Camp Sentinel's Recent History
Camp Sentinel in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire was spun off from the American Baptist Churches of VT/NH. This was a difficult decision to make but one that a clear majority of our leaders and lay people supported. In doing so, a "Board of Directors" was chosen as the means to oversee the new entity.
The Board of Directors appointed an Executive Director (Kevin Van Brunt) whose job is to oversee the development of Camp Sentinel. For Camp Sentinel, this translates into growing the number of campers as well as the support from individuals and churches.
The direct support from individuals and churches is critical as Camp Sentinel receives no money from the ABC VT/NH Region or United Missions giving in local churches. And it is precisely this financial support and increased number of campers that will become the foundation for the development of improved facilities at Sentinel.
The goal of all this is to ensure that Camp Sentinel is there to provide our children and our children's children with a similar experience to what many of us had while there over the past 50+ years.
The Sentinel Story
Those of you who enjoy history and the story of civilization know that each generation lays the foundation for further building in generations to come. This is true of Camp Sentinel's history. We begin our story as we tell it to the campers.
Eons and eons ago when God was creating his world, He caused a volcano to erupt, and from that upheaval the Ossipee Mountain Range was born, and nestled in the base of Mount Shaw was a beautiful little lake we call Dan Hole Pond.
The first inhabitants, once the earth had healed, were Indians. Their impact on the land was in accord with their oneness in spirit with nature and their respect for the creativeness of the Great Spirit. Their respect for all the works of His hands made them excellent environmentalists. They used only that which was needed to provide for food and shelter, and considered the animals as brothers.
In 1760-1770 events occurred to change the pattern of life for the Indians. The white man began to enter his territory. History tells us that two Grant brothers, tiring of their lives as sailors, came to the place we call Sentinel. One brother chose to build on what we call now the main campus of Sentinel. The other brother went through the valley to the other side of the lake and built his home there. In both areas cemeteries bearing the names of parents and children mark their time on the land. One of the cemeteries is in the middle of the girls unit, and the other is over in McDuffie's field. During their lifetime they cleared forests to create fields for grazing of cattle. Stone walls remain to mark their endeavors at farming. It had to be a hard life, for rocks grow faster here than any known crop.
Following the Grant family there were others...unknown by name...who tried their luck at farming. One venturesome individual decided to raise turkeys, but lost all of his flock in the bitter cold of winter.
History took a new slant in the early 1900s. A Judge Brackett from Massachusetts purchased the land to use for a summer vacation spot. He called it Brachett's Claim. He lived at first in the old farmhouse while he was building the Lodge. A summer thunderstorm set the farmhouse and the attached barn on fire, so he moved into the lodge, adding on to make it sufficient for his needs. He also built the building in the field, which we call the Hobby House.
He used it for a theater and imported actors from New York and Massachusetts to put on plays for the entertainment of his guests. He hired gardeners, and laid out garden fountains, making quite a show place of the old farm. It is interesting to note that although all his use of the land was only for his pleasure, God was working through him and his wealth to lay the foundations for camp which was to come; already two main buildings were built, a road to the Lodge was opened, and a water system pumped water from the lake. In 1930 Mr. Brackett died and his property was auctioned off.
The next owner was Alfred Avery. His purpose for buying the property was to open it in the summer for children from the Home for Little Wanderers so that they could have an experience of sharing country living. For many years he kept this project going. Then he decided that the youngsters would profit from a farm experience. So Sentinel Lodge...Mr. Avery's name for the camp...was not being used during the summer.
But the finger of God was pointing to a group of New Hampshire Baptists who in 1948 had asked Myrtle Auch to be their Christian Education Director. They gave her the task of finding a camp for our young people. Word got to them that Sentinel was available and in time the committee came to Sentinel and fell in love with its beauty and its possibilities. They met Mr. Avery and were given permission to use the land free of charge for summer camp. The lodge had a kitchen, a large dining room, and a large meeting room, which provided space for the first few years. The fishbowl served as the girls sleeping quarters divided into two sections by curtains.
The Hobby House moved from being a theater to being a craft shop and an indoor recreation hall for rainy days. The first summer of camping in 1949 Myrtle Auch had a budget of $600 for operating funds. She ended the season with $1 in the black.
The fundamental emphasis in our reason for being is to introduce children to the worlds of God's creation, to encourage them to live together in Christian fellowship, to share in Bible learning and worship experiences, and to lay the foundations for a firm Christian faith.
Since the beginning of the Baptist witness through Sentinel Baptist Camp, under the able leadership of Myrtle Auch, and until this day over 25,000 young people have experienced the out doors adventure and the love of Christ. New buildings have been built, new programs tried, but our reason for being remains the same.