Camp Pahaquarra
The Beginning, the Middle, the End

Summary by David Patterson

I have prepared a narration, based on newspaper accounts, and a review of the National Park Service reports on the Pahaquarra Copper Mine property. This summary describes briefly the beginning, the middle and the end of Camp Pahaquarra as the full time camping opportunity/facility for the Boy Scouts of the George Washington Council from 1925 to 1971, 46 years. I witnessed part of that history, for about 10 years.

Click here for a longer narrative, with pictures, of my personal experiences as a camper and staff member at Pahaquarra from 1955 to 1965. (editor's note: this is a big pdf, so be patient, definitely worth reviewing)
Pahaquarra and Scouting Memories, Volume 1
David Patterson's new book about Camp Pahaquarra is available online.
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The Beginning:
The Executive Committee of the Trenton Council, in September of 1924, had decided to purchase a new "North Jersey Camp". By November of that year they had investigated over 80 sites according to newspaper accounts.
In May 1925, Harry Bersendsen and his wife sold the former copper mining and logging property to the Trenton Council, BSA. Several unsuccessful mining operations were tried on the property and ended during the period 1913-1918. In 1913 the third mining process for the low grade copper ore (~2%) failed and the operating company went bankrupt. After several "sheriff sales" the former mining property was sold in 1918 for $30,250.
Timber cutting was the last commercial activity tried in the 1920 to1922 time period. Railroad ties and barrel staves were fashioned from the large population of suitable trees on the property. It was reported that some particularly good lumber for barrel staves was found on the higher land on the opposite (North) side of Mine Brook (also know as Deer Creek). Unfortunately the final commercial venture was not successful and the current owners (Harry and Oliver Deshler) could not pay their mortgage. After default on the mortgage to the Bersendsen's, the property sold to Trenton Council, BSA.
The Council finally had a new Camp. The Camp was opened immediately using some of the old building on the property. On June 1, 1925 the Trenton Council sponsored a trip to tour the purchased facility. Opening day was planned for June 18, 1925, but officially was opened July 25, 1925. Press releases of the day noted that the Camp, with over 1,450 acres, also owned 3/8 of mile of Delaware River frontage and the property extended all the was to the top of the mountain including ΒΌ ownership of Catfish pond.
Most of the Camp was located North of the Mine Brook with the exception of the re-use of several of the original mining buildings in the central area of the property. Tents and the parade filed were established North of the stream.
With a generous gift from the Roebling family, the mortgage for Camp Pahaquarra was retired in 1930. The Council now completely owned the Pahaquarra property.
Part of the original mine building became the dinning hall know as "Good Time Hall". The old mine office was used for a number of activities over these early years.
In 1936 the River Road from the Gap was realigned and the Deer Creek bridge built to accommodate the move of the road back from the river's edge at Pahaquarra. In 1939 the Council purchased additional land from the Dimmick family that became the final parade field, baseball diamond, nature area and other scout activities areas.
In 1940 the ferry service to Pahaquarra run by the Dimmick's family, was discontinued. The road from the gap North along the river to Pahaquarra was open, although some parts were not paved. The road over the mountain to Blairstown was also used for Camp travel.
In 1940 a tract of land North of Mine brook was sold to the Perth Amboy Council BSA. This property became Camp Cowaw. Camp Cowaw continued to use the Pahaquarra dining hall until they build there own in 1943.

In 1943 a new dinning hall was built at Pahaquarra, the original mine mill building was then razed.
In 1939 the Camp fee for one week was $8.00
In 1943 the Camp fee for one week was $10.50

The Beginning | The Middle | The End | Exit