History of Kingswood Campsite
How the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church Started Kingswood
In 1958, the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church received, as a gift from a Dr. Lester L. Woolsey, a deed to a tract of woodland adjacent to the Hathaway farm. It was quickly decided to pursue the idea of developing this property into a youth camp. An outside consultant, Dr. L.B. Sharp was engaged to make a planning survey of the property and his report was encouraging except for the lack of water sources. The timing was perfect because Robert Seymour had decided to sell the Hathaway farm, which of course included a pond and the upper reaches of Sands Creek. A sales agreement was concluded (the farmhouse and barn purchased for $20,000), and the Hathaway farm, consisting of 450 acres, was deeded to the New York Annual Conference on September 16, 1959. The new property, totaling 766 acres, was named Kingswood after the town in England where John Wesley began field preaching and where he also started a school.
A master plan was developed, and in 1960 more than 250 volunteers from many churches visited the camp and devoted untold hours of work to develop rustic campsites. The following year, 1961, many church groups again visited the camp to work on improvements of camping, housing and sanitary facilities. And during five summer weeks of planned activities, 83 youths and 23 adults stayed at Kingswood, many living in makeshift shelters.
- 1959 – More than 250 people camped at the camp site.
- 1960 – 83 youth and 23 adults participated in the 3 weeks of junior high and 2 weeks of senior high activities. – small group camping with campers living in hogans and doing their own cooking.“
- Some churches are reporting increased interest in Christian vocations among youth and adults, directly related to the experience at Kingswood and Epworth.”
- Many churches have sent work groups.
- 1961 – 49 youth and 12 adults and the addition of a “Tepee Village”
- 1962 – 159 campers and 42 counselors
- 1963 – The exterior of the farmhouse has been completely renovated and a new roof placed on the large barn.
- 1963 – A new camp unit was established, bringing the total to three units able to serve 30 campers each week.
- 1964 – Campers fees were raised to $22.00.
- 1965 – It was decided that Kingswood would be developed and both Epworth and Kingswood used during the spring and fall by conference and district groups for retreats, planning conferences, and picnics. Estimated that, including picnic groups, 1,000 persons were served by these facilities in 1962. Kingswood to be maintained as a rustic-pioneer camp to serve primarily the western part of the Conference.
- 1965 – 2 units set aside each for two week periods for Methodist boys and girls in the inner city.
- 1966 – A new unit and water supply system was completed and used during the 1965 camps. The lake was drained and the swimming area cleaned and sanded and a new dam built during the spring of 1965. The drought of the summer prohibited the lake from being completely filled during that summer.
- 1966 – Shower facilities were added at the Barn.
- 1965 – At Annual Conference it was decided that every pastoral charge would provide at least one adult counselor for the summer camps and additional counselors on the ratio of one to every seven campers.
- Family Camping begins:
- 1967 – Several family camping sites were created.
- 1970 – The emphasis this summer will be on family camping with a cost of $1.25 per night per family, plus insurance.
- 1981 – For the first time in some years Woodsmoke for 5th through 8th graders is offered, in addition to the usual family camp site facilities.
Over the ensuing years, following carefully developed plans, the grounds, accommodations and activities have been remarkably maintained, improved and expanded. Today we have ten weeks of activities every summer at Kingswood where retreat ministries, adult and youth groups and individual families enjoy a wide variety of outdoor experiences. And thus we are blessed with this wonderful legacy to Benjamin Hathaway, to the New York Conference founders of 50 years ago and to the hundreds of volunteers who made all of this possible.
- Quoted from the N.Y. Annual Conference Journal:
“Cases can be sited where campers have learned through first-hand experience the power of love in action. “
“Campers have experienced what it means to forgive. Others have felt for the first time a real concern and interest in themselves from others.”
“Skills have been developed in the arts, worship, and leadership which are useful in the home church.”
“Families have discovered themselves and couples have found renewed reason to reaffirm their commitment to each other.”
And that’s our legacy of 50 years … a rich history … countless stories of lives that have been enriched and touched by this place … innumerable contributions of time, talent, and love that have been folded into the fabric of Kingswood … God surely meets us here.