Friday, September 30, 2016

Campfire Stew

This post was originally suppose to go out yesterday, but as it is with many things, other stuff got in the way...

Campfire Stew... Once a tradition at camp, it's origins are clouded in mystery (of course, once I publish this, alumni from all over will tell me the real origin story). Some years it was a part of camp, and other years is wasn't around. But when it was around, many stories were told about the concoctions staff would make.

Typically on a Wednesday or Thursday Night, tribes would meet around the campfires that were located around the camp to make campfire stew for dinner. Each tribe would be given a large pot and would mix together ingredients over the open fire. Everyone had the base ingredients, but every counselor had either a special way of cooking it or one special ingredient that they would add to make it their own.

Many stories were made around those fires. Often most of the counselors would be off entertaining the children while one or two unlucky (or lucky- depends on your perspective) would cook the stew. Also some of the staff had to clean up the pots afterwards, and if you didn't soap the bottom of the pans before you started, you were in a world of trouble and a long night of scrubbing!

I think this is where some of the famous cam icons appeared, like the dehydrated water and the left handed smoke shifters. Staff would send troublesome campers out to get these items from the other tribes, and the campers ended up doing a circuit of campfires before returning to their own campfire.

Chef Cathie E. Peck, who was the Food Service Manager at camp while I was here in the 90's had the following recipe.


               1/2 cup dehydrated onions

               1 pound sliced bacon*

               2.5 pounds lean ground beef

               2 cans (51-ounce) vegetable beef soup

               1 can (50-ounce) tomato soup

               canned vegetables, drained*


               1.  Build campfire and create a good bed of hot coals.

               2.  Add 1 cup warm water to the onions, stir and let stand.

               3.  Use a tablespoon of dish detergent and soap the outside of the cooking pot.

               4.  Cut bacon strips in half and place in the bottom of the pot.

                    Place pot over coals and cook the bacon.

                    Stir gently to cook the bacon evenly and prevent burning.

                    Drain the grease, keeping well away from hot coals and open flames.

               5.  Drain liquid excess liquid from the onions and carefully add to the bacon.

               6.  Continue to stir until the onions are transparent and tender.

               7.  Add the ground beef and continue to stir.

               8.  When the meat is browned, add soups and optional canned vegetables.

               9.  Heat the mixture and serve on hamburg buns.  Serves 2 tribes.

               10. Remove pot from heat and soak as soon as possible.


               The addition of bacon to the original recipe is an optional ingredient.

               Some counselors have requested the following additions to their stew:

                              Canned potatoes                             Canned kidney beans

                              Canned corn                                   Canned peas

                              Canned carrots                               Canned beans

               For best results drain the ingredients before adding to the stew.

So why talk about campfire stew? Well I hear a rumor that there will be the first annual Campfire Stew Cook Off  at the next Alumni Gathering in May! Watch the facebook page or blog for details.

Oh, has anyone seen my red handled left handed smoke shifter lying around anywhere?

Historic Registry

The camp in 1938
For those of you who don't know the history of camp... Back in the 1930's the camp was build as a CCC camp. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. (

In 1945- 4-H purchased the buildings and began running a summer camp program until 2004.

After the camp was sold in 2010, the owners Donald and Caroline Naysmith put in a lot of hard work to improve the buildings and restore the camp. They also applied to the Historic Registry to have camp added to the list.
In June the Camp was added to the State Register of Historic Places, and in August it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
This list isn't just as the CCC Camp. It is also  on the Registy as a 4-H Camp!

If you would like a comprehensive history of camp, let us know. We have the full write up of all the details of the camp in a pdf- which will be posted on our website soon.

When you visit camp you can see the plaque below the mural in the Recreation Hall.

We also have a copy of the photo (at the top) and will be getting a large reproduction of it for the wall below the mural.

We are still looking for some of the lost memorabilia from when the camp was a 4-H Camp. Things like the framed photos of Missy Vaill- for whom the tree at stonehenge ( a rock circle) was planted.  The SeaBee Lodge* sign, more of the old CCC pictures and the old camp sign. And the county dedication signs for the cabins, like the Montgomery County sack shack sign.

We are putting together a wall of history for the camp, and would love to add these to it. If you know where these items are, and would like to donate them to camp, please contact us!

Camp has a rich history, and we look forward to adding more memories for years to come.

* The Seabee lodge sign was a sign made by who we think was the NMCB-27 ("Skibees") Naval Reserve unit that built many of the "newer" cabins and the Director's cabin, better known as the SeaBee Lodge. My memory is fuzzy, but I think the sign was of a bee with a machine gun over a clover.