Camp Workcoeman

Historical Vignettes

In recognition of Camp Workcoeman’s Ninetieth Anniversary, we present a series of historical vignettes. These brief articles serve not only to tell the particulars of how Camp Workcoeman came to be what it is, but also to give you an impression of some of the characters who have rambled around West Hill Pond over the past nine decades. We hope that you will come away with a better understanding of how Camp Workcoeman has come to mean so much to the thousands of Scouts who have camped among the white birches and red oaks since 1924.

Start at the beginning »

Beginnings of Scouting

The story of Camp Workcoeman begins with Scouting itself. Before William Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in February of 1910, various character building groups for young men already existed in the United States. Ernest Seton and Daniel Beard...

Read more »

Early Torrington Troops

Edgar Robinson handed over the reins of the Boy Scouts of America to James West in 1911, but the nationwide connections with the Young Men’s Christian Association persisted. In Torrington, a troop was formed out of the local YMCA in...

Read more »

Establishing a Council

The first five troops in Torrington interacted directly with the national office, through its Field Department in New York. However, there were troubles with this arrangement. The Scouters in the established troops only received answers to program and policy questions...

Read more »

Camp Pioneer and Hikes

The Torrington Council reorganized in March of 1920 as a First Class Council. Even before the council officers completed the charter application, they hired Torrington’s Assistant Postmaster, William Copley, as a part-time executive. Among Copley’s first tasks was to arrange...

Read more »

Frank Elmer Coe

Frank Elmer Coe was born to Nelson and Caroline (née Workman) Coe on 1 February 1872. Raised in Torrington, Frank Coe attended public schools in town, and received some higher education in Nebraska. After two semesters at Doane College, Frank...

Read more »

History of the Land

The new Workcoeman property was situated just south of the New Hartford-Barkhamsted town line, at the end of an old logging road. During the nineteenth century, the land was primarily used as a wood lot, supplying timber for the barns...

Read more »

Preparing the Camp

With Frank Coe’s death, ownership of the property transferred to his wife, Jennie, and responsibility for the Scout program to Council Executive Earle Beebe. Beebe served as the first director, or Camp Chief, and he recruited Scouter Seymour Weeks as...

Read more »

The First Season

Early on a warm July morning, about twenty Torrington Council Scouts made their way to Camp Workcoeman. While some may have been dropped off on West Hill Road, most of the boys took the Torrington-Winsted Trolley line. After getting dropped...

Read more »

The Second Season

A mere two months after Camp Workcoeman closed for the 1924 season, Council Executive Earl Beebe resigned. It was several months before Chief Beebe found a new job as the Waterbury Council Executive, so other employment opportunities probably were not...

Read more »

Scout Mothers’ Auxiliary

The 1925 camp season may have been just as successful as the first in 1924, but behind the scenes the Torrington Council was struggling. The council only had enough funds to pay Scout Executive Herbert McLeod part-time. Often the scout...

Read more »

A Renewed Council

In 1927, a newfound volunteer commitment financially stabilized the Torrington Council. With cash on hand, the Executive Board could hire a full-time Council Executive; however, because Herbert McLeod found his other part-time work more stable, he resigned to make way...

Read more »

1928 Season

The 1928 camp season opened on Sunday 1 July with a great deal of promise. Reservations were far ahead of any previous year, and the Scouts had many developments to look forward to, including a radio and phonograph. Fredrick Baldwin...

Read more »

Forming a Countywide Council

Torrington’s renewed interest in Scouting in the late 1920s, along with a full-time Council Executive, attracted some attention from the national office in New York. The ten-year initiative to bring all troops in the nation under a local council was...

Read more »

Northern Litchfield County Council

In the fall of 1928, the National Office pressured the Torrington Council to expand and include sixteen additional towns in northwest Connecticut. The volunteers in Torrington were wary of the additional expense, and troops in the outlying towns were not...

Read more »

1930 Season

The fifteen towns added to the Northern Litchfield County Council in 1929 more than doubled the potential Boy Scouts who might attend Camp Workcoeman. Of course, the council would have to form troops and enroll Scouts before any increase in...

Read more »

Effect of the Great Depression

The prosperity of the 1920s facilitated new programs and modern equipment at Camp Workcoeman. The breadth of the economic crisis of 1929 was not immediately apparent to the Scouters of the Northern Litchfield County Council. However, in 1930 the campaign...

Read more »

Visitors and Baseball

On the tenth of July 1932, Camp Workcoeman opened during the darkest point of the Great Depression. The preceding months saw unemployment reach never before seen highs and industrial production drop to new lows. Throughout March 1932, the Scouts of...

Read more »

Three Cheers for Old Workcoeman

As the Great Depression dragged on through the months of 1933, the Northern Litchfield County Council continued to grow. With work hard to find for most men, boys no longer were able to hold part-time positions, or find summer jobs...

Read more »

Dining Hall Expansion Plans

During the record-breaking winter of 1933–1934, when temperatures in Northwest Connecticut went more than twenty-below zero, the Northern Litchfield County Council conducted its annual financial drive. Even though the economy was as hot as the outside temperature, the council was...

Read more »

The Silver Jubilee

“The year 1935 marks the twenty-fifth birthday celebration of the Boy Scouts of America. During these years the value of our organization in building character and in training for citizenship has made itself a vital factor in the life of...

Read more »

Council Executives

Hardly any Scouters in the Northern Litchfield County Council noticed when Arthur Marston, executive of the Waterbury Council, died of a heart attack on Memorial day, 1935. Most volunteers in Northwest Connecticut were caught up in their own celebrations, and...

Read more »

Palmer Liddle

Camp Workcoeman opened on 5 July 1936 with a new camp director, Council Executive Palmer Liddle. The new executive had taught canoeing at Spruce Ridge Scout Camp, and worked within program and in administration at Camp Roosevelt and Camp Syracuse....

Read more »

A New Dining Hall

1937 was a year for second chances. The National Council resolved to go back to the District of Columbia and host another jamboree. In Connecticut, the local Scouters had been discussing building a new dining hall at Camp Workcoeman since...

Read more »

1938 Season

Camp Workcoeman’s new dining hall proved to be a valuable addition during the summer of 1938, hosting many a campfire. More than half of the camp season was rainy, and the downpours were so fierce that the camp road washed...

Read more »

Building Boom

During the late 1930s, Camp Workcoeman underwent a building boom. In 1937, the Northern Litchfield County Council built a $4,500 dining hall and the next year added a campsite with three Adirondack shelters. However, that growth was limited to structures,...

Read more »

Growing Nationalism

Just a few weeks after the end of the 1939 camp season, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. The following spring, Germany invaded Denmark, Norway, and France, and the Soviet Union invaded Finland. Those events shook the American people’s...

Read more »

Economic Recovery

After twelve years of depression, the American economy finally recovered by 1941. Even if the gross domestic product of 1937 exceeded that of 1929, the population increase during those years meant that the average consumer received little comfort from that...

Read more »

War

The unforeseen strike of the Imperial Japanese Navy on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor transformed the United States from an arsenal of democracy to a full-fledged combatant. In Torrington, boys were trained as messengers, in case of communication failures...

Read more »

New Leadership

With the intensifying of the Second World War, Council Executive Palmer Liddle entered the United States Navy in 1942. The Northern Litchfield County Council searched for a new chief and hired a Mainer, E. Merle Hildreth. Much like Liddle, Hildreth...

Read more »

Helping the War Effort

As the Second World War raged in Africa, Europe, and the Pacific, more and more Connecticutians entered the Armed Forces. In the farms throughout the Northern Litchfield County Council’s territory, the lack of farm workers left much of the crops...

Read more »

Expansion

When the Northern Litchfield County Council’s executive, Merle Hildreth, was hired in 1942, among his first tasks was to develop a plan to grow the council. In addition to increasing enrollment and developing the nascent Cubbing program, this five-year plan...

Read more »

Post-War Prosperity

The restrictions of the Second World War constrained most American Scout camps; however, Workcoeman’s distinctions allowed it to prosper. The location near the center of the Northern Litchfield County Council’s territory overcame gasoline rationing. This, along with a series of...

Read more »