Camp Gitchigomee History
In 1945 Reverend Goodman, Archdeacon Smedley, Reverend Jennings and Mr. Irwin discovered our beautiful peninsula on the eastern shore of Sandstone Lake. The Diocese of Algoma, supported by Bishop Wright, purchased the property and welcomed the first campers that same summer.
Clearing and building began in 1946 with 3 cabins built. Materials and supplies had to be carted, carried, pushed, pulled and back-packed for 2 & 1/2 miles over the former Port Arthur-Duluth Railroad bed. Road access was built later.
Smedley Lodge was built as the central multipurpose building, along with 2 cabins, in 1947. The rest of the Camp remained “under canvas” for several years, as facilities were gradually built. Today Smedley Lodge is our Dining Hall and Kitchen. Besides dining, the hall is also used for Bible Study and other group activities.
The Irwin family dedicated itself to construction of camp facilities and the third generation continues that tradition over 50 years later. Irwin Field was reclaimed slowly from the low wetland in the centre of the peninsula. It was gradually built up with rocks, gravel and fill. It continues to be built up and maintained as a beautiful grassy field by recycling the natural debris from the beach.
The beach on Goodman Bay remains one of the finest in the area, with a long, shallow, sandy swim area, ideal for small campers. The large permanent docks of the 1950′s were no match for the ice conditions of northern winters. It was replaced by a floating dock, which is re-anchored each season.
The Camp Gitchigomee Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed in 1951 and has been instrumental in maintaining camp furnishings, buying craft and sports supplies, and in the very important role of providing bursaries to campers. Every spring these dedicated women go out to the Camp before it opens and clean every building to make it ready for the staff and campers. The women of each Anglican church have been part of this labour of love over the years.
Archdeacon Conliffe dedicated 10 years to seeing the camp grow and he influenced young Christian lives in the 1960′s and 1970′s. He spent every summer as Camp Director, all summer. Conliffe Hall served originally as our recreation hall for crafts and indoor campfires. It now also serves as our temporary chapel.
The Church of the Advent, once located in Hymers, was sold and money from that sale helped build the original log chapel. The altar from the church was moved into our log chapel, which became the symbol of the Camp until the 50th anniversary year. A sketch of the chapel, with its surrounding trees, was used on letterhead and t-shirts. The building, as it was later found, was built on wet land and the foundation gradually decayed to the point where the entire chapel had to be dismantled. The altar is now located in Conliffe Hall, awaiting a new home.
A tornado in 1978 damaged many of the buildings constructed over the previous 30 years. This event occurred, however, at a point when the Camp Board was discussing the need to upgrade. Improvements were made with the help of the insurance money and volunteer time. Three large cabins, Stewardson Manor, Bishop Nock Manor and Algoma Manor, were built to replace the smaller ones lost to the tornado.
Less “delicate”, but equally important as new housing, a 6-seater toilet facility was constructed. This facility remained the source of more than a few “smelly” jokes until our 50th year. In 1995, St. Paul’s Anglican Church undertook the project of converting the facility to flushies, obviously a significant event, if it made it into this history!
In 1995 Camp Gitchigomee celebrated its 50th Anniversary. A special open house was held in June, with over 100 people visiting the Camp. A logo contest was conducted that spring, inviting children and adults to draft a new camp logo. There were two winners announced at the anniversary party: a mother and daughter, unbeknownst to each other, had submitted nearly identical logos. The Executive Committee decided to combine the two submissions into one logo, and so Barbara and Jessica Williams were both declared winners.