History

  • History 1
  • Camp Ridgecrest History 2
  • Camp Ridgecrest History 3
Under the administration of the SBC Education Board, steps were taken to have a summer camp for boys and girls. The initial step was the building of a 15-acre lake, now known as Lake Ridgecrest. The long-range plan called for a girl’s camp on one side of the lake and a boy’s camp on the other side. Today, Lake Ridgecrest is the centerpiece at Camp Ridgecrest for boys and Crestridge sits on the opposite side of I-40. Under the leadership of Mrs. J.M Dawson, then of Waco, Texas, a girl’s camp, known as Camp Swannanoa, was operated in the summer of 1926 and 1927. A large two-story residence was purchased from Dr. B.W. Spilman; it was used as a camp headquarters building. A number of cabins and other facilities were then built. However, logistical business issues caused the camp to close in 1928.

When the Baptist Sunday School Board took charge in 1929, they realized the need for a boy’s camp. Under the leadership of Mr. Noble Van Ness, who was active with the Boy Scouts at that time, plans were made to open a boy’s camp in 1929. Mr. Frank E. Burkhalter served as director during the inaugural summer. The camp was programmed for one two-week trial session. The results were so rewarding that planning for the 1930 season was begun immediately.

Van Ness knew the key to success was to have a highly regarded, qualified director. He selected Charles W. Burts, a young student at Yale, who had five years of experience a counselor and assistant director in other private camps. Charles worked with Van Ness to enlarge the 1930 season. Based on the success of the first two-week session, they planned for eight weeks of camp. Burts served as director each summer through 1938.

Attendance was small during the first years. Burts later estimated that between 40 and 50 boys attended each session. The program offered a variety of activities, and a strong Christian emphasis permeated every aspect of camp life. A worship service was held early each morning and each evening.

The Native American motif that traditionally been the camp trademark began in the 1930 season. Campers and staff have continued to meet for Council Rings through the years. This was designed to help boys grow strong of heart and body, while the Christian emphasis led them closer to their Savior.

One historic feature of Camp Ridgecrest for Boys is the large log building in the center of the campus. It was completed in 1942 and houses the kitchen, two dining hall wings, and a gym. The gym area has a huge fireplace at one end that allows for meetings to take place on cool mountain evenings. The building is the largest, oldest, vertical log structure east of the Mississippi River.

Camp Ridgecrest usually operated for one six-week session. Burts cut the season back from eight to six weeks after the 1930 season. In 1950, Perry Morgan felt the time had come to enlarge the camp and enlist a full-time director.

Through the years, the strength of the staff has been a major factor in the camp’s success. Listing the multitude of persons who have given of themselves to camp is not practical. However, listed below are the directors and their years of service.

Frank E. Burkhalter:1929
Charles W. Burts:1930-1938
John W. Hughston, Jr.: 1939-1940
J.D. (Red) Franks, Jr.: 1941
Darrell C. Richardson: 1942
Richard C. Burts, Jr.: 1943
J.W. Hill: 1944
Perry Morgan, Manager and Director: 1945
Chaplain Nat H. Brittain: 1946-1947
James R. Howlett: 1948-1949
George W. Pickering: 1950-1955
Harry McCall, Jr.: 1956-1958
Wayne Chastain: 1959-1963
Ken Bryant: 1964-1965
Darrell Richardson: 1966-1968
Monroe Ashley: 1969-1973
Rick Johnson: 1974-1984
Ron Springs: 1985-Present