Abilene Morning News in its June 9, 1933 addition, announced that a permanent
camp had been established by the Buffalo Trail Council. A site for
the camp had been located on Lake Sweetwater according to Coke Williamson,
Scout Executive. He said that officials have been hunting for a suitable
permanent camp for the past four years. On June 11, 1933, Williamson
said the council had procured a camp site with 1,000 front feet along Lake
Sweetwater, six miles southeast of Sweetwater. The lake is one mile
across at the widest point, two and a half miles long, and sixty-two feet
deep. No immediate improvements other than a bathing beach are planned.
By July 8, 1938, a dedication was held at Lake Sweetwater when a cabin, moved from it original site at the old CCC camp near the dam, was repainted and remodeled. It was to be used jointly by troops and patrols of the Boy Scot District. In addition to the cabin, a flag pole was donated by the Veteran of Foreign Wars. Each troop is to donate camping equipment. The dedication ceremonies was directed by senior scout leaders. Ben Robert delivered the dedication address for the cabin and W. F. White conducted the flag pole ceremony.
According to The Handbook of Texas Online, the lake was constructed by damming Bitter Creek in 1929. A paved road was built around the lake and a lookout, clubhouse, and golf course were built by 200 Civilian Conservation Corps workers. In 1934, the lake area below the dam had an open amphitheater, two fish hatcheries, and a baseball field. One can see why the lake attracted the Scouts to locate a camp there.
Order of the Arrow Ceremony Held at Camp
The Order of the Arrow held an ordeal ceremony on December 17, 1938, at the camp. The camp began at 1 p.m. on Saturday and closed at 8 a.m. on Sunday. Candidates for membership in the OA had been nominated by the camp staff of the council and were voted on by fellow members in camp.
Summer Camp in 1941
A summer camp was held at Camp Lake Sweetwater June 9-14,1941. Activities included swimming, boating, hiking, archery, rifle practice, handicraft, first aid, nature study and emergency service training.
Pictured to the right is the Sea Scout Ship "Rotary Ann" belonging to the Sweetwater Sea Scouts. Picture was taken in 1941 when about 65 Boy Scouts from across the Buffalo Trail Council spent 10 days at the camp.
They had an eventful week which saw their tent-setting technique tested twice to wind and rain storms. The Scouts enjoyed such activities as boating, swimming, nature study, archery, rifle shooting, and trailing. There was plenty of good food and practically all of the Scouts gained six pounds the first three days. Among some of the outstanding features were a game called "the Battle of the Roses," instructions in fly casting, "B" line hikes, adventure trails, treasurer hunts, swim meets, and a new line of handicraft never used before in the council.
H. D. Reed was camp director, replacing Claude Willis, who received employment at Abilene and was unable to attend the camp.
The camp was inspected by Minor Huffman of the regional scout staff and was given a first class rating. Health officials approved the water supply and sanitary facilities.
Thursday night was visitor's night and a special campfire program was staged at 8:30 p.m. Because of the limited mess hall facilities, visitors were asked to wait until after supper to come unless they brought their own meal and to be on hand by 8 p.m. They said that the Scouts had been good about writing home during the camp, and in turn the volume of in-coming mail had been large.
During July of that same year, Joseph P. Bishop, New York City, National Camp engineer, Boy Scouts of America, accompanied the local Scout committee to the camp to inspect it and make recommendations for permanent development. Members of the committee that accompanied him were T. P. Johnson, Charles Paxton, A. L. Jordan, Dr. C. A. Rosebrough, J. C. Morris, Dr. E. B. Pool and S. P Gaskin, Scout Executive.
Another Summer Camp in 1942
Even with World War II in full swing, the council held another summer camp from June 7-12, 1942 at Camp Lake Sweetwater. Arrangements had been made for food and cooking and a staff to be on hand to give instruction in swimming, nature study, handicraft, archery, advancement, massed games and inspiring campfire programs. The cost was to be $8, with some deductions for getting their registrations in on time and some other deductions that were shown in a bulletin which was available at the Scout office. Those who attended the camp with their Scoutmaster only had to pay a 50 cents fee and complete tentage arrangements. If they plan to take all their meals at the camp it would cost them $7.
This was the first of four camps conducted by the Buffalo Trail Council that summer. The other three were to be at Big Spring, Balmorrhea and Cimarron, New Mexico. The theme for camping this summer was "Toughen Up, Buckle Down and Carry On to Victory." A great deal of emphasis was placed on the development of initiative and self-reliance and physical fitness. Some 75 Scouts were expected at the camp.
Another camp was held at Camp Sweetwater from June 4-9, 1945, one of two camps held the same week. The other camp was held at Madera Canyon. Cooks and food were to be provided at the Lake Sweetwater Camp and each troop furnished its own shelter. Cost was $6.00. At the Madera Canyon Camp, each troop brought its own food, equipment and did their own cooking. A fee of 50 cents was charged each person.
Aquatic Camp Scheduled in August 1954
An aquatic camp for Boy Scouts was scheduled for August 2-7, 1954, at the camp. Camping would be strictly on a troop basis and each troop would provide for its own food and is preparation. Registration was to be $1.50 per boy to care for insurance and such incidentals.
The program was to include boating, fishing, lifesaving, swimming and possibly canoeing as well as instruction in regular Scouting skills. A rifle and archery range would be operated.
At the conclusion of the camp there was to be an Order of the Arrow campout an initiation.
Bill McRee, Big Spring, was to be the director of the camp. Bob Eastus Snyder was to supervise the aquatic activities, while H. D. Norris of Sweetwater was in charge of arrangements. Some 52 spent the six days at Lake Sweetwater.
Another Aquatic Camp was scheduled for August 25-30, 1955
Boy Scout troops and Explorer post will take part again this year in the Sweetwater Aquatic Camp to held August 25-30, 1955. Troops had to go to the camp under their own leadership. Again the cost was $1.50 to finance the program, which included swimming, life saving classes, rowing, canoeing, fishing, bait casting, water safety, etc. Units were urged to start gathering their canned good for the five-day camp. Interested troop leaders could contact Sam McComb, camping and activities chairman, or Bill McRee, local field executive.
Camp Still in Use
Henry McGinty, former Scout Executive of the Chisholm Trail Council, wrote in an e-mail the following: "The Texas Trails Council still uses the campsite at Sweetwater Lake, I understand. When I came here in 1954, and we inherited those 3 counties on the west we also inherited Henry Norris as District Scout Executive and the Sweetwater Lake Campsite. I was never able to find any legal commitment from anyone permitting the Boy Scouts to use the property. It appears as though that is or was not necessary for some reason or other. When we acquired the use of the property there was a good sized building there that was used as a dining hall etc. That building burned several years ago.
"There was a long period of time when Sweetwater Lake was practically dry consequently the campsite was not used much. I understand that the council now has a lock on the gate there. It appears that this a place on Lake Sweetwater that the Boy Scouts can and do use as a place to camp and has been so for more than 65 years."
We want to thank I.L. (Major) Holdridge for providing us with the newspaper stories above and the photos of the gate and pavilion. Also, thanks goes to David O'Neill for photo of sailboat and additional information on the camp.
Last updated: March 3, 2009