Camp Michaux Web Site
The History of Camp Michaux
M.S. Reifsnyder
circa. 1955

What follows in these pages is a brief history with facts and legend concerning a spot in the Michaux forest that has grown very dear to many of us. Here we have played and studied and experienced deep convictions concerning our faith. It is only a small tract of land that looms large in the life of the camper.

We hope that in this history you may find some interesting facts (and some fiction) concerning Camp Michaux.

The Original Farm

About 250 acres, including Camp Michaux, were originally a farm belonging to the Gardner family. The deed to this property was destroyed when the Confederate Army marched through the North. From natives we learn that the tract was known as the Bunker Hill Farm.

The thick stone wall still standing north of Trail Lodge was a part of the barn on the Gardner farm. The buildings must have been very well constructed judging from this wall, because it is about three feet thick.

The last year this farm was cultivated was 1919. At that time they were harvesting a thousand bushels of wheat from it.

The Baker family owned the first steam traction engine in the South Mountains. They used it in their sawmill.

The Hunting Lodge

Prior to 1850 some businessmen from Carlisle, Mount Holly, and Mount Tabor built a hunting lodge on the farm.

Wooden pegs instead of nails were used in the construction of the lodge. Even the lath were fastened with wooden pegs.

About 25 or 30 years ago Mr. Monk Wagner, a native of these mountains and a great friend of Michaux was a member of this club. The organization was disbanded about 15 years ago. At the time of disbanding this building was known as The Beam Hunting Lodge.

S-51 -The CCC Camp

In 1931 the Civilian Conservation Corps took possession and cleared the land which had grown over with weeds and briars. At first the corps lived in tents. While tents were the only shelter lightning struck the camp, killing one boy and injuring another. Money found’ in the slain boy’s pocket is still kept in the District Forester’s Office. It is fused into one solid mass. While the CCC boys were occupying the camp they built four log cabins, Honeymoon, Hutch, Tool Shed and Gasoline Storage (these names were given to them later.) A part of the Mess Hall, Headquarters, and the lower Recreation Hall were also constructed at this time. We believe that Calvin Barracks was originally a truck garage. The barracks above the chapel were erected by CCC, also the Pumping House. Two dams with log breasts were added.

There is a legend abroad that the boys would compete in a snake contest for their spending money. They would form a long line at the foot of the mountain and search for snakes as they proceeded to climb to the top. Black snakes, copperheads and rattlers fell before this onslaught. A stone fence came down the mountain from the West and went through the Camp site. It is said that thousands of snakes were killed when this fence was removed.

Camp Pine Grove - A Prisoner of War Camp

The PW Camp was located at Michaux because it was close to the Carlisle Barracks and at the same time only a two-hour drive to Washington, D.C. Perhaps more important was the fact that the site is isolated and could be kept a secret.

It was under supervision of the Intelligence Department of the Army. The camp had a private telephone line from here to Washington, D.C. It was originally intended to house German Naval Officers, but it was enlarged to include prisoners from Rommul’s African Corps. Later Japanese Officers were also imprisoned here.

The camp was occupied by 1500 prisoners and 150 American personnel. The inventor of the German Buzz Bomb was held here.

At one time during the war a German Naval Officer was quartered in Trail Lodge. He was a very stubborn prisoner and for two weeks would not divulge any secrets. Someone found out that this prisoner was very fond of American Whiskey. So they brought him down to Michaux Lodge and put him in with another prisoner. The Americans gave them two bottles of whiskey. They became very drunk and the conversation which ensued was recorded by means of a Dictaphone hidden in the ceiling. A few days later a submarine base in Germany was bombed for the first time.

The Michaux Prisoner of War Camp is mentioned by President Eisenhower in his book "Crusade in Europe."

     I've just completed this book from cover to cover. Eisenhower writes about the absence of a strong Intelligence division before the war, and the necessity of creating one. He mentions Intelligence several times, including battlefield and British Intelligence and Intelligence reports provided out of Washington on Axis secret weapons, German development of jet aircraft and other subjects.
      However, Eisenhower does not mention any specific Intelligence gathering facility in the United States or elsewhere at any point in the book. Amidst the legends mentioned in Reifsnyder's account, this was one stated fact that could have been substantiated. Unfortunately it's false.
     Vince Montano - June 2011

Camp Michaux - A Religious Education Camp

Camp Michaux came about through the vision and untiring efforts of a few ministers and laymen who were faced with the great need for Christian Youth Training. These men took over the Prisoner of War Camp and equipped the ground in a suitable manner for the adequate training of youth.

Camp Michaux was started July 1st, 1947, through the cooperation and work of many young people who enthusiastically accepted Michaux as their camp and conference grounds, and through the interest, approval, and giving of Christian people in the churches and through the foresight of the denominational bodies concerned. Camp Michaux is today a living reality through the organization of a Board of Directors. This camp is set up for continued and permanent operation. The Board has acquired a ten-year lease from the state. It has employed an all year around caretaker. An efficient management system has been set up and operates on a budget of approximately $40,000 annually.

The present tract contains 65 acres of beautifully landscaped forest land. Evergreen trees border the paths connecting the buildings which consist of staff lodges, campers lodges, sleeping quarters for 500 campers, recreation halls, chapel, headquarters and office, infirmary, camp store, craft shop, toilets and bath houses (with hot and cold running water). All buildings are equipped with electric lights and heating facilities.

Out of doors are found Vesper Hill, a beautiful swimming pool, a fish pond, athletic field, hiking trails, campfire sites, picnic grounds, volley ball, and badminton courts.

The whole property in conservatively valued at a half million dollars. During the past five years 150,000 dollars has been invested in Camp Michaux to make it an effective place for a church camping program.

The New Swimming Pool

For the health and safety of campers a new concrete swimming pool was constructed at a cost of $50,000. It has been designed by competent engineers and is under Red Cross Life Saving supervision. It affords a splendid opportunity for non-swimmers to learn to swim and provides splendid recreation for those who already know how to swim. The water is tested weekly to assure sanitary conditions.

Land Marks About the Camp

As a prospective camper turns from route #233 and enters a road leading to Camp Michaux he passes over High Mountain. When he arrives at camp he faces Jerry’s Flat which lies to the North. Vesper Hill is situated at its foot. To the west is Big Rocky Ridge. This ridge is so named because of the huge rocks that lie poised on its crest, ready to be catapulted to the valley beneath. Opposite the valley, to the south of camp, is Little Rocky Ridge. The Appalachian Trail crosses this mountain about one mile south of camp.

The Appalachian Trail passes through the camp along the foot of Big Rocky Ridge Mountain and Jerry’s Flat. The Sunset Trail passes to the south of camp along the foot of Little Rocky Ridge. They meet about a mile northeast of camp and again about a mile to the southwest. Between these two points lies the entire length of the rugged Sunset Trail, but the Appalachian Trail stretches from Maine to Georgia.

The only road through camp is a County Road. This road is improved from route #233 to Camp Michaux. From there it continues up to Jerry’s Flat, where it is known as the Ridge Road. The Ridge Road eventually connects with the Centerville Road.

The stream that runs through Camp Michaux is called Tom’s Run. It has its origin in springs that are located near the Appalachian Shelters about a mile south of camp.

In 1905 slate and bricks were manufactured in the village of Pine Grove Furnace. The old slate and brick mines can still be seen. The industry was managed by Col. J. C. Fuller. In the boom days of 1912 to 1914 about 500 people were employed. Some of the trades represented were charcoal burners, wagoneers, blacksmiths, woodsmen, carpenters and storekeepers.

Fuller Lake

Fuller Lake was once the ore hole from which the iron ore was mined for the Pine Grove Furnace. Long ago it filled up with water. It is now an ideal spot for vacationers. It is reputed to be more than 90 feet deep. The, mining of iron ore had to be stopped because the water came into the quarry so rapidly that the old type pumps could not pump fast enough. Some of the machinery is still down at the bottom of the lake.

Laurel Lake

Laurel Lake is a companion to Fuller. It also serves many vacationers. Some think Fuller Lake is warmer than Laurel Lake for swimming, but Laurel is not nearly as dangerous. Laurel Lake slopes gradually into deep water but Fuller Lake drops off suddenly close to the edge.

The Tenant House

About a mile, northeast of the camp, along the Appalachian Trail is an old house. It is now used as a lodge for the hikers on the Trail. Originally it was the tenant house belonging to the Gardner Farm, Tenant houses were used in those days by the hired man’s family. The house and the immediate surroundings are overgrown with a heavy stand of pine trees. Somewhere among these trees are three unmarked graves, bearing the remains of three small children who died of small pox.

Near the tenant house are the remains of a stave mill, only the foundation is in evidence. The staves manufactured here were used to make barrels for salt pork.

The Indian Breast Works

There are two legends in existence concerning the Indian Breast Works. The first of these connects them with the Indians and the second claims that they were used by the settlers living there during the Civil War.

Story # 1—The Indian Story. This story assumes that there was a road where the Appalachian Trail now is. It was used by the early settlers who traveled from Pennsylvania to the South. When these settlers would reach this particular point in their journey the Indians would shoot their arrows from a stone barricade, on big Rocky Ridge. This story is not very plausible because Indians seldom used handmade fortifications. There were plenty natural fortifications about 100 yards up the mountain where many huge boulders lie poised as though ready to be dashed down the mountain side at a moments notice.

Story #2—The Civil War Story. It is more plausible to believe that soldiers of the Confederacy used this valley to proceed from the South towards Chambersburg. It seems more logical that this stone fence (that is all the Indian Breast Works were) was hastily thrown together by people who wished to snipe at an enemy, than by Indians who out of sheer maliciousness wished to kill a few white men.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some future historian would discover a bit of evidence that the stone fence was only a stone fence. About 25 feet of it remains. The remainder was destroyed by the CCC boys.

The Charcoal Pits

The Charcoal Pits had their beginning about the same time the furnace was built at Pine Grove Furnace, prior to 1770. The ingredients used in manufacturing iron were charcoal, limestone, and iron ore. Sometimes these ingredients were adulterated with other metallic substances and caused brightly colored slag to come from the furnace. This odd slag can still be found in the refuse from the furnace that was strewn over the Appalachian Trail.

The charcoal was brought out of the mountains and transported to the furnace in bottom drop wagons drawn by six or eight mules.

The remains of the pits can still be seen. They’re circular in form, absolutely level, and about 15 to 20 feet in diameter. There are quite a few of them on the Sunset Trail. Some are found on the Appalachian rj7rail About two miles west of the camp on the Appalachian Trail remains of fireplaces that the charcoal burners used for cooking purposes are still in evidence.

The Frog Pond

Near the Ridge Road about two miles west of camp in Jerry’s Flat is a sluggish pond. The water in it is an accumulation of rainwater. There is no evidence of a spring feeding the pond. Apple trees appear in the vicinity making it possible that an early settler lived near by. Recently a bulldozer dug the pond deeper. The pond is not nearly as picturesque as it once was.

The Ant Hills

Along Ridge Road are huge Ant Hills. Some of them attain a height of 2 or 3 feet. Several groups of Michaux campers have closely studied these ant hills. One of the groups thrust a pane of glass from the top to the bottom through the middle of the hill. Then they carefully scraped the ant hill from one side of the pane. In this way the activity of the ants could be seen. It was quite evident that these ants had a highly organized social existence. They fed aphids for their milk, they had a nursery with trained nurses for the infants, they had storehouses for food, they had a standing army, and many other features of a similar nature. The nature of this organization disturbed some of the campers because it appeared too much like socialism.

Dead Woman’s Hollow Road

This road got its name from the fact that a woman whose identity is no longer known was bitten by a snake and died there. After she was found the natives referred to this road as the Dead Woman’s Hollow Road. It is located about 2 miles south of Camp Michaux.

Hammond’s Rocks

These rocks are an outcropping of huge boulders about 40 feet high. They are located about 7 miles northeast of the camp on Buck Ridge. They afford a good place from which the surrounding mountains can be surveyed. The scenery is very beautiful.

The location of these rocks is approximately 5 miles west of the camp and is sometimes known as Prospect Place. The site was cleared by the CCC. The rocks are comparatively small and are called flint stone. They cover the entire side of a mountain for about 200 yards. They are supposed to be infested with snakes.

Sunset Trail

This trail is sometimes known as the "Blue Trail." The name was given to it because of the blue markings that are painted on the trees indicating the direction of the trail. It is one of the most picturesque of all the trails in Michaux Forest. It is very rugged and demands a good deal of stamina on the part of the traverser. Some of the rocks that must be climbed are as tall as ,a two-story house. (Snakes are not uncommon. The author helped to eradicate a nest of copperheads. The nest contained six mother snakes with 60 little baby snakes. And that is no "snake" story!) It extends from the Appalachian Trail near Pine Grove Furnace south to a place where it again joins the Appalachian Trail about one mile south of the camp.

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail which begins at Mt. Katodin, Maine and ends at Mt. Ogelthorpe, Georgia, passes through Camp Michaux. The old tenant house belonging to the Gardner Farm is one of the stations along the route. The key to this house can be obtained from the forest ranger in Caledonia. About 2 miles south of the camp are two lean-tos, which furnish shelter for travelers on the trail.

The half way mark from Maine to Georgia is located near Mt. Holly Springs. 1225 miles stretch either way from this point.

This is the story as it was given to me: A married man living in Pittsburgh ran away with a married woman from the same place. The woman had three children. They finally arrived in the Michaux Mountains. The man was looking for work but could not find any. Becoming desperate and unable to bear the hungry complaints of the children, he killed them and left them in the mountain. A marker identifies the spot where the children were found. The man and woman were later apprehended and brought to justice.

Lewis’ Cave

"On the banks of the Conodoguinet Creek, about 1½ miles from Carlisle is a cave, the haunt of David Lewis." David Lewis was a very romantic figure that lived in the vicinity of Carlisle during the early Colonial period. He is supposed to have stolen from the wealthy and given to the poor. The more realistic story, but still romantic, is that the "poor" was a comely widow that lived in these parts

In a book about David Lewis appears the description of the above-mentioned cave. It had an antechamber 90 yards long and a man could stand erect in it. Three passages branched from it. One of these led to the "Devil’s Dining Room." Before Lewis took possession of it the Indians were supposed to have used it for a storehouse. It is also possible that parts of it were used for a tomb.

Those who have had the rare pleasure of reading the autobiography of David Lewis find that he was not as romantic a figure as he was reputed to be. He met a very tragic end. He was caught by the authorities and died in prison.

Andre’ Michaux

In order that you may become more familiar with the man whose name this forest bears I have asked the Reverend Doctor Addison H. Groff of Baltimore, Maryland to do some research along this line. He has submitted the following: Through the mountain around our camp there passed more than a century and a half ago the romantic figure of Andre’ Michaux. This beautiful state forest is named after him. Our books on botany bear his name on every page. We are indebted to him for his discovery and naming of a host of flowers, shrubs, and trees never before seen by white man. On closer acquaintance we admire his genius and untiring labors not the less, but we love him the more for the man he was, a man with a heavy burden on his heart, and the light of a soul-quest on his face. Those who have dreams will love this lone and gentle man who loved these forest deeps and revealed their pleasures to a wonderful world.

We said "alone," but Andre’ Michaux did not pass through these silent and virgin woods alone. With him was a boy, a lad of 15, his son Francois, who continued his father’s labors when that unfortunate man was sent by cruel fate, not back to the American Wilderness he loved, but toward the Spice Islands, w hen a sudden fever brought death to the gallant searcher, at the age of 55, on the Isle of Madagascar. The year was 1802, the month November.

Andre’s young wife had died in giving birth to her son, and Andre’ sold his estate and rushed toward the East, as if to quiet the pain in his heart. In Persia he was captured by bandits rescued as if by a miracle, and brought back to Europe rare fruit and ornamental trees for the King of France, trees which he later presented to our own George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among them the Tallow Tree and Chinaberry Tree which now graces our Southern Gardens.

Andre’s King then sent him to America to gather plants for the Royal Gardens. He was 38 years old when his ship landed in New York accompanied by the young Francois. In near by New Jersey he set up his garden and. into the wilds he plunged to gather seeds, leaves, roots, cuttings, and plants for a King who forgot to pay him, and whose gracious Queen was ungraciously to give away his American treasures of flora and fauna to her father the Emperor of Austria. When the traveler returned to Paris after losing almost all his books and diaries, his specimens, and almost his life, when his boat was wrecked off the coast of Holland, he found his King and Queen dead by the hungry Guillotine, and his country in the hands of those who had no interest in things scientific or beautiful.

Eleven years Michaux was to extend his American travels. The courteous French gentleman was to face the wilderness with little armor other than his gentleness, his hunger for knowledge and his love of growing things. "He loved flowers as Audobon loved birds", says one admirer, He explored the mountains of Carolina, he made hazardous journeys through the swamps and marshes of Florida. Back among the mountains after a voyage to the Bahamas, Michaux discovered Ginseng and taught its commercial value to the mountaineers.

In 1794 the relentless searcher made an expedition to Canada and the Arctic Regions about Hudson Bay and on his return he discussed with Thomas Jefferson the prospects of an exploration of the great West by way of the Missouri River. The Lewis and Clark expedition in the next century followed the Frenchman’s plan and suggestions.

In 1796 Michaux sailed home to France. For seven years he had received no pay from the home government and his own resources were exhausted. After the almost fatal wreck off the coast of Holland Michaux reached Paris to place his precious books of dried plants in the famous museum. His collection of living plants and seeds and most of his notes had been lost at sea. And so to the Pacific and death at Madagascar. while his son Francois returned to the American mountains they had first explored together. The father’s dreams were realized in his son. Francois lived to an advanced age. always happy to receive American visitors and hear of how the wilderness he had loved was now the dwelling place of settlers. And of how great cities now stood at the crossing of the roads which once were trails for the deer and the Indian and a few intrepid men like the Michaux father and son.

If in our walks along the Michaux trails we come upon the stemless Yellow Violet (Viola Rotundifolia Michxj, or the Silvery Gladefern (Asplenium Thelypteroides Micbx.), we shall remember Andre Michaux who loved the woods we love and who first named hundreds of our plants for all who were to come after him. It may well be that those who bring their burdens to these mountains may, like him, find all they are seeking and more.

The End

Printed by
Taneytown, Md.
APRIL 1955

Word Processed by
Lee Schaeffer
Pittsburgh, PA
MAY 2002