Camp Cowaw in the mid-1940s
Buildings and General Camp Setup
Raritan Council summer camp opened in 1941. Previous to this, Council Scouts went to Camp Pahaquarra, located a quarter mile away on Old Mine Road. At first, Scouts ate their meals at Camp Pahaquarra, because there was no mess hall available at Camp Cowaw when it opened. I think the Rotary Club donated facilities to build a mess hall, which was opened in 1942 or 1943.
Swimming and boating was conducted on the Delaware River Waterfront, located near the entrance to the camp. The entrance featured a rugged arch of timbers over the entrance road. The road leading up to the camping area was very steep and unpaved and loaded with big rocks. Campers called it Back Break Hill because they had to carry all their bedding, gear and Army cots up the hill. The bus that transported them to camp could not climb the hill.
Camp consisted of four villages; Hemlock, Achewan, Wenatchee and Shawmet as best as I can remember. There were four building of any significance, Little Cabin (which was used to sell candy and miscellaneous scouting items, a First Aid Cabin (Perkin's Cabin) which housed the camp nurse, the nature lodge (originally called Abegg Lodge in memory of Dr. Abegg, a Perth Amboy doctor). In the lodge were caged animals and snakes and other things associated with nature, and the Mess Hall. The mess hall was a dining area with approximately 15 tables seating seven scouts and one leader or staff member, and the kitchen. In the early 1940s, the cooking was done by women (the head cook was known as Ma Cowaw). In the late 1940s, a male cook was hired to do the cooking.
Camp sites were equipped with old Army 16-man tents on elevated platforms. The water supply was obtained from a spring located on the outskirts of Hemlock Village and pumped into a large tank which then would be fed to the camp sites by gravity. Latrines were located at each camp site (two holers) and every few days a scout was required to obtain some lime to be dumped in the latrine to hold down the odor. Most trails in the camp were outlined with large stones painted with a mixture of lime and water to help kids find their way back to their village when they forgot their flashlights at night.
Just to the right and slightly below the Mess Hall was the Parade Field. This space was used to raise the Flag in the morning and lower the Flag at night. This was the gathering place for the start of all camp wide activities. Located just to the right of the parade field was the Cowaw WWW Village, surrounded with a seven or eight foot high stockade fence. In order to enter the village you had to be a member of the Order of the Arrow (an honorary camper's organization to which you were elected to by non-members of your troop). After election to the Order of the Arrow, the Scout had to pass an ordeal that consisted of hard labor from sunrise to sunset, survive a very limited intake of food for the day, and remain silent for the entire day.
There was also a Craft Shop, with a large roof supported by sturdy timbers, where Scout studied woodcarving, leathercraft and beadworking.
Because of the length of this article, this is page 1 of 2 pages. This page mainly discusses the buildings and general camp setup.
This text was supplied by Jules Sabo. Do you have some memories of past camping experiences in the Thomas A. Edison Council that you would like to share?
Daily Activities, mid-1940s * Camp History
November 3, 2000