History of Camp Galilee

//History of Camp Galilee
History of Camp Galilee 2017-10-22T10:03:17+00:00

Written by Betty Dzubba (Sunnyside COB) – District Historian

Believe it or not, camping programs in our district are less than one hundred years old. In using Allegheny Passage information, … “we learn out of concern for educational efforts to reach young children and youth, leaders of the youth and Board of Christian Education of the First District of West Virginia called the dele-gates at District Conference of October 2, 1937 to take note of camping projects in other districts. A query from the Keyser church to District Conference that year asked for the delegates to give favorable consideration to the advisability of buying the camp site at Terra Alta. The Western Maryland District had already approved the camp project as a cooperative endeavor, and the Keyser church was seeking action from the West Virginia (district) side.” …


A Trustee Board consisting of A. R. Fike, Ezra Fike and Arnold Ludwick were given authority to effect an organization. Talk about getting the ball rolling …they met three days later and took actions necessary to purchase approximately 85 acres one mile north of Terra Alta, which comprised former Camp Lakewood. In less than a month work days were organized and by December 11, 1937 the deed for this property was recorded by the County Clerk. By time of the 1938 District Conference, these men could report three church camps had been held.


From “The Past is A Key To the Future—A History of Terra Alta WV and It’s Vicinity” by Betty Whittaker White loaned to me, some facts unknown to most of us reveal … “Terra Alta Lake is a fifty acre, mile long, artificial lake, five hundred feet wide, … the lake is a result of construction of a dam for a grist mill.” On page 450 of this book we read … “Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith married in 1852 and settled in Preston County… Mr. Smith, a miller, built a mill and a home, dammed up Snowy Creek to run the mill at the lake. … There was a sawmill in opera-tion at the lower end of the lake. …” On pages 451 and 454 it was recorded …” a certificate of corporation was is-sued to Lake Terra Alta Improvements on June 1, 1895. A vast tract of land and the lake itself was owned by this group, which had high hopes for development, even with a plan for a hotel on the south hill of the lake to be called Hilltop Hotel … with a one-mile park to run the entire length of the lake’s north side. … An additional hotel was in the plans and was to be erected at the present site of Camp Galilee … with a race track planned for the lake’s west side. Continuing on page 452 of this book: …” The Improvement Company had a steamboat on the lake for several ‘excursions” and at a reasonable price… ‘someone recalled seeing the old paddle wheels years later, lying in the Lake …the steamboat was a novelty.” …


Another interesting tidbit included in Mrs. White’s book … “During the early part of the 20th Century when the development of the Lake was underway, Civil War veterans of Preston and Garrett County had an annual July 4th Picnic and Celebration at the Lake. People came from Keyser, Cumberland and as far away as Baltimore on trains and were met at the railroad station in Terra Alta and taken to the Lake.” … Of course this was years before the Church of the Brethren ever thought of purchasing the property.


Arvin Harsh who for many years served as Camp Trustee and volunteered countless hours, but also was a participant in the Camp’s first decade of campers has shared his memories of Camp Galilee. I am grateful for this additional information and will integrate portions within this article. Arvin recalls, “the original campsite purchase was for eighty-five acres, bought on foreclosure that the Terra Alta bank financed for about $8,000.00 at 1.25% interest.” Robby May, interim camp manager adds the debt for the land and the lake was paid off in 1982.


Although African American campers had attended earlier we learn from the book, Kum-Ba-Yah by Linda Lo-gan, who writes … “The interracial camp carried out by Foster Bittinger, then pastor of the Westernport Church at Camp Galilee in 1943 is a good example of the … vigorous stand the Brethren camps took against racism. Galilee was one of the many Brethren camps taught about the sinfulness of discriminating against some of God’s children.” … “Bittinger reported afterwards that it was a good experience and that camp planners ‘enthusiastically and unanimously decided to invite Negros to all our camps’…” Miss Logan’s book goes on to state (in 1943) …” girls as sweet as those negro campers were refused a sandwich in a restaurant in their own town.” …


Do you remember?

  • The Pittsburgh, PA “Boys Camp” that provided much needed revenue to keep the Camping pro-gram going until about 1985 by providing payments for the loan
  • the original “Main Lodge” (built in 1914 by the YMCA and razed in 1973 due to fire marshal regulations), which preceded the Dining Hall and Recreation Hall and those “front steps” where campers gathered from early morning until Vespers times, or “simply hung out making friendships
  • the old bowling alley (which Arvin recalls was on an additional 28 acre tract secured in 1948 that reached from the bowling alley spot behind the original “Main Lodge” and down to the lake breast works spillway)
  • the camp tents that were there from around 1940 although were phased out by the 1950’s—the original cabins …”were mostly constructed with lumber from railway cars from the Keyser B & O Railroad cars, secured by the Ludwicks in Keyser; as time passed these were replaced by new cabins in the 1960’s and 1970’s provided by many different churches, and private donations in memory of former campers.
  • the backless benches in the “House of Memories” (a memorial to the our district martyrs, missionaries Alva and Mary Harsh)


Do you remember when?

  • the new Dining Hall/ kitchen was built in 1967 by the Moon Brothers with many volunteers at a cost of about $12,000.00
  • the new Recreation Hall constructed around 1969-1970, costing just a little more than the Dining Hall, also built by the Moon Brothers with volunteers which replaced the “House of Memories”
  • the outdoor classroom, known as “Gene’s Dream “ was added to honor the years of dedicated service by the late Gene Marsh (whose wife Phyllis continued in the Camp Director position until her resignation earlier this year)
  • there were boat rides for campers with vespers held out on the lake in a boat


Were you also a former camper and did you

  • experience devoted, Christian, loving volunteer camp counselors which gave you the desire to return next year and encourage your friends to go also
  • acquire memories of evenings at “Vesper Point” or around a Campfire Circle to round out a day of hiking, swimming in the cold lake, some crafts (ever hear of or recall making a “sit up-on”) or waiting what seemed like forever for a meal cooked outside in your group to be “done” … (usually the S’mores were ready long before the “meal”)

The Camp Logo

camp galilee logo


Bible Scriptures:
GALILEE – After I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. – Matthew 26:32
SUN – Praise Him from sunrise to sunset. – Psalms 113:3
HILLS – I will ift up my eyes to the hills…. my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. – Psalms 121:1
LAKE – He leads me by still waters. – Psalms 23:2
FIRE – I have come to bring fire to the earth…. – Luke 12:49
PATH – Show me the path where I should go, O Lord; point out the right road for me to walk. – Psalms 25:4
ROCK – All who listen to my instructions and follows them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock – Matthew 7:24

The CROSS is the symbol of Christ’s death and our salvation, and it should be the center of our life.
The SUN represents morning watch and vespers.
The FLAME represents the campfire services.
The PATH represents hike and recreation.

“This emblem was first conceived and designed in the late 1950s when I was a member of the Camp Galile Publicity Committee. In 1988, I redrew the logo, adding the sun and making the symbols easier to distinguish.” – Mary Lipscomb Ludwick