By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
Ohio-West Virginia Youth Leadership Association became the 10th entity to be granted a Historic Lease by the US Forest Service for Camp Horseshoe located in Monongahela National Forest outside of St. George. According to National Forest Service representatives, the 60-Year Historic Lease is only the 10th to be issued by the Forest Service. Camp Horseshoe previously held a Special Use Permit through the Forest Service.
“So, I think you’re confidence,” YLA Executive Director David King said. “Your confidence in saying 60 years, that’s a vote of confidence. That’s also, just as in 1940, look around, see what needs done, save the kids.”
Serving the children of the community has been at the forefront of the Camp since its inception, according to King. “Those founders, they wanted something more than a camp setting in a beautiful place,” King said. “They wanted that, but they wanted a camp that would help kids kind of discover what they could be. And the kids would go back home, having had a great time ok, but realizing their call to make a difference.”
King said that former campers often approach him as adults to thank him for the experiences they had as children at Camp Horseshoe. “They will say things to us like, ‘Hey, I’m not on welfare,” King said. “’I have a job and my kids go to school’ and they will say the reason that happened was right here. Because whatever situation they came from, that doesn’t mean anything here. Its not where we came from, its where we’re going.”
According to King, one of the first programs that the Camp implemented was a program for at risk youth in 1940. “Right off the bat in 1940 and this is typical of Horseshoe over these 80 years,” King said, “the judge in Clarksburg, now a long time passed away, he was always having kids brought before him…and he wanted something to get the kids out of their environment. So, right off the bat, one of the things Horseshoe did was a special program for kids that are on the wrong path to try to turn them around.”
King said that the founders would be proud of the difference the Camp has made, but that it is needed today more than ever. “It think these two guys and the Forest Service can look on the 80 some years of making a difference, a long-term difference, in community after community,” King said. “Today we’re called to step that up,” King said. “60% of the kids have mental health issues. Tucker County has 60 kids that are homeless. That’s Tucker County. 6,000 kids in West Virginia have no place to go. Foster Care is full, Grandma and Grandpa that’s all full, there’s 6,000 left over.”
King said the Camp has also served youth leaders throughout its history as well. “So over the years when you look at its history, there’s Leadership Camps for kids that are doing good, the Wellsburg Lions Club in 1947started something called Leaders At Camp,” King said. “And what they wanted was for experienced teenagers across West Virginia (to know) that there was more to learning than just reading, writing and math and science. That’s important, but how do we contribute to our community.”
According to King, the efforts of the Lions and the court, as well as other organizations has led to underprivileged youth being able to attend camp. “It’s always been a camp where, even today, not one kid pays what their week of camp costs,” King said. “Some of the 12-year-olds, they were going because there’s food, they’re not going to get beat on.”
On display at the signing were several historic exhibits from Camp Horseshoe including a letter written by Frank Little and his wife about the early days of the Camp. “They talk about Mrs. Little was also the Nurse, the Cook, the Secretary and using her pots and pans to cook the first meals,” King said. “Some of the kids, the camp fee would have been just a few dollars, but that was a lot of money, so some of the kids paid their fee by bringing a chicken and she would cook the chicken.”
King also acknowledged the long-standing relationship that the Camp has had with the Forest Service. “For a partnership that started in, officially in 1940, but if you read some of the things in the file, I think maybe 1938 or so. A lot of conversations that ended in 1940 with…the 1940 Permit.”
The original document was signed by West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame member Arthur Wood, according to King. “The signatures on here are Arthur Wood, well known, and for us, a fellow named Frank Little,” King said.