a few stones remain today. The new tabernacle floor was straw from nearby farms. Then came a sawdust floor and finally concrete. Lights were by lantern, then carbide lamps and, in 1925, electric lights were enjoyed.

Many have given their lives to Christ in the tabernacle. The altar still serves many faith groups who wish to renew their commitment. The tabernacle has served summer youth camps, retreats, United Methodist Women meetings, youth fellowship groups, Walk to Emmaus, Scouts, 4-H, physically disadvantaged groups, weddings, high school graduations and by other denominations.

Where did the name come from? Supposedly, the name of Santa Claus came during a Christmas Eve gathering at the church. The town had been named Santa Fe, but since there was another Santa Fe in Indiana, residents had to change the town name. During the meeting, the door opened and in came Santa Claus and a child screamed “Santa Claus.” Thus, members of that Methodist Church named the Santa Claus United Methodist Church and Campground. Now, do you believe in Santa Claus?

This story was submitted by Norman and Jane Schmitt of Evansville.