Directory History and Geography Spirit of the Horseshoe

1929 - 1940

Edited by David B. Woodward  [Contribute Info]

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

Campers, Staff and Cooks turn out for group photograph.

1929 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The name of our camp had been announced in the Camp Echo newspaper this past summer - "Our camp will be known as 'THE HORSESHOE' until an official name has been given it." Appropriately, that name became a fixture. The first Indian ceremonies in the new Council Ring built near the Sherwood Forest camp that summer also took on the name of "The Horseshoe."

Chief Heistand called upon his experiences with the W.W.W., the historical significance of the Indian history associated with our camp and his knowledge of Indian Lore to create campfire programs using Indian themes and ceremonies. The Indian pageants held to honor the Horseshoe campers that summer have formed one of the fine traditions that the campers enjoy to this day. At these end-of-the-week campfires the campers are still recognized for their individual and troop achievements just as they were in 1929.

As the Council grew and strengthened, so did the W.W.W. honor camping fraternity. In the fall of 1929, not only had they completed their ceremonial circle across the Octoraro, but they had made plans for a major service project that would have a lasting impression on Horseshoe. Their "Good Turn" project was to plant a grove of Norway Spruce trees between the north end of the Athletic Field and the camp road dedicated to the Eagle Scouts of Chester County. Each Eagle Scout would have a tree planted in his honor and the Eagle Grove would be maintained by the W.W.W.. This idea caught hold and it was soon thereafter that a number of Scoutmasters were interested in doing a similar planting at the southern end of the Athletic Field, arranged in the same configuration as the Eagle Grove. This, too, would be handled by the W.W.W.. The Lodge was indeed living up to the English translation of its Indian name, namely "The Brotherhood of those who serve cheerfully."


Ramsey & Ishbel - fascinating couple for campers.

1929 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Arriving on an Atlantic Refining Company tanker this fall were two special additions to camp, thanks to Chief Heistand. One of them was small and gray and "partly gentle", the other was larger, black and "will be gentle some day!" The new members at Horseshoe came from their native country, Texas, and were two burros. "Their arrival on our shores almost coincided with that of the British Prime Minister and his distinguished daughter, hence the burros' names - Ramsay(MacDonald) and Ishbel. Mr. Cole (C. C. Cole), our Camp Ranger was given custodial responsibilities for our new friends. Wearing bells, the burros soon became a popular fixtures at Horseshoe. 

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1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

One of the most important people at Horseshoe on a day in and day out basis is the Camp Ranger. Charles C. Cole, a native of Canada, came to Horseshoe after working a number of years on the construction of the Conowingo Dam. He was a familiar and friendly person to the campers, sporting a cow boy hat, pink chaps, vest and bandanna. Trailing printed the following poem about "Coley" written by Scout Frank Hope of Troop 2 of Downingtown:

"To Coley"

Here's one to Coley whom we all like,

He is a nice fellow, and I'll bet he can hike;

He likes the Scouts, and the Scouts like him,

He always wears a hat with a great big rim.

He is caretaker of the Boy Scout Camp,

And he can see in the dark without an electric lamp;

So all the Boy Scouts are going to camp,

While Coley is the caretaker of the Horseshoe Camp.

There are many stories of C. C. Cole to be told. He was the first of three generations of the Cole family to serve the Council at Horseshoe and who are serving to this day.

Memorial Day 1930 - Horseshoe Pool under construction!

1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
"Camping days are here again" read Trailing. A special announcement was made of Horseshoe's new pool. No longer would the Ol' Swimmin' Hole in the Octoraro Creek be used because the Council had constructed one of the largest, most modern of pools in the country.

Into the swim

1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
An "Open House" day was held at camp that June, hosted by the W.W.W. and the Camp Staff, for over 150 parents and friends of Scouting. A picnic lunch was held and visitors had an opportunity to tour camp and get their first glimpse of the pool. 

The W.W.W. Lodge major project was the construction of the Horseshoe on Flag Pole Hill. It was a major undertaking building stone benches, leveling the area and constructing a fence around the chapel with an appropriate entrance way off the Chapel trail. The sight was beautiful, allowing one to reverently contemplate his surroundings, overlooking the Octoraro, camp buildings, Athletic Field and the newly planted groves of trees. The chapel has come to mean much in the lives of our campers and in their respecting the 12th point of the Scout Law - a Scout is Reverent.

Justice Roberts opens new pool with Scout Jacobs

1930 - Contributed by David B. Woodward
Trailing reported that there were over 1600 friends and well wishers at Horseshoe to honor Associate Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts. This was the largest crowd to ever attend a Scout function in Chester County. A number of dignitaries, including President Wolcott, made brief remarks as the campers lined the sides of the pool. As the Associate Justice stepped forward to be recognized, Scout Philip Jacob brought from the waters of the new pool a large package which contained a gift for Mr. Roberts. He graciously accepted the gift of friendship from 200 Scouts in the County. 

Among the distinguished people present were our Scout Commissioner J. Gibson McIlvain and Dr. James E. West, the National Scout Executive. The dedication of the pool was a highlight of the work that Associate Justice Roberts did in raising funds for the Council. An impressive Retreat Ceremony was conducted on the Athletic Field Parade Grounds as the flag was lowered on top of Flag Pole Hill at the sound of the cannon. A camp fire later that evening brought an end to a perfect day.

Camp pool open for business following the dedication - buddy up!!

1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III

George Balderston (Horseshoe camper 1933 to 1937 - Jr. Leader 1937 and present day Scouter) recalls his days at Horseshoe:

"An annual event was the Hiawatha Pageant held on a Saturday evening, about the third or fourth week of camp. It was staged along the Octoraro Creek at the bend where present day Sunday evening campfires have been held. The Pageant was a dramatization of Longfellow's poem and was well attended family and friends of Scouts and Scouters."

"Shows were staged in Kindness Center several nights a week. A popular show was the dramatization of 'The Shooting of Dan McGrew'' by Robert W. Service."

"There was usually a night game once a week which was a contest between the Stockades - usually a variation of Capture the Flag."

As camp was coming to a close that summer, the campers were treated to a special Indian camp fire ceremony at the Horseshoe Circle. Under the direction of Ralph Elliott Blakeslee (who had been honored by the Sioux Tribe and given the title 'Chief Medicine Eagle') of Pittsburgh, an authority on Indian Ceremonies and histories, members of the camp staff put on an authentic ceremony. Needless to say the campers went away impressed and besieged Chief Medicine Eagle to return to camp again. He took time to visit Buzzard's Rock and to make a study of the mound builders' graves found in the vicinity of the Rock. He considered some of the pottery specimens found there to be historically significant.

At the foot of Buzzard's Rock during the summer, as Trailing reported it, a systematic excavation of the graves in the "Mound Dwellers Village" was continued by Bill Baldwin under the direction of Chief Medicine Eagle. Also, that summer ten campers enjoyed a fifteen-mile canoe trip - the first river trip of any significance. Seedlings had been planted and Eagle Scout and Scouters' Grove had been planted. Camp Ranger "Coley" reported on how the camp was going, of his enjoyment of the boys at camp and about the burros, Ramsey and Ishbel which our campers had enjoyed. He also announced that he had acquired a saddle horse named Sandy to go with his cowboy outfit. With all that happened at Horseshoe that year, it was one of the best camping years in the brief history of our Council.

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1931 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

Camp Retreat ceremony held on athletic field

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
... Yes. It was true...our Horseshoe burros were expecting an addition! The contest was on to name the baby burro. Would it be May-shoe? Rambel? Marcole? Napoleon? or? That was the burning question in the Council that spring. Well the name "Rambel" won and became the baby burro's name thanks to Joe Cole of the Rising Sun Troop. One of the features at Camp during this summer was the Camp Band that had been established in 1930. Invitations were extended in Trailing for Scouts to sign up. It was well supported until the summer of 1933 after which it took on a more modest appearance in later years.

Following the spring Jamboree and other Council activities, Horseshoe again beckoned the Scouts. Much was happening in the loop in the bend of the Octoraro. The trees planted by the W.W.W. to honor the Eagle Scouts and Scouters were being added to...the plantings were done in a semi-circle at opposite ends of the Athletic Field with seedlings being planted in the form of rays or spokes pointing away from the circle. Retreat ceremonies in those days took place on the field near the Eagle Grove.

Fire lighting skills practiced in stockage (early 30's)

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Camp attendance reached an all time record in 1931. Much of that success is attributed to the W.W.W. who had special round-ups to promote camp. Nearly 300 Scouts or 25% of our membership attended Horseshoe for at least one week. The vast majority stayed for two weeks. This year we had five Scouts attend from outside our Council. The merit badge programs were tops with 33 Scouts passing Life Saving merit badge and 56 the Swimming merit badge. Horseshoe's fine facilities and programs would serve to set the pace for other council camps.

The Fifty Year history of Devon Troop 50, recounts the experiences of some of its Scouts at Camp:

"The campers, among whom were Jim (Coleman) Sellers, Tom Parlaman, Bill Lyman,and Tom Casper were greeted by 'the Spirit of the Horseshoe' pageant. Both Jim and Tom...participated in 'The Covered Wagon' an Indian pageant produced for the enjoyment of those at camp. An article in the July 31, 1931 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin pictured another of Horseshoe's Pageants with the following description - 'Legend of Minnehaha portrayed by Chester County Scouts' at Horseshoe... Robert J. pictured on the bier of the funeral pyre in the role of Minnehaha, made famous by the poem by Longfellow' "

Such pageants were the forerunners of the present day pageants put on by the Order of the Arrow as the Horseshoe week comes to a close.

Cecil H. Good, who was one of our Council's Field Executive and assistant Camp Director, along with the Camp Steward toured big Scout camps in the Middle Atlantic and New England states that year to see what their facilities and programs offered. In the course of their journeys, they encountered Chief Heistand and Joe Brinton. Joe at this time was a Camp Director at the Ten-Mile River Camp in New York state. Cecil returned confident that Horseshoe was among the finest of camps they had seen! ...

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1933 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

... The 1933 camping season was the sixth at Horseshoe. "Coley" in these years took a strong role in helping to promote camp attendance throughout the Council. He would show up sporting his cowboy outfit and instantly became a hit for the boys. He would regale them with stories of camp and entertain them with his harmonica playing. Camp in those stark depression days was only $5. per week. What a bargain! And of course the campers were again greeted by "Coley's" four footed friends. We also had a number of deer on the property tucked away in the hills.

"The Horseshoe Echo" newspaper of July 22, 1933 reported:

"Big Medicine"

"The Pawnees are on the warpath tonight. Their medicine man has aroused their wrath against the pioneering palefaces. The cruel Commanches are scouring the plains in search of scalps. The Apaches have dug up the hatchet. With the Ojibwas and the Winibagos in their war paint, the frontier is no place for weaklins. What will happen to that small but sturdy band of pioneers who took the California trail?

Chief Medicine Eagle and his Indians, in one of the biggest out-door pageants ever produced at Camp Horseshoe, will disclose their fate tonight.

The only ox team in Lancaster County owned, trained and driven by H.J. Sprout, who drove them six miles to Camp this morning will be the feature attraction of the Pageant, The cast is as follows:

Hiawatha Pageant at the Bend in the Octoraro

1933 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Director: Ralph Blakeslee (Chief Medicine Eagle)

Indian Medicine Man: William Lear

Assistant Medicine Man: Al Love

Pawnee Snake Dancers: Happie Winham, William Sellers, Donald Ratchford, Wesley E. Campbell, Harold Sauers, Robert Whyte, William H. Kates, Thomas McIlvaine, Joseph Aronson, and William Murphy. Comanches: Richard Shepherd, Frank Sellers, Alvin Jones, Arnold Spohn, D. Stanford, and Richard Bolster. Chief of the Ojibwas - Glenn Wolfe; Ojibwas: R. Orcutt, D. Kunkle, J. Gotwals, Robert Bush, Ken Gable and J. Tomkins. Chief of the Winibagos - E. Dick; Winibagos: G. Terry, R. Strode, E. Savory, C. Kates, A. Steinmetz and W. Taylor. Old Guide: C. C. Cole. Father of the family: Donald McIlvaine."

And there were many more in the cast from the Camp. It seemed that the entire Camp participated. From the description, this was one of the more elaborate Pageants that was staged at Camp. At other times the Horseshoe Echo reported on the Hiawatha Pageant and others held during that summer.

This summer there was mention made in the July 18 Camp newspaper by Scribe Gilbert Cardwell of the "Wilderness Camp." He reports:

On Sunday two new boys came to the Wilderness Camp...Sunday evening officers were elected: Senior Patrol Leader - Cecil Good; Patrol Leader - Russell Gotwals; Assistant Patrol Leader - Palmer Raysor; QM - Fred Mowlds; First Aid Man - Don Roabough; Life Guard - Don McIlvaine; Craftsman - Loon Lawrence and Bugler - John Riedinger. 

By the following week, the wilderness Camp had been named Camp Thomas in honor of Ben Thomas of Malvern Troop 7. This camp was located off the Camp road coming into Camp. It would serve for a number of years for the older Scouts as an exploring base.

Rob McCarter, Scout Museum curator in 1994, takes note of a conversation he had with the 75+ year veteran Scouter Francis Maule of Rising Sun, Maryland about Ben Thomas before he passed away:

"Francis, being a 75 year Veteran of Scouting, was an integral part of the history of our Council. Seeking to preserve his Scouting memorabilia, it was turned over to me to become a part of the Scout Museum to which I am dedicated. He asked that I promise that if and when there was a history developed of the Council to make certain that one specific man be recognized that played a great role in the lives of boys of the County in its early years. That person was Ben Thomas. Ben was a Scoutmaster of the Malvern Troop and eventually served on the Council's professional staff. According to Francis Maule, Ben was like the "Pied Piper"... kids always gathered around him and followed him in those days whenever he turned up. Ben used to travel around the County in his old car and personally deliver Scout pins and badges to the troops from one end of the County to the other. He became a part of the Camp Horseshoe mystic when the first outpost campsite was named in his honor - "Camp Thomas."

Camp Staff circa 1935 with Chief Price and Ossie Spellman pictured at left.  The latest that this could be would be 1937 (Ossie's last year on staff).

1935 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Walter "Dutch" Kerwin was on the staff that summer. (He, by the way, became a ranking General in the Pentagon in later years.) Our 365 campers and 69 leaders may remember other staff members - like Hank Ewing at the pool, Bill Lear, Bob Jennings, Glenn Wolfe and so many others - who made the summer special for them. 

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1935 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

Boating on the Octoraro Creek

1930 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
... In those days, Horseshoe's fleet of "ships," consisting of canoes and row boats, sailed out of their waterfront base on the east part of the Athletic Field near the 'swinging bridge' that spanned the Octoraro. At a Board meeting in March 1935, it was decided to improve the boating area by constructing a rough rock dam with 500 tons of stone. The boating area dam was built on the Creek near the camp road, around the bend and down river from the docks. The facility proved very adequate in those days as silt and debris from up stream had not built up as it did in later years. Picture post cards of the day illustrated the fine boating facility the boys enjoyed.

Edgar "Gumps" McComsey was a camper in 1933 at Camp Horseshoe with the other members of Troop 74 of Coatesville. Following his being a camper, he served on the Camp Staff for several summers. Gumps reflects on his days of being a dishwasher:

"Calvin Trunk was a friend of mine from school who was in charge of the kitchen and who I worked for washing the dishes and keeping the coal fire going. We would have to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to start the fire so we would have hot water after breakfast to wash the dishes. You had to make sure you didn't overheat the water and turn it to steam because it would blow the valve and you end up with cold water. While you waited for the water to heat up, you would have to peel potatoes. There was always something to do...Cal saw to that!"

The Camp Echo in August reported activities in each of the Stockade camps at Horseshoe. The Sherwood Forest camp reported "A serious epidemic of 'Ear Lobes' broke out in our stockade last night. Even the leaders were smitten." From Boonesboro we read the following travelogue entitled "We Came, We Saw, We Left":

"The Boonesboroites left ... for a wild tour. We first visited Conowingo Dam. ... We then went to the great city of Rising Sun. We ate outside this big metropolis and then set sail again in the good ship 'Dodge' (car) for Charleston Beach. There we swam and ate (mostly ate). Ozzie (Spellman, who was Stockade leader of Boonesboro at the time) and Zell gave the girls a thrill in their swimming suits. En route to Camp Chesapeake, our spirits rising steadily, Ozzie was worried about the tires - but what did we care? We arrived home just in time to miss Retreat (Oh shucks), but we were in time for mess. A good time was had by all."

McIlvaine Winter Lodge built 1935 - 1936 by C.C. Cole and Camp Staff - dedicated 1940

1940 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The first winter lodge to be erected at Camp Horseshoe was built in 1935 and 1936 from lumber acquired from the Cecil Paper Mill Superintendent's house that stood on the hillside by the old Horseshoe road and overlooked the mill and the Octoraro Creek.

In the latter part of the 1935 camping season, the camp staff dismantled the Superintendent's house and hauled the lumber to the main part of Camp. There, under the supervision of Camp Ranger "Coley", the "two-patrol" weekend shelter was erected in the 1935 to 1936 period. The "New Building" was used for our winter campers. It was formally dedicated in 1940 to Gilbert McIlvaine one of the Camp Horseshoe founders and the Camp's chief architect. Today, it is more commonly known as McIlvaine Lodge.

Mr. Warren of the Camping Committee reported on another great year at Horseshoe for the Scouts. He did state that we needed to replace two canoes and two 'clinker type' rowboats. The total price for this new equipment was $212.80! But, then again, it only cost a camper $6.25 a week in those depression day prices. Even this expense prohibited some 200 boys from attending camp that summer. A later Board meeting dealt with this problem. ...

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1936 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

... The Training program conducted at Camp Horseshoe in May 1936 was successful. The work of the Training Committee and that of Commissioner Lisle served to maintain excellence in leadership for troops in the Council. The Camp Chief of Gilwell, Major Wilson, was on hand to guide the training of our leaders.

That spring, a new boat dock had been built under the direction of Mr. Dannenberg, architect, and Mr. Ossie Spellman, foreman. This afforded a much safer place to land after a refreshing "tour on the lake." The new canoes and rowboats greeted the campers. Bill Lear had painted special Indian names on the canoes. Much of the credit for the fine looking dock was attributed to Apprentice Sea Scout Joseph Nugent and Boatswain's mate William Weichart. The Sea Scouts were welcomed to camp and thanked for their service at the boat docks in The Camp Echo. 

1936 Camp Staff

Second Row Seated - Thomas Price (Camp Director) is on far left; J. Holland Heck, Program Director is on far right;

Third Row - Frank Beam is 4th from left.

1936 - Contributed by Anonymous
Forty-seven of our Council's 54 troops attended Horseshoe that summer. Scouts who did not have financial resources were able to attend thanks to the generosity of a number of businesses and contributors. Downingtown's Troop 2 had the best attendance with 34 of its 38 members at Camp. Following the Camping Chairman's report there was considerable discussion about improving camp attendance. It was agreed that Scoutmasters should be encouraged to attend with their boys or a troop committee member if the leader could not attend. It is to be noted that it was not customary for troops to attend camp as a unit. The camp was made up of conglomerate troop members in a "provisional" type unit with the camp providing leadership for such. ...

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1937 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

... Announced in it this spring were the senior staff members at Horseshoe. Camp Director is Chief Price with his assistant being C. M. 'Danny' Dannenberg who also would be Program director. Frank S. Beam, Scoutmaster of Parkesburg 35 was Camp Steward, and would be assisted by Cal Trunk, Troop 74. Albert Smith and Clarence were the cooks. Al Weeks, Scoutmaster of Avondale Troop 3, would be in charge of Swimming and Boating with Mercer Sloan, "an old timer at Horseshoe," assisting at the pool and "Bill" Wickert at the boats. Glenn Wolfe was in Handicraft. "Ossie" Spellman was returning for his last summer before going in to the field of Dentistry; Lee Lawrence would be a stockade leader; and "Dutch" Kerwin will have summer leave from West Point to return to the Staff as a stockade leader. There were six weeks of camp that summer and a seventh week devoted to black Scouts. ...

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1938 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

Fire destroys part of stockade campsite

1938 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III

In May, a strong wind forced a fire from adjoining properties to jump the Octoraro Creek and burn through part of the Camp Horseshoe Reservation. Camps Carson, Crockett and Taylor were destroyed along with a large tract of woods. Many Scouts, hearing this news rallied and went to Camp to assist in the clean-up and to help put camp back in order for the approaching season. The Council Board reacted swiftly and secured bids for reconstructing the camps. All but the Taylor site were ready at the opening of Camp. Bob Lorgus, a Scout in West Chester 6 (and Past President of the Council) remembers that time and his trip to camp to help. Bill Sellers of Troop 50 (later a Council Board Member), who was on the 1938 Camp Staff at Handicraft, headed up a group of Scouts from his troop to aid. 

Ranger C. C. Cole and J. Holland Heck, Program Director, meet.

1936 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III
The Horseshoe Staff in 1938 had several new men. J. Holland Heck became Program Director; Mercer Sloan, Eagle Scout of Troop 30 West Grove, was Swimming Director; William Sellers was Handicraft

1930's Staff with R.E. Blakeslee (Chief Medicine Eagle) in center; seated behind is Bill Lear, Sharpless Paxson and Merce Sloan.  Ike Whyte is seated to Blakeslee's right.  John Johnson is top row right.  Camp Director Thomas Price is standing on the left side.

Contributed by John B. Rettew III
Director for the second year; and the Camp Naturalist was Rev. Bentley R. Morrison, Scoutmaster of Troop 41, Warwick. "Coley" would hold forth as the ever popular Ranger. It was another fine camping season for the Council Scouts thanks to the spirited Camp Staff. Attendance hit a new high with 537 boys in camp from 44 of the Council's 58 troops. The Natureheart tent camp was established this year.


Another feature for the 1938 season at Camp was the specialty program to fit the desires of Scouts of fifteen or more years in age. Reverend Bentley Morrison, Camp Naturalist, formed a patrol of Senior boys in a Nature program at the Natureheart Camp site. Merce Sloan formed a similar 'patrol' for an aquatics program which would be encamped at the Octoraro Camp site...they were to be known as the "cliff dwellers" for where their tent camp was located.  ...

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1940 - Contributed by John B. Rettew III  [Contribute Info] 

... That summer, Scouts planted 22,000 trees at Horseshoe to reforest the section of camp burned out in the 1938 fire as well as other areas of camp. Camp attendance was again strong with an increase over the prior year. There was a delay in receiving the bequest to erect the Health Lodge as originally planned. However, moneys were made available later in the year to commence construction.  ...

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