In 1946, the West Wisconsin Annual Conference of the Methodist Church appointed a committee to find a site for a Conference camp. Both Platteville and La Crosse camps were no longer operational. For many years, the Conference had used rented camp sites, forcing them “to take the leftover time of these rented grounds.” The committee searched for possible sites for months. Indeed, over 40 pieces of property were considered. Finally, on May 20, 1947, after prayer and thought and study, the camp site committee, seated on the bottom of an upturned boat on the south shore of Pine Lake, “voted to purchase the property for the present needs of the Conference.”

The land was purchased and plans were made for the first camp season in 1948. The following an excerpt from a history of Pine Lake, written by Betty Irish, and presented on May 15, 1949 at the Camp’s dedication service.

“It was an exciting moment when on March 9, 1948 the committee voted to purchase a building from Truax Field at a cost of approximately $800. This building 20 ft. X 200 ft. was to be cut into eight sections and hauled to the camp site, and reconstructed into a temporary kitchen and dinning unit. The building arrived April 8th, and was unloaded at the west entrance. The next few weeks were full of activity as many united their efforts to get the grounds in readiness for the first meeting, which was to be the Conference youth council, and the first camp, which was the older youth camp, June 28, 1948. Expectancy filled the hearts and minds of Methodist youth all over the Conference. Could they possibly have Pine Lake ready for the first big camp. If anyone ever doubted, they did not know the camp site committee, nor the subcommittees, nor did they know how youth and men and women with a vision can lend a hand. Brush was cleared; army surplus tents were set up; army surplus cots were painted; mattresses were cleaned and covered; shelves were built in the kitchen; the well was dug; kitchen stoves were installed; on and on folks worked. The night of June 28, 1948 found over 140 youth and counsellors, asleep in tents, after have partaken in a bounteous meal in the barracks dinning hall, swimming in the clear refreshing water of the lake, and worshipping in the outdoor sanctuary, nurtured by the Heavenly Father.

During the weeks that followed, more than 700 youth experienced a deep gratitude for this quiet place where they could find a new meaning for their lives. People from all parts of the Conference had visited the grounds, perhaps some questioning as they came, but never doubting as they left. And so the summer of 1948 came to a close. On November 1, on the hill in front of the new cabin, in the warm sunshine, the committee met to evaluate and plan. Every heart was filled with gratitude for the hundreds, both young and old, who had given such splendid service here and there. This unselfish service had turned the dream of a successful first summer into a reality.”

Over the next seventy years, that dream would continue to provide a peaceful setting where the faithful come to experience spiritual, emotional and social renewal. It is indeed a place God created to minister to souls and bodies of God’s people.

This article is from the June 2018 edition of Flashbacks. Flashbacks is a publication of the Wisconsin Conference Commission on Archives and History. Previous editions of the newsletter, going back to 1973, can be found on the Archives & History page.

By Sandy Kintner, Conference Historian.