The first people to live in this area were the Delaware
Indians - the Lenni Lenape people. Most Lenape villages were located
along the Delaware River, but trails passed through this area which the
Native Americans used to travel to the east for trade and for gathering
shellfish near the mouth of the great Passaic River. The current Route
46 was such a major trail.
If you visited what is now Winnebago 100 years ago, the land would
appear very different. On the way up into our mountains from Denville
and Rockaway Boro, one would have passed extensive iron mining
operations. The Hibernia Mines, the Beach Glen Mines and others date
back to Revolutionary War times, and were active mines well into the
first half the 1900's. The iron ore was known as magnetite. It is dark
and heavy and can be recognized by the way it moves a compass needle.
Pieces of this rock can still be found as you hike the lower parts of
the Four Birds Trail which starts in Hibernia. A railroad once carried
the ore down out of the mountains. Mine slag, the rock left after the
iron was removed from the ore, can be found along the road near the dam
at the south end of Durham Pond. Mine slag was apparently used to
create the earthen part of the dam. The purpose and origin of the dam
The hills and mountains of this area were rugged, with poor soil and few
areas flat enough for farming. Tough Norwegian farmers had migrated to
the USA in the 1800's and established some dairy farms where they could
farm throughout the hills. The Green Pond Golf Course was such a dairy farm.
There were few homesteads in these rugged hills.
The first Scout camping occurred at Durham Pond in 1916. A troop from
Montclair came in to camp for several weeks and set up camp at the
south end of the pond near the dam. Because of a mix up with the
arrangements to use the property, they were forced to leave after about
a week. They moved camp nearby Lake Ames. As was the
practice in the earliest days of Scout camping, the Montclair troop
brought all their own equipment, supplies. and food. Scouts now call
this "outpost camping." By 1923, the Boy Scouts of eastern Union County
had use of a large log cabin and fields located in Watchung
reservation, which was a part of the Union County park system. The log
cabin was used as a dining hall. Later, when their own camps in north
Jersey were established, the "Boy Scout Camping Area" continued to be
used for short-term weekend camping.
In the 1930's the Union Council Boy Scouts used a part of another
council's camp, Kenetewaupec, in Blairstown for much of their camping.
In 1940 the council started negotiations on a large tract of land in
Marcella. The land was purchased in 1941 and by that summer the first
troop camping occurred. Each campsite had a stove, an icebox, a
latrine, and running water from a driven well. The first week of camp
saw only one troop, Troop 23 from Elizabeth. The five campsites could
handle up to 150 Scouts, and by the third week camp was full. Campers
slept in tents on platforms with cots and mattresses filled with straw.
Scouts paid $7.50 for the week, and cooked their own food which was
supplied by the camp. The huge property was nearly three square miles, and much of
it was sold to create Camp Marcella, Camp Lewis, part of Farney State
Park, and the north end of Split Rock Reservoir. Hiking and canoeing
rights were retained for the north end of Split rock.
The first section of camp to be developed was at the south end. A
dining hall, now called Baden Powell Lodge, was constructed as was a
waterfront at the point of land now known as the Searing Site. By 1953
the road into the north end of camp was well established, and most of
the camp was operating at this end. It was this year that the name Camp
Winnebago was selected. The Winnebago's are a tribe of Native
Americans. Up to this point, the camp was simply know as the Union
Council camp in Marcella. The present dining hall was in use by this
time and the Health Lodge was in what is now the Kiwanis Cabin. The
trading post was in the Winter Lodge. The rifle and archery ranges were
located below the dam on the trail to Split Rock Reservoir. In 1963, a
small bank building from Kenilworth was moved to camp and became the
present trading post and administration building for summer camp.
In 1967 the Hayden Foundation donated $150,000 to dredge and deepen the
lake which was becoming choked with weeds and less useful for swimming
and boating. A dike was constructed across the marshy area at the north
end of the lake and the dredge spoils placed behind it. The waterfront
was now moved to its present location beneath the dining hall. In the
1980's the present parking lot was created and the old one converted to
the parade field. This was a safety improvement which separated campers
from moving vehicles. In the 1980's and 90's many camp improvements
were made. many of which were done by the Flintlock's, a group of
retired Scouters who still work hard on many a weekend. Many other
improvements were carried out by a group of volunteers known as the
Evergreen K. It was during these years that the B.P. Lodge was restored
for adult training purposes as well as troop cabin camping.
When did Camp become Winnebago Scout Reservation? In 1969 a Frontier
Camp for wilderness camping was opened on the east side of Durham Pond.
The purpose of this site was to promote week long summer troop camping
in the old Scouting tradition of troop cooking. Because of the
multi-camp nature the term scout reservation was now used.
On August 3, 1991, Winnebago celebrated its 50th anniversary with a
re-union of staff campers, and scouters. A patch, pin, and anniversary
booklet were issued. In July 2001 a similar event celebrated the 60th
anniversary with camp tours, a dinner, and a campfire. Staff tenure was
recognized at the campfire and Richard Mager was found to have been on
staff for 41 years. The next closest was George Reinhard with 17 years.
Both were still on staff for the 201 camping season.
Greeting the new millennium …. It is bigger and better than any time in its history… it is WSR in terms of the refurbishment of all of the camp's rustic cabins highlighted by the all new Craig field and cabin, the construction of a dining hall addition with year-round restrooms and showers featuring handicapped accessibility, the construction of campsite pavilions and the total renovation of the aquatics area including a new swimming area/dock and boating dock, an aqua trampoline, Mager Mountain and a new storage building and tower attached to the renovated boat house. The innovative programming at WSR offered multitudinous themes of Survival, Super heroes, Pirates, Wild West, a Mysterious Summer and Moby Pickle as well as the celebration of Boy Scouting's one hundredth Anniversary. During this time Carl Moritz was the camp ranger retiring in 2010 followed by Curt Haak as our present ranger and Camp Director. In 2009 Rich Mager celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a Winnebago staff-man and his legend will continue as Aquatics Director/ Program Consultant in 2013. So indeed, Winnebago's future looks bright as it approaches its 75th year of adventure and excitement filled with fun, fitness, learning and earning.
Thousands of Scouts and Scouters have hiked and loved these Winnebago
trails. Thousands have heard the Legend of Winnebago enacted by
Winnebago staffers at hundreds of closing campfires. The original
legend is included in this Night Watch. Its message to Scouts echoes
from the hands of its unknown author sometime prior to 1959. All of you
will now be part of the thousands who have hiked the trails and heard
the legend. Do your part to make this camp a better place then when you
found it. Start tonight with your Night Watch. If you have a campfire
keep it safe by tending and watching it all night or by extinguishing
it in the proper way. If you have cabin fire do the same. It is a
common practice. especially when younger Scouts are present to have a
watch all night for safety and to promote a feeling of security. This
practice, along with the reading of the story of Camp Winnebago and the
message of its legend is what we call the Night Watch.
This Night Watch was prepared by Jeffrey Huppert, Scouter and former
Winnebago camper and staffer.
Winnebago Reminiscences - click here
As told by Rich Mager, Jeff Huppert, and George Reinhard - Edited by Pat & Ron Jaremcak
Page last updated: 03-07-2013 08:15 am