Lt. Governor Brainard inspecting the hospital tent at Camp Mohawk, 1925
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

The first summer camp in the country was started by Frederick W. Gunn in 1861, emulating the camp life of Civil War soldiers. Gunn’s camp at Lake Waramaug was a complement to his school, The Gunnery, where the older students were encouraged to spend their weekends hunting and fishing in the forest.

“All-round manly development demands sturdy work and manly play, each with its own special contribution of moral power, physical vigor and experience in social relations. The summer camp supplements the city school and the home by furnishing certain educational advantages, which the home no longer affords, and the city school cannot provide in adequate measure.”

~ Paul Monroe, A Cyclopedia of Education1911

Camp Mohawk, 1925
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

Camp Mohawk, Mohawk Pond, 1920s
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

Summer camps for boys became popular in the 1880s as a response to the growth of urban living—cities were considered detrimental to children’s development.

The Y.M.C.A. began opening summer camps in 1882, blending the physical rigors of outdoor life with daily prayer meetings. “Muscular Christianity” was exemplified by President Theodore Roosevelt, who promoted “the strenuous life” as essential for being a good Christian, building strength and courage.

Postcard view of Berry Hall, Camp Mohawk, 1950s
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

“The camp teaches impressively that moral degeneration may be a result of oxygen starvation and lack of training the hands to do useful things. In the camp, in the outing or farm school, we find the solution of many of our most difficult moral problems.”

~ Dr. Winthrop Talbot, “Summer Camps”,
The Psychological Clinic, 1908

Camp Fire Girl Harriet Clark, circa 1914
Collection of Cornwall Historical Society

Summer camps for girls began around 1900. By 1910, there were more than 100 summer camps for girls, with a membership of about 5,000. The Camp Fire Girls was established in 1911 and the Girl Scouts in 1912.