Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camp Mack's 1st Camp

An interest in summer camping programs for youth began increasing during the early 1920s. Some youth camps were held at Winona Lake near Warsaw, Indiana during the summers of 1921 and 1922 and at Oakwood Park on Lake Wawasee near Syracuse, Indiana in 1924.

L.W. Shultz attended all these camps and several others as an instructor and had done a study at Northwestern University on the value of summer camps and conferences for youth. The idea of building a separate camp for Brethren youth was raised during the summer of 1924 and Shultz was asked to head a committee to establish such a camp.

John W. Lear was also a camp instructor in 1924 and later spent a week that summer at Lake Waubee near Milford, Indiana, in a cabin owned by Jacob Neff. He told Neff that he thought the site would be perfect for a Brethren youth camp. Neff immediately wrote to Shultz offering his farm land as a site for the new camp.

After touring several sites, the committee unanimously agreed that Neff's property on Lake Waubee was the perfect choice. In October the Middle and Northern Indiana district conferences gave their approval to the purchase and on Thanksgiving Day 1924, a group of volunteers began clearing brush from the site.

Plans were made for the first camp to be held in the summer of 1925. A rush of activity followed to build cabins and Sarah Major Hall. A dedication service was held on July 4. Deeter Cabin was the only major building completed and only the foundation for Sarah Major Hall had been built. However, the first youth camp was held only three weeks later on July 27. By that time Sarah Major Hall had been framed in and was used as a dining hall, kitchen, and classrooms. Doors and windows had not yet been set in place when the first campers arrived.

Eighty-three years later, thousands of young people have enjoyed their summer week at Camp Alexander Mack on Lake Waubee. Most have experienced a meaningful religious experience, enjoyed the beauty of God's creation, made new friends, and some even met their future husband or wife while enjoying a week at Camp Mack.

Today, July 27, is a good day to give thanks for the vision of those earlier Brethren who paved the way ... and for current volunteers and staff who make it possible today for young people to enjoy a week at Camp Mack.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land