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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Summer Camps on Horsehead Bay

Ariel view from Horsehead Bay to Narrows (taken sometime after 1954 when Fox Island Bridge built) Harbor History Museum Collection


Someone asked me if I knew anything about Kopa Chuck Lodge, or if a blog had been written about it.  Personally, until that very moment, I had never heard it’s name.  Nor had I seen anything about it in all my readings about the earliest days on the greater Gig Harbor Peninsula.

Then I happened to find a picture  the internet with the caption reading something like the following: “1925-Buena Vista Point on Horsehead Bay.  A Girl Scout Camp on 22-acre tract of virgin timber land.  The Scouts were housed in 12 cabins behind a large recreation hall and under the supervision of Mrs. Arnold Schrup and Miss Mable Mentor for 6 years.  They held water pageants and also had 12 boats”.

 Otherwise my search was coming up empty until Clark Rowland handed me a paper reading as follows:
Kopachuck Lodge (Harbor History Collection)


Kopachuck Lodge in Horsehead Bay
“Written by Terry Grant Feb. 1979:

“Near the mouth of the bay, on the east side, was a piece of land gently sloping down to a gravely beach.  This was given to the Tacoma Council of Girl Scouts in the early twenties.  The Scouts built a lodge of large logs with a huge stone fireplace at either end.  Small cabins with bunks were built for sleeping quarters.  A very long dock dominated the beach.  All summer long the Girl Scouts came and went, some for a week or two, some for all summer.  Dr, Judd gave the land with the spring on it which supplied water for the camp.  It was a delightful place for a summer camp, with afternoon sun on the beach and lovely tall firs on the hillside to furnish shade.  Unfortunately , the Scouts lost it during the Depression.  The McMasters who held the mortgage ran it as a lodge for several years until it burned down (in 1951).

A few hundred yards away was the Coleman Camp.  Owned and operated by Kenneth Colman of Colman Dock (Seattle) fame, the camp served teenage boys who could not afford a fee for summer camp.  They came from Seattle and the Fauntleroy area.  According to a reliable source both camps were so well organized that they never interfered with each other, nor was there any communication between them.  This camp operated from the twenties well into the forties before it discontinued operations.”

References: Horsehead Bay & vicinity by Alva McKinley
The Arletta Clubhouse by Alva McKinley
A Paper by McAlister Moore with an addendum by Alice Moore
Norma Judd Raver for information about the Girl Scout Camp
My personal recollections - Terry Grant Feb 1979”

Kotachuck Lodge after destroyed by fire in 1951 (Harbor History Museum Collection)

Well, I had found considerable information on James Murray Colman (1832-1906), a Scotsman who immigrated in 1865 and found himself in the Pacific Northwest when he arrived in Seattle by 1872.  This man, and his family, are fascinating.  The Colman and Pierce Families papers covering the period 1872 to 1990 are archived at Archives West.  As you will discover when you visit this site, it contains family papers, photographs and albums kept by the family members including their history as one of the early settlers in Fauntleroy, Seattle, Washington, in 1906.  There are also restrictions on use and written permission must be obtained in writing from MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry) before any reproduction.

Ancestry.com also has considerable information of James Murray Colman, and that are other sites where you may, or may not, find additional information.  James married Agnes Henderson in 1858 and the following year their first son, Laurence James Colman was born in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.  Two years later, their second son, George A. was born, also in Wisconsin.   Some time later, he found himself and family in San Francisco where he was hired to run the Port Madison Sawmill on Kitsap Peninsula.  He then bought a run-down sawmill in Port Orchard which had the unfortunate timing to burn down after he had completely remodeled it in 1869.  Despite being ruined financially he had the good fortune and backing of investors from San Francisco in 1872 to be able to leased and operate the Yesler’s Mill in Pioneer Square, Seattle.  Once again misfortunate struck in the great fire of 1889 destroying all his properties including his wooden frame Colman Building.  But he immediately rebuilt, using brick and making it larger, as well as a four story building.  You can see it today on First Avenue in Pioneer Square when you visit Seattle.  He also built a second building on Main Street.

Historylink.org tells that James was involved in more than just operating sawmills:  although he was an engineer, he was also a property owner and developer, and in many ways a visionary.   Seattle always felt that they would be chosen as the terminus for the railroad when Northern Pacific reached Washington Territory,  But they were sadly disappointed because Tacoma received that honor in 1873.  So James got a few friends together and they formed their own railroad,  Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad, and built Colman’s Dock (presently Pier 52) which became naturally a hub for maritime business driving in many ways by the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897.

But, you are probably thinking ‘what’s all this about Seattle and Colman, aren’t you suppose to be telling us about the summer camps on Horsehead Bay?’  Well, yes, but James Murray Colman had acquired several thousand feet of waterfront on Horsehead Bay in 1900, where he and his family spent many summers enjoying the bay, the views of the Olympics to the west.  It was on this property in 1937, when his granddaughter, Isabel Colman Pierce, built a cabin on the property.  And in 1998, when Colman’s great-grandson Jack Pierce and his wife, Leilia, made the cabin their retirement home.  There is an article in Old House online describing the remodel of the cabin by The Johnson Partnership out of Seattle.

It was on this property that James and his son, Laurence, started in 1912 bringing campers from the Downtown Congregational Church to spend time during the summers.  The program was expanded to also bring children from Fauntleroy in West Seattle where they had been living, and where they became very active in the YMCA.  The Seattle YMCA Organization held 100 Years celebration honoring this Camp Colman, although by 2012, Camp Colman had moved from the original location to Whitman’s Cove in 1965.  They explained the history: History & Facility Enhancements:
In 1912, the Colman family welcomed campers from the Downtown Congregational Church to their property at Horsehead Bay. The program expanded to include children from the Fauntleroy YMCA located in West Seattle. Camp Colman moved to its current location on Whiteman’s Cove in 1965 to allow for more space to grow. 

Originally built to accommodate about 120 campers at a time, Camp Colman’s Anderson Lodge now serves approximately 220 campers attending per session during the summer. Expansion of Anderson Lodge and other renovations are also marking the Centennial. Enhancements include new bathrooms on the main floor, an improved kitchen, new floors, upgraded safety features, an expanded deck around the building to enjoy stunning views of the Olympics, a new staff lounge area and a history wall. 

Over the past 40 years, Camp Colman has added new cabins to accommodate steady growth and, in the past three years, the new Freeman Village has added space for 48 more campers or guests. These improvements are increasing Camp Colman’s year-round appeal for programs such as Women’s Wellness Weekends, retreats and Outdoor Environmental Education. 

“We’re thrilled to enter Camp Colman’s next century with these important enhancements,” said Dave Bell, Overnight Camps Executive for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. “We aim for all aspects of the camp experience to positively impact kids and support our work to instill values that are the building blocks for success.” 
The Colman-Pierce Family histories are so very interesting I couldn’t help but share a very little bit of it, and after all it does have a Gig Harbor connection, doesn’t it?  I still haven’t discovered the history of Kopa Chuck Lodge and its Girl Scout Camp, and I have written to the Tacoma Council of Girl Scouts of Western Washington to see if they have anything to shed more light on the little piece of their history on Horsehead Bay.
Two girls taking a ride in a canoe off Arletta (Harbor History Museum Collection)

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