History of Boy Scout Camps in McKean County
Photo ID (most are from First Presbyterian Church Troop 2) - left to right, FRONT ROW: Jim McCutcheon, Henry Beck, Clarence Ledden, Oscar Benton, Charles Grow, Tom Cornan, Bill Frizzell, and Dan Gibson SECOND ROW: Herb Brandon, Murray Garber, George Jackson, unidentified, from the Hill Memorial Church, Troop 42 BACK ROW: Harold German (from Smethport, Jack Keller (Scout Executive), Wardloe Wilcox, Bob Knapp (Troop 2 Scoutmaster), and the Troop 42 Leader (name unknown)
Camping and Boy Scouts just seem to go together. This year marks the 58th anniversary of the Elk Lick Boy Scout Camp in Bordell near Farmers Valley, but the history of scout camping goes back much further than that.
In 1923 the first camp was established by Robert Dresser of Bradford at Brockton, NY, near the present day Lake Brie State Park. Securing a campground at Rowlands Beach, the scouts left for camp on August 20, 1923 for a two-week stay. Once there, they experienced some thrilling adventures. Henry Graff, camp scribe wrote: "The Boy Scouts arrived safely at about 5:00 PM Monday. We erected the tents and were glad to get into our cots. A little windstorm started early in the evening and increased in volume until it developed into a terrific gale. It was very severe Tuesday when it blew down our tents. But the Boy Scouts never get downhearted, so we set to work and in a short time had put the tents up again and restored order. We boys never accept defeat, even from a windstorm. The boys also witnessed Lake Erie life guards searching for five missing barges, rescuing their passengers by shooting life lines to their assistance, and helped pull a limousine out of a ditch and pushed it to a nearby gas station (remember, this was 1923).
In 1924 and 1925, camp was moved to Camp Dekanawida, located two miles east of Colegrove on the Heinamann estate. The camp name was chosen from a list submitted by the Hon. Rufus Stone of Bradford and was taken from the Seneca Indian language meaning the junction of two mountain streams. A large mess hall and kitchen were erected, and a parade ground cleared off. Tents were pitched, and a real old-fashioned swimming hole was ready nearby. Fifty-two boys attended the first term of camp that year.
In 1926 the Boy Scout camp was moved to Camp Shinnawanna near Port Allegany, and remained there for the next two years.
In 1929, Camp HoDahWe was opened near Coudersport, and remained as the main Boy Scout camp for the next 12 years. Declared one of the best in the state, the camp included 1300 acres of land and was abundant with wild life. The dedication, held July 13, 1929 was one of the most unusual ever witnessed. Robert Lewis, secretary of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and K.T. Barrie, assistant scout executive, were made tribal chiefs in the Seneca Indian nation. Chief Shongo and twenty Indian braves from the Seneca reservation held a ceremony renaming the camp, and officially named the camp HoDahWe, meaning "that which gives". Scouts that attended the camp were given a small arrow badge with an "H" honoring their stay at the camp. An ice mine near the camp was used as a natural refrigerator for camp provisions. In 1936 the weekly fee for attending camp was only $5.00.
In July of 1941 the Lewis Run Boy Scouts opened their own camp at PCL Town (Pennsylvania Coal and Lumber) near Big Shanty, about 3 ½ miles south of Lewis Run.
This camp was destroyed by fire on December 31, 1964, but was rebuilt and rededicated the following year, with Charles Crockett, president of the Northern District making the dedication speech to a crowd of 300 persons.
In 1941 the council camp was moved to Bobbie's Run (an old CCC Camp) at Rich Valley (near Emporium) in Cameron County, under the direction of the McKean-Potter-Cameron Council. Charles Crawford, district chairman, spoke at the opening of the camp, and gave a brief history of past Boy Scout camps. This camp was also short-lived, however. In June 1942 a flash flood resulting from a storm that caused major flooding throughout the county destroyed the camp. A troop of scouts from Rew managed to hike out during the height of the storm, walking seven miles to the main road through the rain and flood swept woods. (And then they called their parents!). With the destruction of the camp, and with World War II underway, Boy Scout camping seemed doomed.
For the remainder of the war years, camp was held in Allegany State Park, and in 1947 the scouts shared camp facilities with the YMCA in the Allegheny National Forest.
Efforts to purchase a permanent site were already underway by then. A tract of land was chosen in 1948 for the Elk Lick Memorial Reservation and purchased from the Harold H. Greene estate as a cost of more than $28,000. (Greene, a Kendall Refinery executive, had died in an air crash in September 1938). Eventually the title was acquired to Otto Koch's cottage, currently the ranger's house. Dedication ceremonies were held in October 1948 at the new scout camp with 500 in attendance. The Greene cottage became the present day trading post; in 1952 Nippert Lodge was built, and in 1955 Zimmer Lodge, currently the safety-first aid station cabin, was constructed. In 1952 the dining hall and camp staff showers were built, and in 1960-62 a massive fund drive was undertaken which brought in $235,000. In the years following, Orbs, Hannah, Henry and Houghton Lodges were built. In 1957 a dam and spillway were constructed, and improvements made in 1977.
In August of 1998, a ceremony was held to honor the past 50 years of camping at Elk Lick Scout camp. The memories of thousands of boys, now men, who were a part of Boy Scouts and camping over the years were no doubt remembered with pride.
The Bradford Landmark Society would like to hear from past Boy Scouts and their experiences at camp; whether at Elk Lick, HoDahWe, Shinnawanna, Bobbie's Run, or Dekanawiaa.