4-H Camping in West VirginiaFor many West Virginia 4-H members, camping is a vital, irreplaceable part of their 4-H experience. Each year, more than 10,000 young people learn new knowledge, practice leadership and gain life skills through West Virginia 4-H camping programs. Weeklong 4-H residential camps are conducted in each of the 55 counties in the state, and an additional four weeks of state camp are held at WVU Jackson’s Mill. These current 4-H camping programs are built upon a strong history and heritage in which West Virginia was a pioneer.
Organized 4-H camping had its beginning in West Virginia. In July 1915, Randolph County Agent J. Verus Shipman held a camp for boys and girls at a site on the Jackson Crouch farm. Activities for that first camp included hiking, fishing, swimming and games. The campers slept in the Crouch barn and cooked their own meals. An important visitor was State 4-H Club Leader W.H. “Teepi” Kendrick, who left “Camp Good Luck” impressed by the possibilities offered by 4-H camping programs. Kendrick spread the word with agents across the state and encouraged them to begin camps for boys and girls in their own counties. The 4-H camping movement steadily grew in West Virginia, and by 1918, seventeen county 4-H camps were held in the state.
As the popularity of county 4-H camps increased, West Virginia 4-H leadership began to see the need for a central meeting place for boys and girls participating in state 4-H events and activities. Consideration was given to several sites for a state 4-H camp, including locations in Randolph and Kanawha counties. In March of 1921, at the suggestion of Mrs. Arthur Rhodes, then president of the Stonewall Country Life Club in Lewis County, Kendrick and Assistant State 4-H Leader C.H. “Uncle Charley” Hartley travelled via trolley to the grounds of the boyhood home of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson near Weston to survey the site as a possible location for the state 4-H camp. They returned to Morgantown, and within a few days recommended that the first state 4-H camp facility in the United States be created at Jackson’s Mill, should the land be obtained and support developed to establish the camp. That year, a tract of five acres of land was donated for that purpose by the property owner, the Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company. The first camp, the Volunteer Instructor’s Conference, was held at Jackson’s Mill that summer of 1921.
Harley Cutlip, Director of Jackson’s Mill from 1955 to 1973, wrote of the early days and philosophies of 4-H Camping in West Virginia in the 1963 article titled Vacation Time Means 4-H Camping Time.