St. Lawrence Council
1927 – 1984
A Moment in Scouting History: Camp Vigor
Provided by the William Hillcourt Scout Museum, Camp Woodland, Constantia, NY
Camp Vigor was a camp operated by the St. Lawrence Council, Boy Scouts of America. The council was located in St Lawrence County, New York and was responsible for scouting in the entire county. Camp Vigor was the only camp operated by the council, but over the life of the council Camp Vigor was located at two different places.
The first Camp Vigor was approximately 100 acres in size and was located 2 1/2 miles from the village of Morristown on the St. Lawrence River. The land was purchased by a group of prominent citizens, who wanted to ensure that the scouts of the Ogdensburg area had a place to camp. They formed the Ogdensburg Council Holding Corporation on July 13, 1927, the purpose of which was “…to purchase, lease and hold lands and buildings for the use of the Ogdensburg Branch of the Boy Scouts of America, to exchange or sell lands or buildings provided the executive council of the Ogdensburg Branch of the Boy Scouts of America consent in writing thereto.” The amount of capital stock was $7500.00. The number of shares of which the capital stock consisted of 300 shares at a par value of $25.00 each.
In 1942 the operations of the council were reviewed by Philip C. Manro, Deputy Regional Executive. (Previously, Manro had been the Scout Executive of the Oswego County Council from 1933 to March 1939.) His description of the camp follows: “Camp buildings consist of the old farm house, now used as central mess hall; the old chicken house nearby, now rebuilt to make a first aid room, infirmary and officers quarters; another small building used as a trading post; a large dairy barn, now in disrepair, used some for storage; several small Adirondack leantos and a larger building on the point used as shelters during Camp by Scouts and leaders; a small cottage on the river to the west of the site used by the Scout Executive and his family.” Manro also concluded that: “The possibilities of the site are tremendous. It is a natural Camping facilities, open fields and bathing and boating facilities in the St. Lawrence. Its possibilities as a base for Senior Scouting trips are unlimited.”
However, Manro expressed the concern that since the council did not actually own the property, improvements to the camp paid for by the council would not be owned by the council. He felt the council therefore was not justified in spending council funds to improve the camp. He suggested the council buy the camp from the Ogdensburg Council Holding Corporation or seek and purchase another location for the camp.
On January 31, 1946 the council did in fact buy Camp Vigor from the Ogdensburg Council Holding Corporation for the nominal consideration of $1.00.
In the early 1950’s the council became aware that Camp Vigor was too small for the number of scouts in the council. The camp could only hold 75 scouts per week during the summer, and the number of boys eligible to go to camp by 1958 was estimated to be 1600. The council subsequently identified a 200 acre parcel of land on Clear Pond in the Adirondack Park that would make for an excellent camp. (The parcel of land was located in Parishville NY, 18 miles from Potsdam, 26 miles from Canton, 38 miles from Massena, 44 miles from Ogdensburg and 52 miles from Gouverneur.) So for the first time in its history the council in 1953 conducted a capital campaign seeking to raise $110,000 to purchase the property.
The campaign was successful and “Camp Vigor of the Woods” appeared for the first time in the 1955 annual council financial audit, valued at $89,352.71. In that same audit it was noted that “Camp Vigor”, located on the St. Lawrence River, was sold for $22,000. It appears the new camp’s official name was “Camp Vigor of the Woods” because it was listed as such in the audit report, but both names were used interchangeably over the following years.
In 1965 another capital campaign was conducted to make improvements to Camp Vigor. The literature for the campaign lists Camp Vigor size as 89 acres of woodland with a 20 acre lake. It is stated that in 1955 Camp Vigor was adequate for 300-350 boys to camp during the summer, but not adequate for the 712 campers that camped during the summer of 1964.
In 1982 the St. Lawrence Council merged with the Jefferson-Lewis Council to form the Seaway Valley Council. The new council now owned two Camps: Vigor and Portaferry. Early in 1982, during early merger talks, a decision was made to continue to operate both camps and to see which one got the most use. The lesser used camp would then be turned into a wilderness style camp. In the event that a camp would need to be sold, it should be the wilderness type camp.
The first executive board meeting of the new Seaway valley Council was held on September 9, 1982. At the December 16, 1982 executive board meeting, a motion to sell one of the camps was carried by a 18 to 10 vote. A committee was established to determine which camp was to be sold. At the April 28, 1983 executive board meeting a motion to sell “Camp Vigor of the Woods” was carried by a 23 to 5 vote.
The last summer camp to be held at Camp Vigor was the summer of 1983.
The camp was listed for sale at $150,000. The executive board, at its meeting on September 27, 1984 noted that a Richard and Fay Cambridge were interested in buying the camp for $130,000. At the January 24, 1985 meeting, it was noted that New York State had made an offer to buy the camp. The decision was made to sell the camp to New York State for $145,000 and the sale was noted to be complete at the July 25, 1985 executive board meeting.