Camp History

Camp History2019-04-17T12:31:50+00:00

History of Camp Mishawaka

1910 – 1930: The Early Years

Camp Mishawaka for Boys was founded in 1910 by George F. (Doc) Green. The first year 12 campers attended, most of them young men in their late teens. Doc Green was a teacher and coach at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. and had worked at camps in Wisconsin. He founded Mishawaka because he felt strongly that he could create a better camp.

Mishawaka continued to grow during the early decades, attracting young men from across the nation. Early camp life was simple and relied upon a military model of organization. Doc stressed physical and moral development of the campers, achieved through rigorous exercise and activity. From the early years, campers were exposed to the hardships of the wilderness, both in camp and on out-of-camp trips.

1930 – 1960: The Halcyon Years

By the early 1930’s, Mishawaka had established a loyal following and a national reputation. Doc was able to attract staff members from across the country, and they, in turn, recruited campers. Some of the larger groups of campers came from the Chicago area, Oklahoma and Minneapolis.  Many of these early campers are memorialized by cabins named in their honor.

Upon the death of Doc Green, Leonard (Pop) Schneller assumed the leadership of Mishawaka. The 1930’s also saw the addition of Vilhelm (Skipper) Larsen and Kent Curtis. A high school teacher and coach from Minneapolis, Skipper Larsen directed the construction of most of the camp buildings that remain today. He also initiated the tradition of the Shields & Feathers, casting the Indian head and feathers in metal and crafting the shield out of wood. Kent Curtis expanded the tripping program, leading boys into the area now known as the BWCA and Quetico. In addition, Kent was responsible for bringing sailing to Mishawaka. An author and musician, Kent is also responsible for many of the tribal songs and traditions.

Theodore (Cap) Cavins joined the Mishawaka staff in 1932 and would spend the next 43 years at Camp. He assumed an ownership role in 1941, along with Messrs. Curtis and Larsen. Under the leadership of Cap Cavins, Mishawaka continued to expand. Like his predecessors, Cap was able to attract and retain a first-rate staff. It was these men who set Mishawaka apart from other camps, and who helped attract and retain campers from their home areas.

1960 – 1990: Girls Camp and Restructuring

Camp Mishawaka for Girls was founded in 1963, and Cap hired Noelle Todd in 1964 to serve as the Girls camp director, and she would remain in that position until 1981. The period of the 1960’s and early 1970’s saw the expansion of Mishawaka in camper numbers, property and program.

Cap Cavins retired from the Director position after the 1975 season, ending his 43rd year at Mishawaka and 34th as the Boys Director. Long-time Mishawaka staff member Ernest Cockrell assumed the reigns of Mishawaka for Boys and remained that position until 1982.

The early 1980’s was a difficult time for independent traditional camps. Thanks to the loyalty of staff and owners – and numerous 2nd and 3rd generation camper families, Mishawaka was able to weather the storm. In 1988 the two camps were consolidated.  The Girls Camp was moved to its present site and the two camps began to share many facilities and programs. Throughout this time, Mishawaka remained true to its heritage, and preserved the traditions of a residential summer camp.

Jon Erickson worked alongside his father, Norm, during these years as the winter recruiter and program director. He took over the reigns as the Boy’s Camp Director in 1985. The Girls camp remained under the direction of Sonia Larsen until 1985 when she moved to the office to serve as the Office Manager until her retirement in 2010.

From 1986 to present the Girl’s Camp has been under the direction of Bobbie Ogletree, Holly Wilson, Katie Scott, Phyllis Strobl, Kari Lottes and, beginning in 1995, Mary Jane Curran.

1990 – Today: The Centennial and Beyond

Steve Purdum joined the year-round staff in 1990 as the Executive Director, and in 1992 purchased the camp.  Andre Theisen, long-time camper and counselor, returned to Mishawaka in 1995 to serve as the Boy’s Camp Director until 2006. Dan Beuthling, who previously served as the Boys Program Director assumed the role of Boys Director in 2007. In 2013, Sean Barrett became the Boys Camp Director after serving many years in a wide variety of roles at Mishawaka. Charlie Paige, former camper and counselor, heads up the Boys Camp presently. He has over 25 years of total service to Camp Mishawaka.

2019 marks Girls Director Mary Jane Curran’s 25th year-the longest serving tenure of any Girls Camp Director.

Adapting Camp Mishawaka to meet the changing needs of campers and their families, while still upholding many of the founding principles from 1910 will allow the camp to thrive for the next 100 years.

Our commitment: To help kids find their best selves.