Way back in 1921 we didn’t have the “Class A” camp we do today. As a matter of fact, our second class council didn’t have any camp at all. That year, two long hikes had been planned. The first, to take a week, was over to Newgate Prison, an old pre-revolutionary gaol. The other, to last two weeks, was north to Canaan, down the Housatonic River to New Milford, and then home, making a good sixty miles in all. While we were on this second hike a number of us had a chance encounter with poison ivy.
Rather than hiking under this hardship, our leader, Mr. Copley, a part time photographer and Chief Scout Executive, decided to lay over a while at Bantam Lake, since we were ahead of schedule. He found a good spot, and we camped near Mr. Frank Coe’s cottage. Mr. Coe watched us and he was, if I might say so, rather impressed by the way we conduced ourselves.
Several weeks later at a meeting of some Scout Leaders, Mr. Coe brought up the matter of a permanent Scout camp. He asked Mr. Copley and Captain Geer to inspect sites for a camp. However, no suitable area on Bantam Lake could be found. Mr. Fred Baldwin a local real-estate agent, was contacted, and he happened to own about fifty acres of land on West Hill Pond, and he offered to sell them.
It was Mr. Coe’s intention to present the tract of land in memory of his mother Mrs. Workman. The council would receive the title to the land as soon as it became evident its success was certain. However, Mr. Coe died the same month he purchased the land. For four successive summers the camp had grown constantly in popularity, and Mrs. Coe, realizing the camp’s success was assured, presented the camp to the Council in December, 1927.
The early development of Camp Workcoeman was done by volunteers. Areas were cleared for camping and several trails were blazed in the back woods. Cooking was done on an old Army field range under a tarp. The Council was given an old wood choppers shack which some of us tore down and used the timber from to build a supply shack on the site of the present mess hall. Some time later, lumber was donated, and a small dining hall was constructed.
More buildings were built, the water front improved, camp facilities constructed, all because of the land and donations of time and money. Because of all this, Tunxis Council now possesses one of the finest camps in the country. In the early years, a few dozen boys could attend camp. Today it is possible for six hundred forty scouts to come to Camp Workcoeman every summer. If it wasn’t for that poison ivy so many years ago, perhaps none of this would be possible.
Still the growth of Camp Workcoeman continued, and in 1968–1970 the Tunxis Council conducted another capital campaign. This campaign provided for the construction of a new council office on Kennedy Drive, added a full time camp ranger at Camp Workcoeman, and funded the purchase of additional property expanding the camp to its current 427 acres.
Other major development projects that added to Camp Workcoeman are the expansion of the dining hall and construction of meeting rooms in 1994 and the construction of a new shower facility. This new shower building was a donation of the Konover Construction Co. in 1996.
For 97 years, Camp Workcoeman has provided a opportunity for Scouts to receive an invaluable Scouting experience.
Camp Workcoeman is located in the hills of northwest Connecticut in scenic New Hartford and Barkhamsted. The camp consists of approximately 427 acres on the shore of beautiful West Hill Pond, possibly the cleanest in Connecticut.
Established in 1924, it is one of the oldest continuously operated Scout camps in the country. For 97 years, thousands of Scouts and Scouters have had unforgettable Scouting experiences at Camp Workcoeman. This fine tradition of Scouting continues today.