Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Let's Go Camping: A Brief History

Enjoying the view at the 2012 Pepperwood summer camp

By Sandi Funke, Education Director

Going camping. Day camp. For those of us that had the privilege as young children of “going to camp” for the first time it felt so new! Like we were blazing a trail. Yet, organized camping in the United States and, in particular, here at Pepperwood, is not new. It originated in a drive to reconnect with the land in response to the growing industrialization of the country. Camping now, is also a way for youth to develop skills and abilities and importantly, learn more about themselves and what they are capable of.

A Brief History of Organized Camping in the US
According to the American Camping Association, the Gunnery Camp, located in Connecticut, was considered the first organized American camp. Mr. and Mrs. Gunn operated a school for boys. In 1861, they took the whole school on a two-week camping trip. The students spent their time boating, fishing, and trapping. The trip was so wonderful the Gunns continued the tradition for twelve years. Though boys got a small head start the girls weren't very far behind. 

In 1874 the Philadelphia chapter of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) founded the organization's first camp. This vacation house was for "tired young women wearing out their lives in an almost endless drudgery for wages that admit no thought of rest or recreation." The first YWCA camp was in New Jersey, and was called Sea Rest. 

After the turn of the century, camping was really catching own. In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was founded as was Camp Fire Girls now known as Camp Fire USA. In 1919 the first Girl Scout camp was set up with the organization setting out to charter additional camps the next year. Camping continued to grow in popularity in the first half of the twentieth century and by the 1950’s the idea of “Day Camp” also gained popularity.

Budding Biologists explore one of Pepperwood's oak woodlands
Pepperwood and Camping
Pepperwood has a history with camping as well. Kenneth Bechtel, who owned Pepperwood for over 40 years, loved the outdoors. Bechtel served as president of the Boys Scouts of America from 1956–1959. While the Bechtel’s owned Pepperwood Ranch, the site served as destination for his and other families. The ranch house, now known as the Bechtel House, served as headquarters. Folks liked to come up to hike, ride horses, cut down Christmas trees, and even have fun driving the jeep!

We continue this legacy through family overnights we offer. Several times a year families can join our Preserve Manager Michael Gillogly, and children’s music teacher and composer Ginger Parish for songs, hiking and a great family camping experience! We also offer a two- week summer day camp Budding Biologists. Campers get to explore the various habitats of Pepperwood while recording their reflections in nature journals. To learn more about our programs visit the events section of our website! Happy camping!

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