|1917 campers from a promotional brochure for French Broad Camp for Boys.
Jack Humphreys is front and center wearing black shorts.
Summer camps are a vital part of the Transylvania
County economy and have been for over a century. The first summer camp, Camp
Sapphire, began in 1913 and sparked a flurry of summer camp creation for the
area. By 1929 when Porter Sargent’s seminal guide “Summer Camps” was published,
Transylvania County was lauded as “the most important center for camps in the
South,” with at least a dozen camps operating in the county at that time.
The French Broad Camp for Boys was the second summer
camp established in Transylvania County. It opened in July 1914 under the
leadership of Major Henry E. Raines of Charleston, SC and his colleagues Capt.
John W. Moore and Prof. A.L. Hodges. Raines was a graduate and then faculty
member of the Citadel military college and employed his military background to
create structure and discipline for campers, while also providing independent
The original camp spanned 60 acres of land adjacent to
the French Broad River and grew to over 200 acres over time. In addition to
river access, the site also boasted a private lake, which provided extensive
opportunities for water recreation.
41 campers were enrolled for the first 8-week long
season, and the camp grew in popularity year after year. They engaged in
activities such as hiking, swimming, canoeing, baseball, basketball, tennis,
track games, music, photography, and social events.
The camp itself had two permanent buildings: the club
house and dining room. The club house included music instruction facilities and
staff offices in addition to a large meeting area centered around a fireplace.
The campers stayed in furnished tents which had spring cots and mattresses.
Numerous athletic fields were part of the facilities, including an indoor
target practice shooting range.
Good natured competition and educational opportunities
were part of the experience as well. Learning to swim was mandatory for all
campers, with special instruction being given to those who did not already know
how to swim before arrival.
14-year-old Jack R. Humphreys of Greenwood,
Mississippi created a scrapbook for the time that he spent at French Broad Camp
in 1916, which is now a part of the NC Room collection at the Transylvania
County Library. This scrapbook provides some of the only images the collection
has of the effects of the July 1916 flood that ravaged western NC and beyond.
Through his eyes, we see not only his experience as a camper, but a view of how
the landscape changed during this time.