More thoughts on Betty Washington, and her namesake camp, and the camp’s namesake road
Last summer, one of my friends, Jennell Moser, wrote a great look at the history of Camp Betty Washington and the surrounding area.
Following that, several readers shared some more memories and thoughts of the woman, the camp named for her, the road named for the camp, the area surrounding it, and the nearby Benroy village. I’d like to share those with you today!
Stephen H. Smith of Yorkspast writes, “I collect bits of information on various people named Stephen Smith or Steve Smith, for obvious reasons. This collection started in 1974, upon the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company I worked for (York Division of Borg-Warner, at the time) after I discovered the first president in 1874 was Stephen Morgan Smith (S. Morgan Smith). From my ‘Stephen Smith files’ I pulled a paper with the following genealogical details. The information was from a 1996 visit to the Genealogical Reading Room at the Library of Congress. I found this by looking in the index of a book of Washington Family descendants for any Stephen Smith entry; there was a Stephen F. Smith in the index. This was Stephen Fahs Smith (he went by S. Fahs Smith) and is a son of S. Morgan Smith. The following are details of his wife Lucy Neville Mitchell’s connection to George Washington via Betty Washington.”
He continues, “Neville Mitchell Smith’s maiden name was Lucy Neville Mitchell; she is Betty Washington’s great-great-great-granddaughter. Betty Washington’s one-year older brother is George Washington. Therefore Camp Betty Washington was named to honor Neville Mitchell Smith’s great-great-great-grandmother. August Washington married Mary Ball in 1731. Their first child was George Washington, born in 1732. One year later George Washington had a sister; Elizabeth Washington, although she always went by Betty Washington. Betty Washington married Col. Fielding Lewis. Betty Washington’s son Fielding Lewis was born in 1751. Fielding Lewis married Mary Ann Alexander; Robert Lewis is one of their children. Betty Washington’s grandson Robert Lewis was born in 1769. Robert Lewis married Judith Walker Browne; Betty Burnett Lewis is one of their children.”
From there, Stephen notes, “Betty Washington’s great-granddaughter Betty Burnett Lewis was born in 1808. Betty Lewis married George Washington Bassett; Judith Frances Carter Bassett is one of their children. Betty Washington’s great-great-granddaughter Judith Frances Carter Bassett was born in 1836. Judith Bassett married Charles Tunis Mitchell; Lucy Neville Mitchell is one of their children. Betty Washington’s great-great-great-granddaughter Lucy Neville Mitchell was born in 1872. Lucy Neville Mitchell married Stephen Fahs Smith; Burwell Bassett Smith is their only child. I had visions of contacting Burwell Bassett Smith to discover why his father and grandfather only used the first initial of there first name, unfortunately Burwell Smith died in 1975 and I have not been able to locate any children, if he had any.”
And regarding the camp itself, Stephen adds, “In my research at the York County Archives, a land deed of October 18, 1928 gave details on the origins of Camp Betty Washington. Four plots of land totaling 8.9 acres were conveyed in trust to the Girls Friendly Society of the Diocese of Harrisburg, as a Girls’ Camp and Holiday House. Two acres of land are on the west side of Mill Creek, then known as the Little Codorus Creek, and is mainly in Spring Garden Township, but also runs south just into York Township. The remaining 6.9 acres of land are on the east side of Mill Creek in Springettsbury Township; this includes the swimming pool and surrounding property north of the pool. Also from the York County Archives is a November 22, 1928 agreement made between the camp and the Edison Light and Power Company to put up electric poles on the property in the Townships of York and Spring Garden. This agreement lists the camp name as Camp Betty Washington Girls Holiday House of Harrisburg Diocese and is signed by Mrs. J. Chas. Heiges; on their behalf. I decided to do a Google Book search using these new search terms and came up with a book containing The Record of the Girls’ Friendly Society in America. I did not find Camp Betty Washington because this book did not extend back to 1928, however it did contain a record of their initial camp along the Susquehanna River at Burnt Cabin.”
What Stephen found was this:
“The new Holiday House of the Diocese of Harrisburg at Burnt Cabin was formally opened by the Rev. Paul S. Atkins, Rector of St. John’s Church, York, assisted by Mr. Carruthers, of Columbia, Pa. A large number of people were present to take part in the services and to inspect the Camp. The place is an old farm house, quite in the country. There are two wonderful springs, one of which will provide water for a swimming pool. There are tennis courts, volley and basket-ball. Owing to the isolation of the spot, there is beautiful wild scenery, which makes it ideal for its purpose. Mr. Gitt, of Hanover, donated a lighting plant, which was installed by Mr. Wilhelm, a member of St. John’s Church, York. This will give lights not only in the house and grounds but in each one of the ten army tents, which are to be used for sleeping purposes by those who prefer to sleep out of doors. Donations have been received from various interested friends of The Girls’ Friendly Society, and Mrs. Heiges, the President, looks forward to a most satisfactory and successful summer.”
Stephen continues, “I remember seeing in a blog about the camp having to move from the Susquehanna River location because they unknowingly were polluting Marietta’s water supply. I know that is entirely possible because Burnt Cabin is at the location of the headwaters of Wildcat Run on which the Marietta Water Reservoir is located, before the overflow water goes over Wildcat Falls and flows into the Susquehanna River. My Smith grandparents had a bungalow along the Susquehanna River up river from Accomac. With numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, there were always large group gatherings and sleep-overs during the summer at this wonderful bungalow. One tradition was a long walk each weekend; walking up to Wildcat Falls was one of my favorites, and occasionally we would hike uphill to the Marietta Water Reservoir.”
He adds, “If our family drove to the bungalow the back way, we headed onto what is now River Road off of Codorus Furnace Road. Part of the Burnt Cabin One-Room Schoolhouse could still be seen back then. I remember Dad raising the question, ‘How would you like to go to a school called Burnt Cabin?’ I recently decided to see if any of Burnt Cabin School was still visible. One could barely make out some of the foundation walls in the brush on the west side of River Road 0.3 miles north of the Codorus Furnace Road intersection. The culvert carrying the headwaters of Wildcat Run was just south of the schoolhouse ruins. The Camp and Holiday House of the Diocese of Harrisburg at Burnt Cabin was likely at a farm on the east side of River Road at this location; possibly at the 1550 River Road address.”
And Stephen concludes, “This reply probably has more details that anyone every wanted to know about Camp Betty Washington and Camp Betty Washington Road. However I’m not finished; I am still trying to discover the original name of the road and I would still like to see a picture of Camp Betty Washington.” So anyone with that information, please do share!
Carla Billet Reinecker shared the photos above of the Benroy neighborhood or village in the Camp Betty Washington area. She writes, “They were given to me by my father, Carl Billet. On the corner of Camp Betty and Chambers Road was a blacksmith shop. It was owned by John Hildebrand. The house was beside it. It was the home of John & Rachel Strickler Hildebrand. The home is still
standing, the picket fence is gone. They adopted Almeda. She married Paul Sanders and lived there until she passed away.
Back to Camp Betty Washington itself, Jim Fahringer noted, “When I was a little boy in the 1950s I remember seeing the cement pool of the Girls’ Camp. It was located almost next to the Camp Betty Washington road. I had a neighbor, Jake Weinbrom who evidently owned the pool or had permission to work on it. I remember him taking me to the pool with his son, Danny and we tried to help clean it out. It was full of algae, plant growth and some debris. For some reason we never got very far. I would often see the pool as we rode by to visit my great aunt’s farm to the west of Camp Betty Washington Road and up a hill. Her name was Maggie Fitzkee (her son started Fitzkee’s Candy). We would also see the pool when we travelled down Camp Betty Washington Road on our way to Springwood Swimming Pool which was two or three miles beyond the Girls’ Camp pool. Springwood pool was fed by the ice cold waters of springs and was located on Springwood Road. The railroad tracks went right past the pool and in the early days the train would stop at the pool and let out passengers and pick up passengers. Actually some of the cement remains of Girls’ Camp swimming pool can still be seen along Camp Betty Washington Road. Some years ago I shared the site with Jim McClure on one of his blogs or the Exchange. I cannot remember when the pool was totally destroyed. I believe most of it was still still there for a good part of the 1960s. Even though it was unusable, the four walls still stood. It may have been completely destroyed during tropical storm Agnes in 1972.”
Linda Sampedro added, “I lived on Camp Betty Road for a number of years as a child and later as an adult so I found the column about it to be interesting and enlightening. For example there was (is?) a railroad between Mill Creek and the hill that rises up to Route 83 but I had no idea there had ever been a train line that ran along the road. As kids we walked the train line often and loved walking across the high trestle bridge even though we knew we shouldn’t and our parents would have been very distressed had they known. The swimming pool for Camp Betty was located between the road and Mill Creek. The camp itself was on the other side of the road which was an overgrown wooded hill when I was young. I would roam those woods looking for snakes and puffball mushrooms and whatever I could find of interest. I came across a couple of padlocked sheds and through the cracks in the dim light you could see old merry-go-round horses. I wanted so much to see them in the light but I was taught not to mess with other people’s property so I would just peek in once in a while. I’ve often wondered what happened to them. If they were not ruined by years of neglect and weather I imagine they would have been of valuable to collectors. I hope somebody rescued them since I could not.”
Linda continued with a neat story! She notes, “I did rescue a live horse, though. The neighbors up the road had a couple of horses and several times one got loose and came walking past our house. I would fetch a rope and take the horse back to the owners. I was horse crazy like many girls (still am) and wanted so badly to keep the horse but there was no place to hide it and I though people got hanged for horse rustling! One of my fondest memories of living there was the beautiful horse farm that graced the north end of Camp Betty Road. Now it’s all commercial and quite ugly. There used to be a lovely white house, barn, etc… and horses grazing in the green meadow or drinking from the creek. Across the street (Mount Rose/Prospect) was another large barn that was quite charming. It had a date on it that I cannot recall but it was from the 1800s. Originally Camp Betty Road and Haines Road did not align. When the farm was decimated and the ‘improvements’ made the end of Camp Betty Road was moved to meet with Haines. I just wanted to pass along a bit of info since there was some question about the location of the camp but I’ve gotten a bit carried away. I guess I’d better stop now before I write my entire memoir!” (Not that we’d mind, Linda!)
Rich Coons added, “There is still one remaining building from the camp. It is located on the east side about 0.3 miles south of the East Prospect Road. Kind of long and low house. Lots of windows. The cemetery was located on the east also on the former Eli Wineka farm. There is a farm pond on a sharp right turn just before crossing a bridge over Mill Creek. The cemetery was located on top of the hill to the north of the pond. Now a development is located on the property.”
Many thanks to all of you for continuing to share notes and memories of this area!