How the Village of Craigville Got Its Name

The Craigville Tabernacle located near the center of the community.

Cape Cod is well known as a vacation destination. It is a place that attracts countless visitors due to its mix of modern amenities and quaint old school charm.

A summer visit to the Cape with copious amounts of beach time seems perfect to many. Beaches such as Nauset, Coast Guard, Sandy Neck, and Race Point bring in throngs of people every summer.

However did you know that one beach has perhaps the most unique history complete with ties to the first true vacation community on Cape Cod? That beach is Craigville Beach in Centerville and this is the story of the village of the same name which overlooks its shores.

The story of the beach and community began in the early19th century with the birth of J. Austin Craig in Peapack, New Jersey in 1824. Craig would be ordained into the ministry of the Christian Church in 1845. He would begin his career by traveling around New Jersey for several years preaching for free. In the coming decades he would become a highly sought after and highly decorated member of the church. Aside from being a pastor at several churches in New Jersey and New York, Craig would receive a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Antioch College in 1857 and a Master of Arts Degree from Lafayette College in 1864. Craig would become president of Antioch College in 1862 before becoming president of the Christian Bible Institute in Standfordville, New York in 1869. It was this occupation which would lead Craig to Cape Cod.

One of the gingerbread style homes in Craigville

In 1871 the New England Convention of Christian Churches voted to establish a Camp Meeting at the 160-acre Perry Farm in Barnstable. At the time the main road passing through the area connected the center of ‘Centreville’ to the town wharf and shipyard on the harbor. In the summer of 1872 the Christian Camp Meeting Association held its initial ten-day camp. It was the creation of the first vacation community on Cape Cod.

That first year families who came to stay at the camp lived in tents as no permanent dwellings had been erected. The success of the first year’s camp allowed for expansion. By the time the second camp rolled around the following year the village was much larger and more stable. There were thirty-one cottages, many clustered close together as they were built on the old tent sites. In addition there were two large hotels, several large boarding houses, and the centerpiece a 72×48-foot Tabernacle which cost $600 ($11,600 today) and was paid for by collections from camp members. Another change would be a road built to enter the community from the east, it would traverse Pink Lily Lake, bisecting it and creating today’s Lake Elizabeth and Red Lily Pond.

The Christian Camp Meeting Association would continue its successful run under J. Austin Craig every summer throughout the 1870’s. Many prominent regional clergymen would attend and participate in the meetings and services. In perhaps his finest moment during the camp in 1881 Craig gave a series of twelve lectures said to have attracted wide-spread interest as his fame as a scholar increased. The lectures were reported to have been Craig’s ‘Story of the World.’ Plans were for the beloved leader to give the lectures later that year Lowell Society in Boston. However fate intervened and Craig passed away mere weeks after the camp ended in August 1881.

The Midway

In honor of their late leader the village would take the name Craigville in 1882. A few years later in 1888 the group would purchase 800-feet of beach directly across from the camp creating Craigville Beach. The village meetings during the summer would remain highly popular, notables of the time including Norman Rockwell and Lizzie Borden at one point visited Craigville.

Craigville became a year-round destination in 1960 when the Craigville Conference Center was established. Today it is home ninety families, twenty of which live there year round. The village is tightly knit in construction and people-wise. Very few homes have been sold, most get passed down in the family. It is every bit a throwback to a simpler time. One only needs to take a stroll down the gravel Midway which runs between two rows of quaint gingerbread-style cottages. Despite it being a mainly religious retreat village the people who live there are very welcoming, as if they understand why someone would want to take a walk on the grounds. One does not have to attend the religious services at Craigville to appreciate just what a treasure the village is.

By Christopher Setterlund
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy