Directory History and Geography Spirit of the Horseshoe


Edited by David B. Woodward  [Contribute Info]

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1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 


"O you who have been imprisoned in the great buildings, breathing the dead air;

Walking with broken feet upon the stony pathways;

Pouring over books with eyes dulled by the glamour of the streets.

Listen now to the lessons of the Spirit of the Horseshoe:

Come, Scouts, with me into Manito''s great forest;

There, your moccasined feet will learn to step as softly as the newly fallen leaf upon the earthly trails that wind through the arches of the great trees.

Your eyes will become as keen as those of the Bald Eagle as he darts upon his quarry from the blue heavens.

Your ears will open to the sound of the hunting beast as he stalks his kill.

Your body will become as lithe as the pliant panther and your muscles as strong as the battling bear.

Horseshoe will teach you to be true to your brother;

To speak not with the snake's double tongue, but to guard your word, once pledged, that it will never be broken.

In our pleasant valleys live health, happiness and sunshine;

In our hills are hidden the age-old secrets of the first Americans;

Every morning you will greeted by the sound of the birds.

With this sign, I make you free to all the hidden mysteries of nature.

I... the Spirit of the Horseshoe... have spoken!"


- Author Unknown

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1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

While the Council's Camporee was to be held at the Westtown School, most attention was being directed towards summer camp. The May 15 Trailing reports: 

"Things are humming down on the Octoraro these days. There are sounds of sledges and creaking wagons, and hammers and saws along the creek and on the hillsides. The trail up from the paper mill is being converted into a "road." It is now passable for horses and wagons all the way into the farm. The mess hall is taking shape and the clearings for the five camp sites, together with the trails leading to them, have all been made and the individual shelters staked out. ... The next few weeks will witness a great transformation on the loop of the Octoraro."

There have been a number of articles prepared in past years on the history of Camp Horseshoe and that part of Chester County. In 1944, then Chief Scout Executive Louis Lester prepared information for Council leaders and Scouters to commemorate the Silver Anniversary of the Council. Later, in the late 1950's, Reverend Edward B. "Casey" Jones prepared a brief history from which quotes have been made previously. "Casey" was a camper and Staff member and the son of H. Milton Jones, a long time Scoutmaster of Troop 35. A later history of Camp was done in 1973 by the Camp History Committee of Octoraro Lodge #22, Order of the Arrow. Each of these records provides an interesting perspective to present day readers. Today, they serve as a reminder for all who follow of the rich history of our Camp and the foresight of Chief Heistand and others who secured and have perpetuated it for us and future Scouts of the Chester County Council. 

In the brochure prepared by Chief Lester in 1944 he calls upon the writings by Judge W. W. MacElree. The following excerpts, entitled "Horse-Shoe Bend" are from the book "Around the Boundaries of Chester County." This book was written in 1934 by Wilmer W. MacElree, Esq. an historian, lecturer and author. Born in 1859, he was admitted to the Chester County Bar in 1880 and practiced law in West Chester. He was twice District Attorney for Chester County and served as Judge.

"Below Wood's Bridge the Octoraro meanders around the southwestern corner of West Nottingham Township and flows into Maryland; then loath to leave the state that gave it birth it turns northward once again and lingers long enough to murmur its farewell and having done so hastens on it its quest for the Susquehanna.

"Who first gave the name of "Horse-Shoe" to this portion of the Octoraro or when it was given is alike unknown.

"Perhaps it may not be altogether uninteresting briefly to give a history of the land embraced in this bond.

"There was a record in 1751 of a survey that was made by George Churchman for Robert Mitchel of "two small Pieces of Land Situate in a Loop of Octoraro Creek called the Horse-Shoe ford" , containing in both 70 acres and the usual allowance.

Joe Brinton's early picture - yes ... it is one of the stills.

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
"Some years later, Mitchel abandoned the land and in 1786, John Churchman surveyed the entire tract for himself and labeled it Crook Hill. One naturally asks why such a name was given to these acres in this beautiful turn of the Octoraro. In recent years., before the Scout Camp was organized, the number of illicit distilleries that were operated within its watery boundaries might well make such a designation appropriate, but my question relates to conditions in 1786. This question is apparently answered in Churchman's patent of July 14, 1786, in which the name is changed to Crooked Hill.

"In 1822, the land was sold for taxes to Charles Miner the scholarly editor of the Village Record. Later, he disposed of the property to Will Work for the sum of two hundred dollars.

"In 1826, it passed into the Reynolds family where it remained until the early part of the Twentieth Century.

"In this year of grace, 1933, I revisit Horse-Shoe and find many changes. Five hundred acres embracing not only Horse- Shoe Bend, but the hills encircling it, have passed into the control of the State of Pennsylvania and the Encamping Association, Chester County Council of Boy Scouts. What was once a wilderness has become a park.

"Is the site of Old Shawana Town within Horse-Shoe Bend? Those who think so say that the high land of the enclosure would have been an ideal spot for a Shawnee town and claim that an Indian trail crossed at Horse-Shoe Fording. They also point to the great quantity of Indian relics--arrow heads, lasts, axes and other tools that have been found upon this ground. An Indian trail did cross the Octoraro at a fording above the Horse-Shoe on Kirkpatrick's Bend. The grandfather of Graville Reynolds frequently spoke of this trail and fording and of the deer that came there to feed upon the wild vines and also of the herons that fished around an island in the center of the stream.

"But did an Indian trail cross the Octoraro at Horse-Shoe Fording? If so, was it the fording referred to in a road preceding of 1719? The road returned by the viewers started "on ye west side of Jonas Arskins Land at a poplar Marked to Six Notches thence East & be North by u Course of Marked Trees Until it Comes to ye fording Place att Octtararo att ye old Shawana Town. Thence, over Octararo allong ye Indian Path to a Birch Tree by ye Side of ye hill along ye path Side Marked by Six Notches". From this point the course is mainly easterly until it passes by the south side of the Brick Meeting-house.

"It is clear that a good part of this road ran through that portion of "Nottingham Lotts" that lay south of Mason and Dixon's Line.

"But enough of the past. Today you will find five camps in Horse-Shoe Bend bearing the names of Kit Carson, Boonesboro, Fire Circle, Sherwood Forest and Bayard Taylor. These camps form a crescent and are reached by various trails. One of them is called Alamo; another, Santa Fe; while the third has the sinister but alluring designation of Pirates' Trail. What Scout when following this path for the first time, could fail to experience the thrill of his life.

Camp pictured from Flagpole Hill

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The following interesting bits of information about the different places in camp was from the Silver Anniversary narrative by Chief Louis Lester:

Mason and Dixon Marker - stands in iron cage off the pool trail.

Swimming Pool - Erected in 1930, cost $22,700. Dimensions 150' x 35'. Flood of Fall 1931, filled the pool, filled filter room, damaged pump, flooded playing field, carried small bridge leading to pool across playing field, and deposited it across the ditch below the deer pen.

Eagle Scout and Scouters Groves - more of these projects in later chapters.

Swinging Bridge - First taken out by flood of 1931, again in 1932, and in 1933 took out trees and bridge and again in 1935.

"No County Bottom" - Site of the little Horseshoe, creek formerly was boundary line of Mason and Dixon and also between Chester County, Pennsylvania and Cecil County , Maryland. Creek changed its course cutting the Horseshoe deeper into Chester County. Mr. Reynolds who owned the Horseshoe Farm, got in an argument with Mr. Taylor who owned the Taylor Property, with the result that Reynolds shot Taylor, not seriously, but put him to bed for a while. There ensured a law suit, but no definite conclusion.

Spar Mine - Many years ago, spar was taken from the mine, hauled by oxen teams to the top of the hill (about where Coley's house now stands) and hauled six mule teams to Rising Sun, loaded in cars and shipped away to be used in potteries for glazing chinaware. While the spar has considerable commercial value, to mine it to advantage would cause serious damage to the property.

Camp Ranger C. C. Cole with cowboy hat and chaps.

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Coley's House - (This was the original Camp Ranger's residence, in 1994 rented to tenant) Known as the Taylor House, was owned many years ago by three bachelor brothers, by the name of Taylor. One of them disappeared many years ago in a very mysterious fashion. It was common gossip in the neighborhood that he was killed by the other two and buried back of the pump. His ghost is supposed to have reappeared regularly, in fact, a man by the name of Bob Hedge fired at the ghost and the bullet holes are visible just outside of the windows. Hedge moved away, and the following year , seven families moved in and out, not being able to stay because they said the house was haunted. When Coley moved in, the Ghost is said to have moved out.

Paper Mill Site - In Revolutionary times this was the site of an old forge where Arms were made for the Revolutionary forces. They used charcoal for fuel which was made near Goat Hill. Years later, it was changed to a paper mill manufacturing rough paper, which was hauled elsewhere for finishing. During the World War, Sears Roebuck & Co. owned the plant and manufactured wallpaper. The plant was then sold to a man by the name of Cochran, who operated it for a time. It was later sold for taxes to the Boy Scouts. The building was dynamited because of its being a serious hazard to those driving by. In 1935 the Superintendent's House was dismantled and moved to the main camp where Coley superintendented the erection of the new week-end shelter. The big dam was wrecked by an ice dam in the Spring of 1932. The noise could be heard for some distance over the surrounding country. The quick rush of the water left ice on the road as high as four feet, single cakes being as much as 10" long and 4 to 5" wide and very thick. This closed the road for five weeks, and as a result, it was necessary for weekend Troops to come in by way of Coley's house and over the swinging bridge to Camp.

Camp Thomas - Named after "Uncle Ben" Thomas, formerly Scoutmaster of Malvern 7 and Assistant Executive of Chester County, was erected in 1935 by Campers and in the charge of Cecil H. Good, former Scoutmaster of Troop 70 of Thorndale and Assistant Executive.

Grey Horse Church (or as it was known, the Octoraro M.E.Church), was built early in the 18th century. The name "Grey Horse Church" received its familiar but unofficial name for an old grey horse that was used to bring the wood and materials from the mill in back of the Green property. The Mason and Dixon Line runs through the structure, the pulpit being in Chester County, PA., the rest in Cecil County, Maryland. There have been no services held in it for about 40 years. At one time, the Boy Scouts tried to buy it but were unable to do because of the price asked for it. The Council tried to protect it by boarding it up, but it was impossible to keep tramps and vandals out. The building is now a complete wreck.

Goat Hill - A very steep hill you encounter after leaving the church coming toward Camp. Named so because some goats are supposed to have fallen over the hill and been killed. This was the site of a number of stills. Also, nearby is a two acre tract, title for which was held by the Ducychinck Estate of Rising Sun for many years. When the Boy Scout Council purchased the Camp Site, a two acre tract was overlooked. However, they were able to purchase the two acres at a reasonable figure.

Buzzards Rock - Overlooked the site of an Indian Village. (Lenni-Lenapes of the Delaware). They used the big rock for shelter, as a lookout station, as well as a prayer rock. They pastured their horses on the Lewis property across the creek. Some Indians were buried under the rock as various cooking utensils, bones, a tomahawk and peace pipe were found. It is believed that many more valuable articles are still buried there. However, no digging should be done except under expert supervision and all articles found are the property of Camp Horseshoe. It was here that the charcoal was made for the old forge. 

Claude Lewis Property - 110 acres, now a part of Camp Horseshoe, purchased from Federal Land Bank of Baltimore in 1932. If it is ever possible to have horses as part of the camp program, this would make an excellent site for such a camp.

Horseshoe Fording - Years ago a tragic accident occurred here following a cloud burst, as a woman was crossing the creek in a buggy. The very high water, logs, etc., came down, overturned the buggy, dumped her into the raging torrent, drowning both her and the horse. Her body was taken out of the creek near the cave which is the site of an attempt made by Mr. Reynolds to tunnel under flag pole hill to short cut the Octoraro.

The old road from the Fording up the hill past the New Building and thence to the Browning Memorial, was formerly the County Road from Lancaster County to Rising Sun.

"No better place in Chester County could have been selected for a Scout camping ground than this unique combination of land and water. Other places offer large level tracts and rocky hills but their streams lack the charms of the winding Octoraro.

"Besides these features the site of old Shawana Town cannot be far away. With such a stimulant to fancy it would not surprise me if a youthful scout of imaginative vision were to see in the dusk of evening some flitting wraiths of Shawnee warriors among the rocks and the trees of this long, wild wooded revine."

Following this excerpt from MacElree's treatise is a further description of our Reservation which was offered by Chief Scout Executive Louis Lester in that same anniversary message.

"Interesting has been the history of Horseshoe Farm, now the property of the Chester County Council, Inc., Boy Scouts of America and the camping grounds of Chester County Scouts. Early American Pioneers, marching westward into Lancaster County, marveled at the perfect horseshoe formed by the Octoraro Creek at a point where the public road from Port Deposit to Lancaster crossed it by the fording. For three and a half miles this beautiful woodland stream took its graceful bend, almost forming a complete circle, and no wonder the weary traveler tarried on his way to admire nature's handiwork.

In 1826 the property was conveyed by Samuel Reynolds to his son Ira. Much of the farm was still covered with a fine stand of timber. Ira Reynolds commenced his task by cutting cord wood and hauling it to the Reynolds' Pottery below Rock Springs, the old Reynolds' homestead. When the ground was cleared, rye was the principle crop planted. Ira Reynolds continued clearing, meanwhile building a large double-deck barn, a wagon shed and a smoke house. Little by little the beautiful and fertile Horseshoe Farm took shape, and ever since the place has been known far and wide by the now familiar name.

Ira Reynolds turned the property over to his son, B. F. Reynolds, who continued to keep up the fine standard of farming exemplified by his forefathers. At one time he surveyed the narrows of the hill with the intention of tunneling it for water power. The length of the tunnel would have been three hundred sixty foot.

For a long time the farm was widely advertised for its water power and mineral supply, and in 1903 the place was sold to the Tyson Mining Company for its minerals. Among these were low grade ores of many kinds, including gold. The project, however, was shortly abandoned.

When the Chester County Council set out to secure a camp location closer to their county seat then Camp Rothrock, Mr. Reynolds suggested Horseshoe Farm. To his keen delight the Council's committee finally made its decision in favor of the old Octararo Farm.

The deal was consummated in 1928 and work began in earnest under the direction of Robert Wolcott, President; J. Gibson McIlvain, Treasurer; Gilbert McIlvaine, Architect; C. M. Heistand, Scout Executive and many others.

From "Casey" Jones' Brief History of Horseshoe, we learn:

Horseshoe Reservation Headquarters

1928 - Contributed by David B. Woodward
"The architect, Gilbert McIlvaine, immediately set to work to design a camp. Work on the Camp was begun in May, 1928, and the first season opened on July 19th. The buildings already on the property were the first to be utilized. The old flint dwelling had long since become inadequate for the Reynolds family, and a larger home was constructed out of local field stone just up the hill from and to the south of the original flint home. The exact date of the building of this new farmhouse is not definitely known. Upon the opening of the Camp, this building became the headquarters and was used as such for a number of years. The first floor of this building originally contained three rooms, each with its own fireplace. The second floor contained floor contained four rooms with no hallway to connect them. The attic contained one large room. In order to make the house more usable as a headquarters building, the smaller rooms on the first floor were made into one room and one of the fireplaces was closed up. The second floor was provided with a wash room, and hall was added. The third floor was divided into two storage rooms. For 18 years, the first floor was used as the Camp office and First Aid Station, the second floor containing the Director's Office, Staff Quarters and the Infirmary.

When the new Camp Headquarters was completed in 1947, the old headquarters building was renovated with funds partly secured by the Mothers Auxiliaries of the County, and equipped for the use of mothers and other ladies who may be visiting the Reservation. The furniture for the first floor was secured and presented by the Mother's Auxiliary of District One. The renovated building with equipment and furniture was put into use in its complete form on Robert's Day, July 24, 1948.

Kindness Center donated by SPCA in 1928 houses Handicraft and Trading Post.

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The old barn on the property, which had been unused for many years, was destined to become the site of many happy events. The only usable part of the old structure was the foundation. Upon this was built "Kindness Center" which is described in the original Dedication Program of the Camp on July 28, 1928 as a "...fine large building erected by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as a building for the use of the boys of Pennsylvania wherein they may study animals, birds and living creatures and how best to extend kindness to them and how to prevent cruelty, all of which is part of the Scout Program. A large hall with a stage is provided, wherein officers and members may give lectures and show /Pictures teaching the objectives of the Society and for other purposes not inconsistent therewith. There are also two large stone fireplaces, a reading and a writing room, a museum, a large basement room for handicraft, and a fine large porch. The whole is certainly in keep with the Society's broad teaching that 'Kindness is more powerful than compulsion.'"

Scoutmasters' Lodge dedicated to Edward H Browning and Kindness Center now open.

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The main floor of the Kindness Center is ideal for the holding of indoor games and activities. The two large fireplaces provide excellent facilities for campfires when the weather does not permit the holding of them outside. A fireplace was also placed in the Handicraft Lodge for the warming of the shop on cool days. 

All of the newly constructed buildings on the property were of cypress, a wood that was plentiful and relatively inexpensive at the time of building. The selection of the wood for building is but another example of the foresight and straight thinking of the Council leaders, for this is one of the few types of wood in the world that is not affected by water, and will not rot, requiring no paint or wood preservative.

The foundation and broad beams of the old wagon shed became the basic materials for the building of a winter lodge building. This contained a large fireplace and sleeping accommodations for any troop desiring to camp in the winter. Originally named "Scoutmaster's Lodge," this building was erected through funds given by citizens of the Main Line as a memorial to Edward Browning, the first scoutmaster of Troop 50 of Devon. Several years after its construction, the official name was changed from "Scoutmaster's Lodge" to "Browning Memorial," the name by which it is known today. In order to take care of the needs of winter campers, several changes have been made in the building to provide better facilities.

Dining Hall under construction

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Also built at this time was perhaps in many ways the most important building on the property -- the Dining Hall. Originally being laid out as a T, the building was designed for maximum ventilation and light. The Dining Hall is large and roomy with a large fireplace and a high peaked roof. This building was erected through the generosity of the Manufacturer's Casualty Insurance Company of Philadelphia during the presidency of James K. Allen, hence, its official name, "Allen Memorial."

Allen Memorial Dining Hall open for business in 1928.

1928 - Contributed by David B. Woodward
The first stove in the kitchen was operated on wood and a good strong wind. On calm days it was doubtful if the meals would be on time, or if it was, it would seldom be hot. Later, the stove was adapted to use coal. Many will remember the old coal shed in back of the building next to the shower, where, after taking a shower, your feet were blacker than they were before you went in! This, however, all changed when bottled gas was used and the water was heated automatically. 

Scouts bunk houses in Stockade campsite

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Five camps were erected to accommodate the scouts coming to camp. Each campsite was designed to hold 32 boys and 2 leaders. These sites too, were constructed of cypress wood and were in keeping with the general design of the larger buildings on the property.

The camp program was centered in these individual campsites, as can be seen from this descriptive literature for the camp in 1928.

"Each camp has its own special program of activities, its own name, and is entered by a separate trail, as follows: Camp Unami, the Indian Lore camp, reached by the "Unami Path." Camp Daniel Boone, the Pioneering and Nature Lore camp, reached by the "Wilderness Trail." Camp Kit Carson, a beginners' camp, reached by the "Santa Fe Trail."

Camp Davy Crockett with 1928 Scouts

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Camp Dave Crockett, another beginners' camp, reached by the "Alamo Trail." Old Ironsides, the Sea Scout and Water Activities camp, reached by the "Clipper Wake."

Several of these names will sound familiar to Horseshoe Scouts and Scouters today, while others are foreign. Camp Unami is today's Sherwood Forest; Camp Daniel Boone is now Boonesboro; and Old Ironsides after being Camp Mason- Dixon in 1929, Pirates in 1930, is known today as Bayard Taylor in honor of the great Chester County writer.

For two years, from 1928 to 1930, the scouts attending camp used the waters of the Octoraro for swimming.

The Octoraro Creek, which caused the trouble between Messrs. Reynolds and Taylor would be an interesting story in itself, but we will confine our considerations to its relation to Horseshoe. The name Octoraro was first used to designate a subtribe of Indians having a village near the eastern banks of this stream on land in Upper Oxford Township, Chester County. There are various spellings of this word that appear in documents of the 18th and 19th centuries: Octorara, Octoraroe, Octeraroe, Ouchteraroe. Its exact meaning is not known, some say it means "where money or presents were distributed, others say it means "Muddy Waters." But as W.W. MacElree states in his book Around the Boundaries of Chester County, "No possible spelling or interpretation of the name, however, can affect the beauty of the stream."

Judge MacElree in the above-mentioned book recalls a visit to the Horseshoe Bend during a rainstorm when he describes seeing the "Octoraro in its wildest mood." On several occasions, the camp has suffered from the wild moods of the Octoraro, the latest being on August 9, 1942.

The old swimming hole behind Taylor camp

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
An interesting fact concerning the waters of the Octoraro , is that for many years the Pennsylvania Railroad would use no other water for its engines on the Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York trains, for they claimed that it was "The purest large stream of water in Pennsylvania."

Not only have the waters of the Octoraro been used for steam engines, but for baptisms, and for the transportation of bootleg whiskey! The Horseshoe loop was notorious for the number of stills found on the property. This property was useful for such illegal purposes because of its relative isolation, and also because it was on the Mason Dixon Line and had a good stream of water passing nearby. The isolation is self-explanatory. The convenience of a state line made it possible to pass from one state to another if at any time officials should happen by. The stream made it possible to float the barrels of liquor down to the dam where it was removed and distributed to a waiting market.

Many 'old timers' in the Council like to tell of the time when they visited the property before it was purchased by the Chester County Council. After negotiating the rough road into the Horseshoe farm, they parked near the present site of Kindness Center and walked over to the farmhouse (White House). Unlocking the door, they entered and went upstairs, there to find a number of hats and caps resting quietly on pegs on the wall, but their owners were nowhere to found!

When walking up the beautiful Chapel trail to Chapel on a Sunday morning, it is difficult to imagine that along that very same trail, not too many years ago, bootleggers were being pursued by armed officers of the law. A number of still sites were found over the hill from the present site of the Chapel, back of the old Gray Horse Church. This section was quite remote, especially after services ceased in the Church. Hence, it provided an excellent location for distilling liquor.

It is interesting how almost the same section of ground can be used for two so vastly different purposes. The Grey Horse Church, or as it was officially named, the Octoraro Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in the early 18th Century to provide a place of worship for the nearby farmers. An interesting fact about this building is that the pulpit was in Chester County, and the remainder of the church as in Cecil County, Maryland, the Mason Dixon Line passing through the very church itself. At one time, it was quite popular to hike up to the site of the Church and bring back a key from the old pump organ that was in the Church, just to prove that you had hiked all the way up the hill.

Although the Grey Horse Church is nothing but a memory and a group of crumbling ruins, there still remains on the property a center devoted to the spiritual training of those coming to Horseshoe - the Chapel. Situated on the hill overlooking the road, it commands perhaps the best view on the entire Reservation. From the Chapel can be seen the White House, the Athletic Field, Eagle Grove and Scouters Grove, and other outstanding buildings. The site was selected by the Order of the Arrow in 1929 and none can ever object to their choice. Using field stone for pews and the pulpit, the sky above and the trees all around provide a setting to put many elaborate man-made cathedrals to shame. One can't help but be inspired by just sitting and looking over the Almighty's handiwork. The Sunday School and Chapel Service have become a Horseshoe tradition and what Scout or Scouter can help but go away a better person after attending the service on a bright Sunday morning. The works, "Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, and all the twinkling, starry host..." take on a new and different meaning when sung in God's great outdoors.

But the Order of the Arrow was not the first Indian "organization" to appear on the loop of the horseshoe, for not far from the site of the Chapel or from Grey Horse Church is the well know Buzzards Rock, a former shelter, look-out station, and Prayer Rock, for the Lenni-Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians. Below the rock was an Indian Village, while directly across the creek was a large grassy plot which was used to pasture their horses. Many articles such as cooking utensils, bones, tomahawks, arrow heads and peace pipes, were found under the rock, which would indicate that this was a sacred spot used for burning.

Some authorities think the Delawares were not the only group of Indians that ever used the Horseshoe Loop as a camping ground, but that this was the site of the Old Shawana Town that was reported to have been in this section of the county. This group of Indians migrated from the south to the southern area of Pennsylvania, but the exact location of their settlement has never been definitely determined. To support their claim they refer to a road proceeding of 1719 stating "...on ye west side of Jonas Arskins Land at a poplar marked to Six Notches thence East and be North by u Course of Marked Trees Until it Comes to ye fording Place at Octararo att ye old Shawana Town. Thence over Octararo allong ye Indian Path to a Birch Tree by ye side of ye hill along ye path Side Marked by Six Notchs."

But whether the land was inhabited by one or two or even more groups of Indians, it seems to many that they have never entirely left the horseshoe loop, but still linger, if in spirit only. The Saturday night Indian pageants presented by the Order of the Arrow keep fresh in our memories the contribution to American life and to Scouting of these early native Americans. As the pageants unfold, a feeling of the Chief is true: "The Spirit of the Horse's Hoof is today the Spirit of the Horseshoe...and often on a summer evening, he returns to this sacred spot, where we stand, and gives his blessing to all who hear him - and when he talks he speaks in this wise. In the voice of the birds, of the rain, and in the gentle nestle of the trees; the Spirit of the Horseshoe is ever about us. Let us all be worthy of the presence."

Horseshoe's first camp award

Contributed by David B. Woodward
There is considerable historical significance to Horseshoe and there is a certain amount of importance in having fine facilities for our campers; however, it is also extremely important to provide high caliber leadership to the Camp and deliver a quality program to the Scouts that would instill in them a sense of pride in the Camp and help develop in them the qualities Scouting purports. The first year at Horseshoe Farm in 1928 was an exciting and significant one for the Scouts and leaders. The Dedication Ceremonies were set for Saturday, July 28 at 3pm.

Chief Heistand was Camp Director as he had been in the previous years at Rothrock; however, he was to realize the dream that he had for the Council and the Scouts in the opening of Horseshoe. The Camp Staff that year included C. C. Schmidt of Downingtown as Assistant Director adjutant, and quartermaster; C. W. Keller, Eagle Scout, having five years experience was assistant quartermaster and mess sergeant; M. L. Seibert was activities director; E. Gerald Smith was camp physician; William Lear was handicraft director; Jules Prevost (who had served on the Rothrock staff for many years), Eagle Scout, was in charge of water activities and sea scouting; Elwood C. Stabeley was in charge of the nature lore and pioneering camps; Howard Smolleck, an anthropologist and archeologist of the American Museum of Natural History, was director of the Indian Lore Camp. Another man who had served with Chief at his first year at Rothrock, Joe Brinton, was director of Camp No. 1. Donald G. Hughes was director of Camp No. 2. Other staff members to assist with the camp operations included: Bruce Ritchie, Phoenixville Troop 15, Bugler; Ward Northeimer of South Coatesville Troop 20; William Baldwin of West Chester Troop 21; Robert Abbe, Eagle Scout, from Unionville Troop 22; Abraham McIvaine, Eagle Scout, from Downingtown Troop 2; David Heilig of Downingtown 2; Charles Congdon of West Chester Troop 14; Raymond Watson, Eagle Scout, of West Chester 21; Everett Brown of Coatesville Troop 8; John Darlington of West Chester 14; William K. Hathaway, Jr., Eagle Scout, of West Chester 21; William Larkin, Eagle Scout, Downingtown 2; Chandler Bernard of Kennett Square Troop 57; David Woodward of Malvern Troop 7; Thomas Gillingham, Eagle Scout, of Oxford Troop 13 served as curator of the Camp's museum. Camp Chef and assistant were Sylvanus Jones and V. Jones from West Chester State Teacher's College.

Community leaders gather for dedication ceremonies in 1930's

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The formal dedication of Camp was attended by more than 500 people. Reportedly, "the rain (Horseshoe Dew?) of the night before and the bad reputation of the road to camp kept some of the more timorous friends of Scouting away." Council President Robert W. Wolcott spoke briefly setting forth plans on the maintenance and expansion of camp. Then, representing the contractor, Mr. George Sharn presented a large key to Gilbert McIlvain, Camp Architect, who then presented it to President Wolcott signifying that the camp had officially completed and turned over to the people of Chester County through their representatives, the Chester County Boy Scout Council.

Interspersed among the speeches were songs, music by the Camp Bugle Corps and Indian ceremonial dances. The principal address was delivered by State Secretary of Agriculture Jordan. He was introduced by Council Commissioner Gilbert McIlvain, who by the way, was also president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This is the society who erected the Kindness Center, on the porches of which the audience was seated. The program was impressively concluded by the ceremony of "Retreat." Afterwards the Scouts conducted small parties over the camp.

One of the noteworthy items of camp that summer was the feat of Berwyn Troop 11 under the leadership of "acting scoutmaster" Scout John McMahon. They left Berwyn on Thursday morning and hiked the 60 some miles to Camp, arriving Sunday morning after church services. The experience of a lifetime for those young Scouts. Nine of the boys spent two weeks at camp that summer.

Camp that summer was a success in spite of the fact that opening was delayed to complete construction! More than 400 different boys representing 40 different troops from every section of the County had the experience of a lifetime there. Many accolades were received including that of the Secretary of the Coatesville Chamber of Commerce who had been there for a Court of Honor and commented " was a group of 150 boys in camp for a vacation, spending a part of their time learning how to become useful citizens and, best of all having a wonderful time in the learning." Walter C. Burkey, Scoutmaster Malvern Troop 7, commented at the time - "in a few years this will be the ideal camp, far beyond the dreams of any of us. The work and planning done by Chief and his assistants has been stupendous...the new camp has possibilities that were undreamed of at Rothrock. ...if we put our Rothrock spirit into the new camp, we will have the camp of Chief's dreams - the best in the whole United States."

Ernie Heegard remembers numerous conversations he had with Chief Heistand and Joe Brinton over the years when Ernie served as Camp Director. One of the interesting things Ernie recalls being told about Camp in those days and for the years up to the 1950's is: 

Scouts march past Scoutmasters Lodge (now Browning Memorial)

1928 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
"The original practice at Camp Horseshoe was to break up Scout Troops and form provisional troops. This was to give the boys a different perspective of Scouting and to have it serve as a learning opportunity. Scoutmasters were permitted in Camp, however, they were not permitted to stay with their troop. They were camped in Browning Memorial Lodge which had been identified as Scoutmasters' Lodge before its dedication. This again was apart of the scheme for the leaders to exchange ideas and serve as a training experience."

On September 7, 1928, the Scoutmasters' Lodge was officially dedicated. The Rev. Croswell McBee of St. Davids Church of Wayne gave the invocation. Scout Isaac H. Whyte read the framed testimonial to, the memory of Edward Browning. Mr. Richard Warren, Camping Chairman, made the presentation speech and J. Gibson McIlvain made the acceptance. A large representation of Devon Troop 50 Scouts, leaders and friends were on hand for the ceremony. The Troop 50 Scouts remained in camp over night.

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1929 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

A fund drive was announced in May for the Council to raise $150,000. for camp for improvements and maintenance. Everyone was called to do their bit by the Campaign's Chairman, Owen J. Roberts, who said "This money is being raised for Scouts of tomorrow as well as those of today."

Early view from Chapel Trail of boating on the Octoraro and the Athletic Field

1929 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Horseshoe opened in June for eight weeks of camping. The road into camp from Baltimore Pike had been improved this year and the Octoraro Creek was dammed in back of Frontier Camp (now known as Camp Bayard Taylor) for swimming. Richard "Link" Rice was one of the first year campers to take advantage of the swimming hole. Old time campers noticed the new swimming place on the Mill Dam with its rafts, spring boards and chute. As Trailing comments: "They followed the trail that leads over the swinging bridge, through the thick forest of the 'peninsula,' down to the banks of the dam, in real story-book old swimmin'-hole style." Also, campers noted the fine gift of the Phoenixville Mothers' Auxiliary of a folding cabinet organ , or melodeon, for outdoor chapel services and other outdoor programs. (This gift is still in use to this day, with foot power providing the wind to sound the's getting harder and harder to pump it these days!

Indian campsite erected under direction of Chief Medicine Eagle

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
In 1994 the organ was still in use thanks to the reconditioning it received from Clarke Green, Scoutmaster from Troop 24) A piano also had been donated for use in Kindness Center.

Teepees and an Indian camp were erected on the northern side of what is presently the parade ground. Here the Scouts would experience how our native Americans lived and some of the elements of their culture. 

The Camp Echo newspaper was first published this by Joe Brinton, Assistant Camp Director and several Staff members, including Henry Heintzelman and Isaac Whyte, and reporters - David Heilig, Chandler Bernard, Ward Northheimer, Robert Abbe and Merton Yerger. The first issue provided campers with the history of camp, and the requirements to earn the Camp Award, consisting of a red Horseshoe with a red Indian inside. To earn the felt camp emblem the Scout had to pass these eight requirements:

1. Pass a Swimming Achievement test.

2. Take at least one Overnight Hike during the camp period.

3. Pass a First Aid Achievement test.

4. Do an approved Camp Improvement.

5. Make an approved article of Handicraft.

6. Pass at least three approved Tests of the next highest rank or two Merit Badges if a First Class Scout.

7. Take part in all Camp Activities.

8. Receive the approval of the Camp Staff.

The Echo continues to reflect the experiences of the Scouts and their troops in camp to the present day. 

Horseshoe Ceremonial Circle

1929 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
This year an official name became associated with the Reynold's home that was used as camp headquarters. From this year forward it would be known as "The White House."

A new Council Fire Ring was built this year in the shape of a horseshoe with three fire pyres lighted for the campfire programs. This year the W.W.W. completed its own Ceremonial Circle, constructed an out door chapel for the use of the camp on Sundays, and presented a set of chimes which were played each evening (for many years) after Taps was sounded. This was the bell-chime tower that many Scouts recall. It stood near the gate to Boonesboro where it could be heard up and down the Stockade Trail.

Skull gate at Horseshoe Circle

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Goat Hill had been renamed "Flag Pole Hill" and a small salute cannon was placed on a concrete base near the flag pole to be shot off at sunrise and sunset just before the flag is raised and lowered.

This summer there were 45 troops represented at Horseshoe. Trailing reported: "The average weight gain per boy while at camp was 2 1/2 pounds. One boy gained 8 1/2 pounds!" The W.W.W. boasted new members that summer and over 50% of the campers earned the Camp Award. By all reports in Trailing this was another exceptional camping season under Chief Heistand's leadership and great staff including Joe Brinton.

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