Camp 12 Pines
Oswego County Council
1928 – 1977
In 1928, as Scout Camp Director, I was rented out with the camp to the Oswego County Girl Scouts. The camp was used by them in the “off” season, since at that time they had none of their own. Camp Twelve Pines was used by them, after the Boy Scout Season, for years, until they acquired Camp Near-Wilderness, on North Pond, near West Amboy. At first, without a Girl Scout Council, a Boy Scout Skeleton Staff, which I led, supplied the housing, feeding and Waterfront and Campfire part of the program. Later when Vena Stevens became Oswego County Girl Scout Council Director, we supplied only the facilities.
Back to Boy Scout Camping. In the early days this was conducted on a centralized basis, by tents, with a central dining hall, and a centralized swimming and boating program. We had Scouting “classes” in the morning; swimming, boating and canoeing “classes” before noon; after lunch an enforced “Rest Hour”. An afternoon mass activity of “wide” games etc.; swimming, boating and canoeing classes before the evening meal and campfire, of the entertainment variety from dark until Taps. At each period’s conclusion, on Saturday nights, we had an awards program at an “Indian” style Council fire, conducted with an accent on ceremony.
Everyone had FUN. Many campers stayed for more than their planned time. (Why not, at $6.50 and $7.50 per week, total). Scouts accepted the program enthusiastically. There were not the distractions that we have today. It was fun and a joy to earn rank advancements, Merit Badges and Red Cross Life Savings Awards. Star, Life and Eagle were natural results of this program. The whole was accepted as a way of life in camp. When the Handicraft Lodge was completed, the Camp Handicraft program was considerably enlarged within the limits of available funds and materials. An early successful project was the building of Adirondack Pack Baskets, from scratch, that is to say, from black ash logs, which we peeled into suitable widths from which the baskets were hand woven. One camp potential “dropout” became so involved in this program, that he stayed an extra week, tearing his basket down, and reweaving it 3 times, to reach the standard he desired. Our early Handicraft Director was Harry Blodgett. He directed many simple crafts in wood, leather, beads, leather braid, etc. Later we were most fortunate to have Handicraft Directors trained at the Oswego State Teacher’s College, Industrial Arts Dept. They were able to bring many attractive innovations to this program.
Many were the Fun events incorporated in the program – including “wide” games, treasure hunts, hikes to the Little Salmon River, hikes around the lake, hikes to Williamstown; field meets, swimming meets, boat and canoe racing, infrequent visits to the Smith Estate and its trophy rooms; baseball, quoits, a trip to Sandy Creek Fair as guests of General Barclay, hikes to Camp Woodland (Onondaga Council, near Oneida Lake), campfires with favorite songs Donderdeck, Allouette, Darky Sunday School, Workin’On The Railroad, Rounds, Johnny Smoker, etc.) favorite Ghost Stories (Golden Arm, Muller’s Castle, Man At The Organ, Wendigo, etc.) Crim’s Ice Cream Socials (homemade), pancake breakfasts by Smitty and Joe Case, Steak and Watermelon suppers by the pits, Indian Council Fire ceremonies in costume – all had their places in memory. Many can recall the hoax put over by Don Moyer when he engineered the unearthing of Indian Artifacts (Buffalo Trading Co.) in the Council Ring! This was so well done that many of the Campers and some of the leaders swallowed it “hook, line and sinker” and the story even got in the papers. It did the program of Indian Ceremonies in the Council no harm.
Many additional programs grew out of the Twelve Pines Program including canoe trips in the Adirondacks, the “Ce-Ne-O-Ja” (Central New York Councils Jamboree), held at Fort Ontario, Culver Hill Park in Rochester and elsewhere, even James E. West, Chief Scout Executive, visited this event. In later years Camporees, Scout Leaders’ Training Courses, Commissioner’s Meetings, and Council Board Meetings were held at Twelve Pines and, traditionally, Rotary of Oswego and Fulton, held a dinner meeting there each summer during Scout Camp.
The development of Camp Twelve Pines from inception to the present is a tribute to Don Moyer, Council Executive and the Scouters who supported him. C. Sidney Shepard, inspired by Moyer and Tom McKay, Attorney and Oswego County Council organizer and Board Member (Silver Beaver) was the anonymous donor of the original site. I recall the day he was driven to the site by his chauffeur, to inspect the area, in the rain, in knee length farm boots, from his home, at New Haven, NY His gift, as required by him, remained anonymous until his death. I wonder if he realized what his gift would mean to the youth of the area.
The history of the development of the camp is worthy of note. In the Spring or 1928 Don Moyer invited me to become Camp Director for the 1928 season of Camp Twelve Pines (George Corse had pioneered as Director in 1927). 1 had served as Camp Director at Camp Eaton-Brook, Madison Co. Council, at Oneida, near Morrisville, NY in 1926 and 1927, when Don was Scout Executive of that Council, having attended and served on the Staff of Camp Loyalty, Onondaga Council, Syracuse, Tully, New York, since 1917. At the time I was a student at the New York State College of Forestry, at Syracuse University, and an Eagle Scout. J. Wellington Clements, of Cazenovia, New York, was also invited. He had been a Tent Leader and Program man at Camp Eaton-Brook, and had great ability, enthusiasm and promise. He was about to graduate from Cazenovia High School.
At Don’s suggestion Welly and I drove, in my Model T. Ford Roadster, to Charlie Crim’s farm on Cohen Pond, near West Amboy, NY to visit the proposed Council Camp Site. It was an overcast, rainy day in April or May, and not conducive to enthusiastic appraisal. We parked in Charlie’s yard, and walked through the barnyard down the lane, over the bank, through the cow pasture, and down through the Locust Grove to the marshy shore of Cohen Pond. It was most certainly not an auspicious beginning.
At the “lake” side of the grove was a beautiful stand of first growth Pine, the Twelve Pines for which the camp was ultimately named. At the north side of the Grove was a picnic table, very rustic, and further north a wind and weather beaten 2 hole privy. Later we found that for years, church and school picnics had been held here (and were for some years, even with the camp in operation, to everyone’s embarrassment). No matter, they were all welcomed and assisted. After all they had been here first.
Having performed as required, we drove my Roadster through Parish, Mexico, New Haven and Scriba (all strange country to us) to Oswego, to meet with Don Moyer, and hear his plans, if any.
The outcome is that we were persuaded to become the Camp Staff Leaders and the construction crew, led by Irving Smith, erstwhile Army Cook at Fort Ontario, to “build” the camp that was to become Camp Twelve Pines. Operations began as soon as Syracuse University and Cazenovia High School closed for the summer.
So we built the Dining Hall of 2″ x 4″, 2″ x 10″ and slabs with the bark still on, Maple, Beech, Pine, Hemlock and very rough. It must have been hard work and long hours. We ate it up. A well driller, Caster of Constantia, came and drilled a beautiful well, some 85 feet. The cost was awe inspiring, $7.00 per foot! cased. Every night we asked the crew for reports. How Far? How Soon? This was the best investment the camp made. We roofed the dining hall, floored and applied the roll tar paper. The flooring, brought in by ship to Oswego, was wet, and therefore cheap. It had to be pried and persuaded into shape since the beads would not match. We did it! We framed and built a small “Hospital” on the slope towards Crim’s. I think Dr. Hollis of Sandy Creek, Lacona arranged for the funds for this, likely gave them, himself. Later we built a small Trading Post near the dining hall and facing it, across the main path.
Then came a “building bee”, a master stroke on Don Moyer’s part. Council Board Members came to visit for a day and “work” on the buildings. They were to “finish” the Dining Hall. Here I first met Clair “Waddy” Wadsworth, of Hunter Arms, later of Nestle’s, and future Camp Committee Chairman. He was assigned to “Boss” the crew in charge of framing the front, double doors of the Dining Hall. Being an Engineer he did a job that lasted as long as the building. I was assigned to his crew and worked with them. Waddy’s sons, Bill and Bob, were later campers. Bill became Waterfront Director, later Program Director and then Camp Director. He is now (1970) a member of the National Staff, Boy Scouts of America, developing Adventure Camps for older Scouts in Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Kentucky, Hawaii, etc.
Next, camp season being eminent, we dug a pit southeast of the campus, on Crim Land, and surrounded it with a screen, stockade style. Although roofless, this, with the addition of Army style boxed seats, became the Camp Latrine, called, naturally, The Stockade. Later, probably through necessity, this acquired a rough canvas roof. The 4 hole boxes were built that this assembly could be moved to new holes when necessary.
New truck loads of lumber began to arrive from Morin Brothers, Fulton, NY with Bill Short’s dad driving the truck. We located, built and leveled eight 16′ x 16′ tent floors – three each side of the Campus (oat field), and two at the south end in the form of a U. As I recall our original Flag Pole was a wood sapling. It stood at the north end of the U that formed the campus. Nearby was a small, raised stand from which Bugle Calls (Official) were blown and morning calisthenics (a la World War One) were led each Reveille. “Now, in cadence, begin.”
A new metal Flag Pole was given by the Morris Pump Co. of Baldwinsville. This was secured by Don Moyer and erected in place of the old wood pole. It proved a chore to dismantle and paint each year, but it certainly added to all the Flag ceremonies held morning and night.
The cooks were housed in a two-man tent near the kitchen door. The “Life Guard” had a tent near the mammoth Pine between the Dining Hall and the beach. The Camp Directors Tent was at the southwest corner of the Locust Grove, near the entrance trail.
Several docks served the camp. First a rough pole and deck affair, hardly adequate. Later a “Floating” dock supported by metal 55 gallon drums (courtesy Niagara Mohawk) and restrained and held in place by boiler flues, driven into the bottom, with collars fastened to the deck in such a way that the deck could rise and fall with the lake level or the weight of loads, was built. This proved hard to keep rigid from end to end and therefore exceedingly dangerous. Later, about 1933 or 1934, when Herb Lyons, of Diamond Match, was Chairman of the Camp Committee, he was able to secure a large number of roof timbers from the Old Kinsford Starch Plant, part of which was being dismantled. A small contractor, Kio of Mexico, brought a crew to camp and built a “Crib” and deck dock, by far the best we ever had. At the same time, a large quantity of “paper mill canvas” became available. The deck of the dock was covered.
An annoying problem from the first was the use of the campus as pasture for Charlie Crim’s Dairy herd in off season. They wandered throughout the camp and watered at the swimming beach. The ensuing hazards left by them were not only annoying but unsanitary. It was not until 1935 or so that I was able to secure a fencing project. Fred Vogelsang, Sr., SM of Troop 13 Fulton (State St. Methodist Church) volunteered to lay the fence. It came about because “Waddy” Wadsworth attending a Camporee, as Camp Chairman, stepped into two pies in his stocking feet one night, with attendant uproar.
About 1935 or 1936 we located three tent villages in the wooded area north of the Locust Grove and back a short distance from the Lake shore on a path parallel to the lake shore, and separated, each by a wooded area.
About 1936 and 1937 a project was initiated to construct 8-man Adirondack Lean-to’s in each of these sites, as a bad weather center and a winter camp facility. Four were ultimately built, each with a rustic fireplace under the front overhang. Oswego Rotary initiated the project, followed by Fulton Rotary and Oswego Kiwanis, with R. Austin Backus, Mexico, NY also contributing such a shelter.
Charlie Crim was often approached to sell additional land to the camp. This he refused to do for some time. (I believe his father actually sold us the first land). This situation was exceedingly complicated, when about 1933 or 1934 State Law, newly enacted, required us to use pasteurized milk only. “Waddy” and Dr. Korphage, of Nestle’s recognizing the danger of this situation, arranged to have equipment for pasteurizing, of a simple nature, sold to Charlie at cost. Understandably, he was unable to understand this beaurocratic law. His position was, “I have a registered, clean herd, my family have drunk this milk all our lives, it’s good enough for anyone.” Reluctantly and in desperation we arranged with Harry Lasky of Oswego to deliver us Netherlands milk as needed. As a result, for several years the friendship of the Crim family was impaired.
In later years Charlie was persuaded to sell the Pine Grove, and later, the area between this and the main road to the Council. A new entrance was established with a Memorial Gate, (1952) just south of, and across from the Old Smith Estate gateway. This Memorial, at long last, was to C. Sidney Shepard, the original anonymous site donor, of New Haven, NY, now deceased.
There have been many sweeping improvements since the early days, chronicled here, of many of these I have no knowledge. One of these is the magnificent new dining hall, July 12, 1965, when Gelwicks was new Executive, with it’s modern equipment. It is near the main road, south of the Crim House. Perhaps I will be able to get someone familiar with the story of these later additions and improvements to supply a narrative regarding them. Later the entire farm was purchased, allowing life use to Charlie and Gladys Crim (both now deceased – 1980).
In 1972, to my great delight, my two sons and I were invited to a Hiawatha Council Board meeting, at Twelve Pines Camp, and I received from Karl Lerz, in the presence of the Board, in the Dining Hall, following dinner, my Gold Certificate denoting 55 years of Scout Membership and service, both as a volunteer and a professional.
by Philip Manro, Chairman
History Committee, Hiawatha Council
Executive of Oswego County Council, B.S.A. 1934-39
(The above account of Camp Twelve Pines was written around 1980)