Summer Camp: Branchville

Dr. Mason Carter, Department Head at the time, provided details on why camp was moved to Branchville starting in 1977.

The future of summer camp was the first major issue I had to address when I arrived at Purdue in July 1973. Charlie Miller, who had been camp director since 1946, announced that he had had enough and wished to be placed on a 9 month appointment for the few remaining years before his retirement. In addition to the need to identify a new camp director - there were no funds for a new hire and no volunteers - there were acute problems with the physical conditions at the current camp at Lost Lake. Aside from much need maintenance and repairs it had a maximum capacity of around 50 students. We were currently beyond ideal capacity and had been forced to house our female students in what was originally a tool storage building. The size of our incoming freshman class - the start of a huge spike in forestry enrollment nationwide - indicated that we would soon be well beyond the capacity by the Lost Lake camp. This left us with several alternatives, all of which were impractical or unappealing.

The most desirable alternative was expansion of the capacity of Lost Lake but University administration was unwilling to make such an investment1 because, 1) we did not own the land, 2) the camp was outside of Indiana, 3) the current economic conditions in the State were not favorable, and, finally, 4) no one really expected the huge enrollments in forestry to continue. In addition, the supervisor's office on the Nicolet National Forest, whose approval would be required for any expansion at Lost Lake, expressed concern over the environmental impact of increasing the camp's capacity and use.

Academic alternatives were. 1) hold two, regular 9 week sessions at Lost Lake, 2) hold two 5 week sessions at Lost Lake, 3) discontinue camp. The faculty were unanimously opposed to all of these.

At the time, the principal of the Wright Fund was held by the Lilly Foundation and only the annual earning - stock dividends - were available to the University.

Thus, we needed to find a larger camp that we could afford to lease, rent, or purchase.

Relocation of Summer Camp from Henryville, IN to Lost Lake, WI in 1959 was welcomed by the faculty and beneficial to students since it provided a more extensive and diverse forest ecosystem and industrial complex. But many prominent alumni, public officials, and industry leaders believed the move caused a shift of student and faculty focus away from forestry issues in Indiana. Later, we demonstrated that strong ties with forestry and natural resources in Indiana could be maintained irrespective of the location of summer camp. But during the crisis period of the early 1970's, there was strong sentiment among alumni and friends of the Department to re-locate summer camp back to Indiana.

Mason Carter, Dept. Head, in his office in the Horticulture Building (FNR Archives accession no. LOG.1975.002.001)

A workable solution came from one of our prominent and loyal alums, Don Girton, who, at the time, was supervisor of the Hoosier

 NF. Don contacted me with the news that a Youth Conservation Corp camp near Branchville, IN just north of the Ohio River, was scheduled to be closed. Don believed it would be possible to declare the camp surplus and transfer it to Purdue if we wanted it. Thus began short but memorable era of Branchville summer camp!


Though somewhat Spartan, the Branchville camp was modern and spacious; it could accommodate up to 200 students, faculty and staff. It even included a gymnasium and several staff residences which allowed us to transfer one of our off-campus extension positions to the site with the added responsibility for managing the physical facilities. But Branchville had its' deficiencies, foremost of which was the absence of a suitable classroom/lecture hall. There were several classrooms with a capacity of about 15 students which were of little use to us. Our lectures had to be held in the gymnasium, a spacious, steel-clad barn with terrible acoustic qualities. I remember Fred Montague trying to lecture a class on bird call identification during a heavy rain storm - mission impossible.

Although it served us well during the period of high enrollment, Branchville became a financial burden when our enrollment fell as precipitously as it had risen. A win-win solution was found when the Indiana Department of Corrections expressed an interest in converting the camp to a minimum security prison. Purdue recovered all of its' investment in camp renovation, the State acquired a needed facility at minimum cost, and summer camp returned to the North Woods where the forest ecosystem and local amenities were much preferred by the faculty.

Mason C. Carter
Fort Collins, CO
September 2012

Summer Camp at Branchville required many changes in the teaching program, and the pests that had to be dealt with. Ticks were still part of camp, but chiggers were added. The weather in southern Indiana was dramatically different than northern Wisconsin, much hotter. But, the esprit de corps typical for summer camp students was not lacking at Branchville. The best evidence of this for the 1981 cohort is “The Camp Song (OH BRANCHVILLE) by Al Parker, Joe Robb, Rick Glassman, Doug McVay, Jeff Thompson, Scott McLaughlin, and Dave Baumbauer. Technical Assistance: Jeff Welty. Here’s their song:

Let’s sing a song of a camp down south
Where Whippoorwills always run at the mouth
And people think of lovin’ the land
But have to work on a management plan

We started early in May to learn our trade
And Brian Barger learned how to use a spade
When he sampled spoil that was in the ground
And stuck the probe about five feet down

Oh Branchville, our home down yonder
Where many a lost soul still wander
Where earlobes hang on a greenbrier vine
And we had to inventory short leaf pine.

Some took a trip to Hemlock Cliff
Cause the first time we tried the bus had a tiff
And Scott was found after a great big chase
While Joe sang about Suzi Kowalski’s face

There was Gibson, Moser, Weeks, and Beers
Montague and Jack, well they all got sneers
If you ask me did I get a lot done
I’d have to say no but I had fun


Well we got wet and we got soaked
It rained so much we damn near chocked
And a realization I recall
If you seen one sawmill you’ve seen ’em all!

The critters down there are really thick
Chiggers and horseflies and a great big tick
That drew so much blood my legs got numb
All for the Forestry Practicum


Reminiscences of Summer Camp at Branchville, Indiana

Anon. 1978. “Camp: Six Sizzling Weeks.” Purdue Log ’78. P. 15-18.

Becker, Kevin. 1979. “Summer Camp 1978.” ’79 Log. p. 6-9.

Anon. 1980. “Summer Camp 1979.” Purdue Log 1980. P. 13-18. (Individual remembrances and photos.)

Fleck, Matt. 1981. “Summer Camp 1980.” 1981 Log. p. 59-65. (Includes group photo of backsides and frontsides.)

Welty, Jeff. 1982. “1981 Forestry Camp.” 1982 Log. p. 33-39.

Shafer, Anne. 1985. “1984 Forestry Summer Camp.” Purdue Log, p. 26-37.