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York Y’s Camp Cann-Edi-On Preserved

Camp Cann-Edi-On in 1947 by Margaret Sarah Lewis
I’m sure that the girls who attended the YWCA York’s Camp Cann-Edi-On have many memories of their camping days, but so do some local boys. A reader shared his story:

“I really enjoyed your article in the Sunday News about Camp Cann-Edi-On. My Grandfather Harvey Messerly owned a summer cottage across the creek from the camp. I spent many days fishing and boating on the creek in the summer. When I was about 11 years old in the early 50s my friend…and I were up at the cottage for a few days. We were just starting to be interested in the girls swimming in the creek from the camp. An older boy from the area told us that the camp councilors went skinny dipping at night.
[We] got a lot of bug bites from waiting for the girls to show up and swim, but alas, we were disappointed any night that we hid our boat in the trees up stream. My Grandfather always wondered why we never caught any fish.
I still wonder if the girls did skinny dip?
Fred Messerly
Red Lion”

See below for my recent York Sunday News column on the history of Camp Cann-Edi-On and the recent preservation of the land made possible through a partnership of York County, YWCA York and the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County.

Where did the recently preserved Camp Cann-Edi-On get that name?

YWCA York and the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County have just partnered to preserve 202 of the 227 acres that make up the Y’s Camp Cann-Edi-On, founded in 1930. The preservation funds received by the YWCA were made available through the Bargain Sale program by the County of York and will be used to enhance facilities and programs at Camp Cann-Edi-On. The tract, which is on the Conewago Creek, just west of I-83, is mainly wooded and populated with native plants and animals. Campers will be able to continue to learn about nature and participate in varied activities, just as they have for the past 80 years, and the land is preserved for future generations. (Disclosure: the writer of this column is a member of the board of the Farm and Natural Lands Trust.)
Brochures, camp newsletters and clippings in the YCHT files paint a vivid picture of Camp Cann-Edi-On over the years. An undated brochure, c.1940, outlines the program for that summer. Activities were “swimming, craft work, woodcraft, nature-lore, campfires and stunt nights, Indian ceremonials, dramatics and songs, canoeing and boating, photography, hiking, life saving, water pageants, tennis, mush ball, archery, volleyball, treasure hunts, tracking and trailing and overnight camping,” as well as special activities. Necessities included: “pillow, sheets and pillowcases, towels and wash cloths, four blankets, drinking cup, sweater, raincoat, rubbers, bathing suit and cap and flashlight.” “Desirables” were also listed: “tennis racket and balls, musical instruments, camera, fancy costumes, ground cloth or poncho (for overnight hikes), knife, field glasses or opera glasses, note books and nature guides for nature lore.”
There was no uniform, however, the girls were asked to wear navy shorts and white blouses on Sundays. Parents were asked not to send food and candy to camp, but parents and friends could come Sunday afternoon and evening, even having Sunday dinner with the campers if they had made reservations with the Y. A week’s stay was possible, but the brochure said a stay of a month or longer was desirable to benefit the campers’ health, skills, new interests and friendships. Rates were: Room & board: $9 a week for York County girls and $10 for those from outside the county. Girl Reserves [a YWCA club] paid $8 a week. Health Camp was also $8 a week. That year Regular Camp ran from July 3 to August 7 and Health Camp from August 7 to August 21. The only other fee was for a required medical exam by the YWCA physician before camp started at 50 cents for younger campers and $1 for those over 16.
The clippings often quote Frances Wolf McCabe, one of the girls who attended the camp during its first season and went on to become a counselor, instructor, camp committee chairperson and YWCA president, with her three daughters following her as campers and counselors. She related that the first wooden cabins cost $100 each. A-frame shelters were constructed later on and the L-shaped pool was dedicated in 1961, replacing the Conewago Creek for swimming. Horse-back riding was popular for many years. By 1957 about 90 girls attended the camp each week.
Curious about the origin of the name? Camp Cann-Edi-On was named for a supporter of and volunteer for the YWCA, Edith Beard Cannon. Mrs. Cannon was president of the organization at the time camp land was purchased, and she was honored for her long-time support with the name.
I didn’t know Mrs. Cannon (1880-1949), but I am very familiar with the work she did at the Historical Society of York County (now part of York County Heritage Trust). She was a very talented researcher and genealogist and was instrumental in creating the cemetery record collection, still used by the thousands of individuals who come from all over the country each year to find their York County roots. Almost all of these researchers use the cemetery records for the vital information, such as years of birth and death inscribed on the gravestones, as well as in trying to locate the final resting places of their ancestors. After the extensive Sesquicentennial celebration, in 1927-1928, of Congress meeting in York, the county Sesquicentennial committee had funds left. They were granted to HSYC for a worthy historical project, which turned out to be the ambitious endeavor of recording every legible tombstone in York and Adams counties. The project took years to complete. Edith was among the handful of people who travelled to the cemeteries. Once there, each individual methodically recorded a section of the cemetery. The data for each cemetery was then typed on index cards that are filed by surname. Each individual cemetery was also typed on legal-size paper and bound in book form. Original receipts in Mrs. Cannon’s file at YCHT show that she was paid $1 per day to record the cemeteries and $1 for each 300 cemetery cards she typed.
Edith was also on the HSYC staff full time from 1942 to 1948 (at a salary of 50 cents an hour), taking on some of the duties of Director Henry J. Young while he served in the Army from 1942 to 1945. While on the staff, she did general research, compiled at least 33 detailed reports on York County families and transcribed several church records.
Before 1930, the land that is now Camp Cann-Edi-On was a farm, complete with an old two-story stone farmhouse. I understand that house still stands, used by the caretaker. Considering her love of the YWCA and her love of York County history, I think Edith Beard Cannon would be very pleased to know that the natural land of her namesake camp is now permanently preserved.