Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:
Stories from Camp Read's Past
For generations, summer after summer, scouts have been making memories at Camp Read. In 2020, the pandemic may have forced regular activities to pause, but campers from years gone by shared their stories here in an effort to fill in the gap. Read on to get your fix of Camp Read hijinks & history!
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Bears, Bibles, and a Boy: Memories of the Adirondacks
Camp Read is a special place. When I arrived to work at camp in 1981, never having set foot in the camp before, I was awestruck by the beauty of my surroundings. Surrounded by scenic hills, with two small lakes and a set of caves thrown in, it was a nature lover’s paradise. I was intrigued by the buildings – the “Old Farmhouse” for one, as well as some dilapidated foundations of seemingly ancient structures, an abandoned horse racing track and a grave of a previous property owner’s beloved horse.
I had heard about a book – Bears, Bibles and a Boy: Memories of the Adirondacks – by Jesse David Roberts. The book told of a boy’s experiences growing up around Brant Lake, and specifically talked about the area that would become the Camp Read property many decades later. I finally procured a copy of the book, and read it with great interest. A good read is always worth another, and so after what was probably thirty years I recently picked up the book again. My wife and I recently relocated to the Adirondacks, and our drives through the region along with my hiking and kayaking has rekindled my interest in the history – both natural and social – of this beautiful area.
Jesse David Roberts was born in 1882 at Brant Lake, NY. He was one of nine children – six girls and three boys, and his family homesteaded at the north end of Brant Lake. In his book he describes a valley surrounded by “seven small mountains curved around in the shape of a horseshoe, for good luck – or, as some felt, an oxbow to represent service. First, Second and Third Brothers were on the east side, a mountain for each of the Roberts boys. Thunderbolt stood in the center of the bend, then extending around to the north were Stevenson, Chub-pond and Big Hill.” This is our camp! We now call Stevenson “Stevens Mountain”, we call Chub-pond “Little Stevens” and Big Hill is known as “Number 8”. I heard the name “Thunderbolt” (the hill between Stevens and Third Brother, beyond the reservation boundary at the north end of Summit Base / Tomahawk) when I was at camp, and conclude that this must be a local name as it does not show up on any of the National Geographic, Adirondack Mountain Club or New York State DEC maps that I have found. Thunderbolt does appear on the Alltrails map application on the Treadway/Putnam Pond trail to Pharaoh Lake.
Roberts tells of growing up in this valley. His was one of six close-knit families who lived off the land on the property that is now Camp Read. They hunted, fished, farmed and traded to eke out a living.
To better understand the title of his book, Roberts’ father was an intrepid bear hunter. His hunting skills were legendary in the Adirondacks and Vermont, and Roberts spins tales of hunting exploits with wonderful ease. His father also set aside time for reading the Bible and praying every day, habits which led Jesse to later pursue a career as a minister. How apropos that this collection of memories emphasizes service and dedication to family, community, nature and God – ideals that have formed the backbone of Scouting for more than a century.
Bears, Bibles and a Boy: Memories of the Adirondacks is a delightful read of a boy’s early life in the Adirondacks, and specifically in the Brant Lake and Camp Read areas. I only wish I could have met Jesse Roberts and had the opportunity to swap stories with him while sitting on the shore of Pharaoh Lake.
Bears, Bibles and a Boy: Memories of the Adirondacks may be available as a digital download (see archive.org or kobo.com). Occasionally copies turn up on ebay or on one of the online sellers of vintage books. If you prefer a hard copy and can’t find one, please contact me and I would be happy to lend my copy.
About the Scout:
Tim Haag grew up in Connecticut, where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. His first time at Camp Read was in the summer of 1981, when he served as Ecology / Conservation Director at Waubeeka. Tim also worked at Read in 1982 (same position as 1981), 1985-87 (Director of Waubeeka and Buckskin), and 1992-96 (Reservation Director). He directed Lake of Isles Scout Reservation in Connecticut in 1983-84. Tim retired from teaching high school science and now lives year-round in the Adirondacks.