Tourism in Transylvania County in the early 20th
century increased dramatically when the railroad reached Brevard and then Lake
Toxaway. People from the lowlands and
from the North spent the summer months in the cool mountains of Western North
Occurring to a 1920s tourism brochure it was an ideal
destination for families as camps provided children “the pleasures and benefits
of an outdoor life” while “parents are enjoying the pleasures of the hotel or
boarding house at which they may be staying, and at the same time are relieved
of the responsibility of looking after their lively offspring.”
It has long been reported that the first summer camp in
Transylvania County, French Broad Camp, opened in 1913. Camp Sapphire followed
in 1914. However a recent search of the Sylvan Valley News proved that Camp
Sapphire actually began in 1913 and French Broad Camp in 1914.
Camp Sapphire was located at the foot of Elk Mountain on
property originally leased from W. H. Allison and included Deer Park Lake. It was an athletic and educational camp for
boys, ages 10-20. J.R. Sandifer,
“Captain” Bill Fetzer, and Bob Fetzer were the first directors of the camp.
Camp Sapphire closed around 1940. In 1945 Ecusta purchased the property to use
as a recreational area for their employees and families. It was renamed Camp Straus.
|French Broad Camp tents, 1916|
Major Henry E. Raines visited Brevard and Camp Sapphire
in August 1913 with the intention of starting a boys’ camp here. Major Raines and the camp were associated
with the Citadel in Charleston, SC. In
addition to traditional camp activities inspections, drills, reveille and taps
were required. Named the French Broad
Camp, it was located on 60 acres near Wilson’s Bridge east of Brevard. The camp operated until the 1930s.
Winthrop College operated Camp Joy for girls in 1916 and
1917. They offered swimming, tennis,
basketball, nature study, outdoor sketching and conversational French.
|Swimming at Keystone Camp|
Keystone Camp for girls was established in 1916 and moved
to Transylvania County in 1918. It is
the longest running summer camp in the county.
Keystone Camp was founded by Miss Florence Ellis and Miss Fannie Webb Holt. Miss Ellis was the great-great aunt of Page
Ives Lemel, the current owner. They
moved to the present location in 1919.
In 1921 there were “eight camps forming a circle around
Brevard.” By 1929 there were twelve,
five of which are still in operation today.
They are Camp Carolina, Camp Illahee, Eagle’s Nest, Keystone Camp, and
To learn more about Transylvania’s Summer Camps visit The
Museum of Transylvania Heritage on West Main St. Next week Picturing
the Past will feature some of the lesser known camps of the county.
and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit
the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about
our history and see additional photographs.
For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected]
or 828-884-3151 X242.