Camp Michaux Web Site
THE HISTORY OF CAMP MICHAUX
Helen Louise McAdoo
Helen wrote this award winning essay for a contest while she was a student at Carlisle High School circa 1964.
She was killed in a car accident in 1968.
Published by Camp Michaux Board of Directors Circa 1963
Copy Preserved by Gary Fisher
Note from her brother
Permanent (work) Staff 1964
Front Row 1 L to R: Eddie Williar, Terri Williar, Mark Williar
Row 2: Helen Shullenberger, Helen McAdoo, Ruth Weer, Ann Roelke, Francine Stenger, Pat Williar
Row 3: Mrs. Finkey, Janet Compton, Donna Cohick (now Weer), Karen Albright, Sue Oster(Robinson), Dee Dee Albright
Row 4: Mrs. Keefer, Charley Schaeffer, Russ Weer, Dave Robinson
Row 5: Tom Johns, John Hosteter, Scott Evans Row 6: Gil Williar, Manager
Nestled in the ridges of the South Mountain two miles west of Pine Grove Furnace lies Camp Michaux. This church camp, shared by the United Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ, has an unusual historical background, which dates from the early iron mining industry and continues through World War II.
The present site of Camp Michaux was once known as the Bunker Hill farm and included a-bout 250 acres of land. No one is certain how far back this early farm dates because the deed is believed to have been destroyed by confederates on their march north.
According to one theory, however, the farm existed in Revolutionary days. It is known that after the Bottle of Trenton, Hessians were taken as prisoners to the Carlisle Army Post. From there, they were issued to various farmers in the area as workers. These Hessians may have erected the enormous stone barn at the Bunker Hill farm because its construction resembles the old Hessian guardhouse at the Army Post. One side of the stone barn still stands on the Camp Michaux grounds.
About a mile northwest of camp on the Appalachian Trail is the old tenant house of the farm. Located close to a mountain spring and also a creek, the house is now used as a shelter for hikers along the trail. Behind the house among the trees lie three unmarked groves believed to be those of young children who died of small pox.
In addition to the farm proper, the farm included a large peach orchard on Big Flat and a sawmill close by. The first steam traction engine in the South Mountain was owned by the Baker family for use in this sawmill.
Sometime through the years the farm was bought by the owners of the Pine Grove Estate and became port of their vast system of farms. The iron works community at Pine Grove was similar to a feudal system in that workers were dependent on their master for food and shelter arid that "farms were worked for the support of man and beast."
The farm system was so extensive that in 1878 the South Mountain Iron Company hired an expert planter and fruit culturist, J. D. North from North Carolina, to have charge of the farms and their management. A tenant farmer operated each individual farm. Under this plan, John A. Gardner was the lost farmer of the Bunker Hill farm. For this reason, natives often refer to the she as the Gardner form.
In 1912 the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company sold out to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for $29,827. The sixty square miles of the Pine Grove Estate became a stale forest reserve. The state, however, continued to cultivate the Gardner farm until 1919 when 1,000 bushels of wheat were harvested.
The once prosperous farmlands were then abandoned and left to overgrow with weeds. In 1931, the Civilian Conservation Corps, under Roosevelt’s New Deal, spotted the site for one of their camps. This camp, 5-51, became the first CCC camp in Pennsylvania.
In May of 1933, the first group of boys came from Philadelphia by train to the Pine Grove station. At the beginning, they lived in the railroad coaches and each day walked the two-mile distance to and from the farm. When the crew had sufficiently cleared the fields, they set up their comp of tents.
These tents were only temporary housing until barracks could be built. Living in tents was unpleasant as well as dangerous. Once when lightning struck the camp, two boys were killed.The corps finally moved into barracks at Christmas that first year.
About 200 boys occupied the CCC camp at one time. Boys from eighteen to twenty-five years were eligible to enlist for a six-month period and could re-enlist up to two years.
The first work crew set out on June 1, 1933, to improve the road to the Baker sawmill. Other work assignments that first year were primarily devoted to the construction of a camp. Fields no longer needed were planted in tree plantations, and permanent buildings were built. Later years, however, were spent improving old roads, making now roads, and making general improvements in the forest reserve.
Alter nine years of operation the CCC camp closed in February 1942; then the Intelligence Department of the Army took over the site and supervised the Michaux Prisoner of War Camp. Not only was the camp close to the Carlisle Army Post, but also it was only a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. Most important, though, the camp was well isolated and could be kept a secret.
At first, the camp was intended only for German naval officers, but then it was enlarged to take in some of Rommul’s African Corps and later, Japanese officers. A staff of 150 American personnel was stationed there. The camp held the inventor of the German buzz bomb in addition to 1,500 other prisoners.
Because the camp was kept a secret, very lit-tie information isavailable about the actual operation of it; however, evidence of its existence remains in the present church camp for all to see. A gallery of pictures painted by the prisoners is displayed in the recreation hall, Several pictures show the barbed wire fence that surrounded the camp, and the high watchtower located in the center of camp. The concrete base of this tower still remains. German words and names are embedded in concrete steps and bridges that the war prisoners constructed throughout the camp.
With the end of the war, the camp again Was abandoned in approximately 1945. Then when a small group of ministers and laymen from the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches were looking for a summer camp where they could train their young people, they discovered the ox-prison camp.
In 1948, Camp Michaux Incorporated got a ten-year lease from the stale at $600 per year provided they maintain all buildings and grounds. A provisional agreement from the state allowed them to use the grounds during the summer of 1947 when work camps cleaned the area and repaired the buildings.
Like the state park that surrounds the site, the camp is named after Andre Michaux who made great contributions to botany by his explorations and collections. This Frenchman, who lived from 1746 to 1802, was sent by Louis XIV to North America to gather plants for the Royal Gardens. He was also commissioned to study various trees and give advice on woods suitable for naval construction. During his eleven years In America, Michaux did extensive travel. He spent two years in the southern Appalachian Mountains collecting and naming many plants. Today’s campers have a special interest in this man who loved the same woods they do.
Operating today’s camp is a Board of Directors, composed of twelve ministers and twelve laymen from each of the two denominations. A year-round caretaker is hired plus a camp manager for the summer months.
During the past fifteen years, the camp has greatly changed. The first lease was for sixty-five acres of land, but the present lease allows for 205 acres of cleared and wooded areas. Capital improvements totaling $150,000 have included a swimming pool, a power generator, and numerous new buildings.
The appearance of the camp changes a little each year, but the purpose remains the same. Every camp and conference is a summer protect in living with a group of other people in a vital Christian experience. In worship, study, and recreation Christian fellowship prevails.
Junior, junior high, and senior high camps are conducted throughout the summer. These conferences last for one week each and are run by ministers and laymen who volunteer to serve as both counselors and teachers. Because the leadership changes with each conference, no two weeks’ programs are alike. The highlight of every camper’s day, regardless of the camp he attends, is the evening worship service on Vesper Hill, a beautiful meadow-like clearing on the edge of camp.
Camp Michaux, as it is known today, was not created suddenly but has evolved from earlier days. When campers see the remains of the old stone barn, sleep in the barracks built by the CCC boys, or look at the pictures painted by the war prisoners, the stories of the past come alive.
After spending an evening reading through all the information on the Camp Michaux web page, I had to write you a note.
I grew up in Carlisle & the camp was our Presbyterian Church camp. I am not certain about how many years that I went, but it would have been in the mid and late '50's. It is a special place to me still. In recent years when I come home from North Carolina to visit family in Carlisle, my mother will ask me, "well, when are you going to go?" What she knew is that I had to make a trip to visit the camp and Laural Lake to wander around.
My family spent a lot of time in the Michaux State Forest in the summers when we were growing up. Many years ago my grandfather had built a small one-room, log cabin on the stream between Fuller and Laural Lakes. When summer came our family moved there to spend the summer, and my dad commuted to work from there. There was no electricity or running water at our cabin and all the food was cooked over an open fire. It is amazing to think about all the great family time we had there during the summers.
What led me to your site is finding a link to the article above written by Helen McAdoo. She was my sister. She wrote the essay for a contest while she was a student at Carlisle High School and won the contest that year. She was killed in a car accident in 1968.
Helen, another sister, my brother, and I all went to the camp in the '50's and early '60's. I even spent part of one summer there in 1967 as a counselor. I had just graduated from West Point and had two months of summer leave before I reported to active duty. Going there seemed to be a good thing to do for part of that time.
Thanks for gathering & sharing the information on the camp. As with everyone else, the place was very special to me. I was very disappointed when I returned one year and found that they had torn the buildings down. The same thing happened to our family's cabin. In spite of the buildings being gone, I love to revisit both places and try to do it at least once a year.
David McAdoo Kernersville, NC April 27, 2004