THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN MADISON COUNTY - CAMP CLARK WILLIAMSON

Camp Clark Williamson is located in northern Madison County on Mason Road off Route 45. It is a church camp owned by the West Tennessee Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and has been fulfilling its outdoor ministry role for nearly five decades. The history of the camp has varied throughout the years. Its vision is to "Prepare a Sanctuary for all God's People." The Camp Clark Williamson Mission statement reads, "The Board of Directors seeks to provide a setting at Camp Clark Williamson where people can be aware of God's presence, love, and grace as it is revealed in the majesty of His creation."

The camp is a 116 acre facility in a setting of rolling hills and trees. The wooded hills are in contrast to the five acre lake, and the large open grassy field. The Camp is an exciting place for adventure and exploration physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is a place of solitude. When passing through the gates the normal frantic pace of life is immediately transformed into a sense of peace and tranquility.

The Resident Camp consists of 15 cabins and a large air conditioned dining hall which will accommodate 120 people. There are centralized bathhouses in each the boys and girls area. All the cabins have a screened-in porch. Other facilities include a large air conditioned dining hall with a commercial kitchen and an air conditioned building called the "Activities Building" which can be used multiple ways. Both these buildings have porch swings for relaxation and fellowship. There are several study huts and pavilions for use in outdoor programming. All buildings are within easy walking distance from each other.

There is a 6 acre lake which gives beauty to the camp. It also is home to largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bream which are caught all year-round. Paddle boats also enhance recreational opportunities on the lake. Other recreation offered at Camp Clark Williamson is a swimming pool, basketball, softball, soccer, sand volleyball, horseshoes, hiking, and swinging leisurely on the Dining Hall and Activity Building's front porch.

Besides Summer Camping, Camp Clark Williamson is conducive to spring and fall weekend retreats. Other uses of the facility include conference & staff meetings, picnics & pool parties, tent & RV camping, church outings, Bible schools, family reunions, educational school field trips, and scouting events .

There are also 2 day camp facilities for those groups who like to tent camp, or host day only picnics and events.

The Savannah Hill Lodge was constructed for the purpose of hosting adult & senior retreats while still providing a place for children & youth. It was dedicated to the Lord on May 7, 2000. It is also a magnificent place to host business meetings, conferences, Christmas parties, reunions and weddings. Its purpose is for year round use. It will accommodate up to 32 people in bunks inside four rooms. It is in a heated and air conditioned environment with each room having its own shower and restroom facilities. The great room will seat 120 at round tables. The log building with its hardwood floors and large stone fireplace give it a cozy feeling everyone enjoys.

As mentioned earlier Camp Clark Williamson's past has varied. The beginning history came about as a result of the promotion of the Capital Fundraising, and it is being continued because of the 50th anniversary in 2010.

In the late forties and fifties, camping for children and youth became an important aspect of ministry to children and young people. West Tennessee Synod and its four Presbyteries of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church experienced some difficulties in securing facilities to hold their camp.

In 1953, the Synod of West Tennessee received a communication from the General Assembly's Board of Christian Education asking if the Synod would be interested in assisting in the development of the camp and using it for their camping program. The Synod turned down the request, but the question did raise the issue of the Synod owning its own camp. When Synod met in 1954, the Synod's Board of Christian Education reported they felt the need for a Synodic owned campsite, but that it should be located near Jackson, Tennessee, which would be near the center of the Synod. The Board felt, however, that because of a denominational campaign to liquidate the debt incurred on the Cumberland Presbyterian Center and the Library Seminary Building at Bethel College, together with the cost of building a camp and providing a full-time caretaker, the Synod should not burden the churches with the cost of building a camp.

The Synod appointed a special commission to study the feasibility of owning and operating a campsite and to work out projected plans and costs. The Commission was composed of Rev. Charles Turner, Rev. W.T. Ingram, Jr., Joe Overton, and Jim McKee.

The Commission reported in the 1955 meeting that it was desirable for the Synod to own a camping facility and while the Synod did not have the resources to develop a facility in the beginning, it could be developed over a period of time. According to Mr. Joe Overton, in 2009, "The original Commission could not make a detailed plan, but did do a couple of things. We did not approve Synod accepting a gift offered of a tract of land near the Tennessee River. The location was not right, and the landscape topography was not right. We did recommend Synod continue the objective by obtaining a suitable site on which to develop. The presentation of needs for owning a camp included that without ownership not only was there difficulty in obtaining a place for camping, but even if a place was available difficulties were great in scheduling a time suitable for those who might be campers, and in scheduling leaders for the camps. This last point was strongly emphasized as being critical to the camping program."

Mr. Overton also wrote, "Synod did well to direct the Board of Christian Education to find the site and the Board of Finance to function in obtaining it. The original tract was bought from a gent named Roy Mason who lived adjoining. The purchase price was approximately $9,000. The bank from which the money was borrowed to purchase required that all of the members of the Board of Finance would sign. Some were not too happy about that, but they did. I remember that two me were real leaders on the Board of Christian Education; Rev. Blake Warren, Pastor of the Milan Church and Chester Parham from the Jackson Church. The decision to operate with a separate Board was certainly appropriate. "He added, "The camp, from the beginning, has had a history of a great deal of cooperation and donations of various kinds from individuals and churches. This has always been the case and needs to be in the future."

In August 1956, the Board obtained the property now owned on Mason Road. The Synod approved the purchase and authorized the funding to purchase the property and to build the lake.

The Board of Finance and the Board of Christian Education proposed to the Synod in 1957 that the site be given to the General Assembly's Board of Christian Education to be developed as a denominational conference grounds for the entire church. West Tennessee Synod would be given priority in scheduling of camps and the camp would become the site of NACPYF (National Assembly of Cumberland Presbyterian Youth Fellowship.) The Synod turned the proposal down and instructed the Board to develop a master plan for the camp and encourage churches and groups to provide materials and labor to assist in its building.

The lake was finished in 1959, at least in part, by the Maple Springs Church. Several churches built cabins including Ebenezer, East Side, Central, Dyer, and Milan. Other cabins were provided by the Memphis Men's Fellowship, and the D.W. Ramer and Challengers Classes of the Jackson Church. A worship center was built by the Bell's Chapel Church. By 1960, facilities included 11 cabins, a dining hall, with kitchen and cooks quarters, bath houses, a well, and a swimming pool. The first camp was held in 1960.

Rev. Bill Ivey, currently residing n Knoxville, TN, recalls the following, "I had the privilege of serving as director of the first camp that was held at Camp Clark Williamson. The Junior Camp of Obion Presbytery was held at the West Tennessee Synodic Camp site on June 5 - 11, 1960. 72 campers attended and the theme for the week was 'God at Work in His World.' Just weeks before the opening date of the Junior Camp I kept hearing, "The camp is not quite finished. However, don't worry it will be completed by June 5." It was completed. Late in the afternoon on the first day, after all the parents had gone home, the well pump stopped working. That meant there was no water for the camp. The pump was removed and I believe was flown to St. Louis for repair. A tank truck of water was brought to the camp to provide water. I remember one Junior girl struggling to carry a pail of water up the hill to her cabin. She said: 'Now, I know how grandmother must have felt.' The pump was returned the day before camp closed on June 11. It really was not missed. I had to be away from camp on the evening of June 8 in order to graduate from the Cumberland Presbyterian Seminary in McKenzie. Rev. Jose Farardo was the speaker. Later that summer I served as recreation director for the West Tennessee Synodic Junior High Camp, July 25 - 30. Rev. H. E. Dill, pastor of Brunswick Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was the director."

In 1961, class pavilions were built by the Double Springs Church, the Challengers Class of Jackson and the Memphis Men's Fellowship. Another cabin was added by the Holly Grove Church in 1964.

The first swimming pool was a pool with a plastic liner. It plagued the camp from the beginning. It was rebuilt several times before sufficient resources were obtained to build the present concrete pool in 1966.

In 1969, the Gibson County Men's Fellowship enlarged the Number 1 cabin by adding an additional room and a bath.

Maintenance and upkeep for several years was done by volunteer people and a summer employee. Due to lack of supervision, vandalism, wear and tear took a heavy toll through the years.

The need for a residence and a full-time resident caretaker as well as a lodge was envisioned by the Board almost from the beginning. There were never sufficient funds to build a residence and employ a full-time person.

In 1970, the Board of Christian Education did a survey of the churches of the Synod regarding the use of Camp Clark Williamson, its continued ownership and development, as well as other needs of the Synod. The Board reported that there was support in the Synod for the continued development of the camp including the building of a residence and employment of a resident caretaker. In September 1972, Rev. Eugene Leslie was employed as Administrator.

In 1976, the Jackson YMCA made some proposals to Camp Clark Williamson that would allow them to operate day camps on the property. Funding from the Dyersburg Church helped build a road to access the property across the lake from the camp. Through donated materials and labor, a pavilion was built that allowed the YMCA to operate their day camps. They continued to do so for the next three years when they decided to discontinue camping as an activity.

In the next few years some of the cabins were winterized, bath facilities were built at the swimming pool, the tennis court was paved, a baseball and football field was developed, two rooms were added to the residence to provide for office space from funding provided by the Medina Church, and two additional cabins that accommodate twelve persons were built.

After Rev Leslie resigned as Administrator, Billy "Buzz" Sawyer was employed as camp administrator/caretaker through 1984.

Following him Randy Leslie was employed for six years, March 1985 through 1991. During this time of the late 1980's the Mae Westbrook Memorial Bridge was constructed across the lake.

In 1991 Randy Leslie resigned, and in April 1992 the present Administrator, Mike Hannaford, was employed.

In 1992 the Coleman Memorial gazebo was constructed. All the cabins were adopted by Presbyterial churches. Workdays each spring have brought out many volunteers who have added tremendously to the camp's ministry.

In 1993 a boatdock was built and paddleboats added to the lake. A class study hut and large picnic pavilion at the ballfield were also built. Heaters in the shower houses and an underground water storage tank system were installed to become a year-round usable camp. The residence was bricked and its flat roof raftered and re-roofed. The Camp Board hosted a two day outdoor concert on August 7 & 8. It was on the back ballfield with a covered stage made out of a flatbed trailer. Saturday was a contemporary Christian music concert featuring Priscilla Engle and Mark Pay from Muncie, Indiana. Sunday was reserved for Southern Gospel where the Florida Boys from Springdale, Arkansas and the Harvest Quartet from Milan were featured.

In 1994 the memorial canteen and equipment shed were constructed. Also another class study hut was built. A new furnace placed in the dining hall, and a well was dug at the day camp #1 area intended mainly for the lake. The first Brush Arbor was held inviting people from across the Presbytery to come to camp and unite in singing, fellowship and communion.

In 1995 the girls bathhouse was remodeled. A full paint job, new ceramic floor tile, new sinks and cabinets, mirrors and lighting were added. Construction of a heated and air conditioned activity building began. Besides having a handicapped accessible restroom and shower in it, it will provide a nice meeting place or indoor worship area. Six more cabins had heaters added. Presbytery authorized the Board of Directors to begin a Capital Fundraising Campaign for the 5,000 square foot Lodge. In 1995 the camp hosted 6,000 visitors including resident campers, weekend retreat campers and those only in camp for the day or to swim. On June 1 of this year the Capital Campaign for the new lodge was officially started.

In June 1996 dirt work by Hill Brothers Construction began in preparing the building site for the new lodge.

In 1997 the boy's bathhouse was remodeled like the girls. A full paint job, new ceramic floor tile, new sinks and cabinets, mirrors and lighting were added. Although the Activities Building has been used it was completed this year with the bathroom being finished and the air conditioner unit installed. Lodge construction in 1997. The concrete slab was poured on April 24. Delivery of the logs for the building came in June. Construction workers placing logs began and by October the doors, windows, porches and roof was installed. The fireplace was completed.

May 7, 2000 the Savannah Hill Lodge was dedicated to the Lord in a service at the Lodge. The key to the Lodge was presented to Molly Williams, West Tennessee Presbytery Moderator, and Rev. Jimmy Cantey brought the dedicating sermon.

In 2004 the old original walk boards and rails were replaced on the bridge that crosses the lake. New benches under the bridge gazebo were also built. Cabins #2 (Mt. Zion CP) and #3 (Faith CP) had their new screened-in porches completed for summer camp. The camp had a website created. It is www.campclarkwilliamson.com.

In the fall 2005: Camp Made Available for Shelter!

After the destruction of Hurricane Katrina FEMA called the camp asking if it could be used as an emergency shelter for victims escaping the gulf coast. The following was an informational newsletter blip that CCW ran at that time.

"By now everyone knows of the massive destruction of Hurricane Katrina both to people and to property.

In the days following the hurricane the camp Board of Directors called upon Presbytery relating the inquiries from FEMA about using the camp facilities as a shelter. The Presbyterial Council met and unanimously decided to offer it to FEMA.

In support of councils decision the Board of Directors went to work submitting an offer to FEMA. Upon this offering FEMA determined it was not necessary to use the camp's facilities at this time.

Isn't it great our Presbytery has a ministry it has used for 45 years of camping, and could also possibly be used for a ministry such as this? We appreciate a presbytery whose heart goes out to people in time of need."

In 2006 cabins #15 (Milan CP) and #18 (Concord CP) had their new porches completed for summer camp. The long time gravel roads were updated with asphalt being put down from the entrance down the big hill, from the entrance to the Savannah Hill Lodge and to the residence and shop.

In 2007 the old concrete block showers and the floor in the girls' showerhouse was torn out over the winter and replaced by new fiberglass showers and new ceramic tile with new plumbing. Cabin #11 (Jackson CP) had its new porch addition completed for summer camp. Camp Clark Williamson was incorporated by the State of Tennessee. The old dirt county road "No Name Road" which comes to the back of camp was graded and graveled by Madison County making it a usable emergency entrance and exit in to the camp.

In 2008 cabin #17 (Mt. Ararat CP) had its new porch addition completed for summer camp. Cabin #4 (adopted by Family of Will Orr) porch addition and cabin remodel was dedicated in memory of Will Orr of the Dyer CP Church by his family and friends. This included an all weather porch with closing windows, ceramic tile throughout, new bunks, new replacement windows in the old cabin, and new paint inside and out.

In 2009 the swimming pool and basketball court have had new outdoor lighting and major fence repair completed for camping season. A new split rail fence was installed at the camp entrance along Mason Road, and a new automated gate was installed for security purposes.

During the first five decades the largest week long group to have ever camped at the Resident Camp was 156 campers and staff at the West Tennessee Presbyterial Junior #2 Camp held July 23-28, 2007. The Directors of this camp was Cecil and Gloria Covert. The largest Senior High Camp ever held at the Resident Camp was June 23-28, 2008 when 121 high school campers and staff came to camp for the week. Directors for this camp were ___________.

The Brush Arbor at CCW was a regular fall event for 13 years, from 1994 to 2006, providing a time when the Presbyterial churches and people could gather for fellowship and worship. It was a time where people could come to camp and see the splendor of the outdoors in the fall. Most years it was held outside on a stage and would conclude about dark. Throughout the years there were several persons who served as Brush Arbor Chairmen. They included Terry Davidson from Jackson, Bill Jones from Lexington, Jim Smith from Memphis, Don McCurley from Milan, and Connie Flowers from Dyer.

The event featured church choirs who would perform two or three numbers on a stage for the entire congregation. Ten to fifteen choirs would take turns performing and at the end of the singing a combined choir would perform before the communion service. Communion would be the days' final event and included a communion speaker, multiple stations and about a dozen elders to host the stations.

Others parts of the Brush Arbor include lunch on the grounds, camp tours, singing events for the youth, organized sand volleyball tournament, hiking tours, and recognition of special camp volunteers, including those who received the 150 hour club honor, and cabin adopting churches.

Men who received the 150 Hour Club Award over the years were Bud Dedman, Jamie Walker, and Jim Cowan from the Bells Chapel CP Church, Lowell Ellis from Faith CP Church, David Orr from Dyer CP Church, Paul McReynolds from Trimble CP Church , Perry Mullins from the Faith CP Churchand Jerry Petty from Troy CP Church.

Since 1992 the camp has had five men who worked in a maintenance and administrator aid role. They are Claude Orton from Milan, Bobby Smith from Gadsden, David Huey from Medina, Larry Stafford from Henderson, and Mark Wells from Jackson.

The current members of the Camp Clark Williamson Board of Directors for 2009 are George Butler from Newbern CP, Jimmy Stafford and Steve Marshall from Holly Grove CP, Tammy Herrington and Dwayne Pounds from Olivet CP, Russell Little from Double Springs CP, Gene McReynolds from Jackson First CP, June Perritt from McKenzie First CP, Jerry Petty from Troy CP, Barry Reed and Danny Robinson from Humboldt First CP, and Hobert Walker from the Rutherford CP Church. This Board of Directors is a working Board who works from a vision to build a better tool for the Lord's ministry.

Board Members of the Synodic Camp Committee include Bob Rutledge, Clinton Buck, Marjorie Black, Jesse Freeman, James Westbrook, Joe Vaught, Scott McKee, Ron McMillan, Helen Williams, Walter Butler, Robert Hardin, Dana Kuhn, Jimmy Morris, Robert Prosser, Rogers Warren

CCW Board Members since 1992 also include Gray Bawcum, Jimmy Cantey, Cecil Covert, Daphne Cupples, Joyce Estes, Charles Garrett, Mary Griffin, Steve Hamilton, Haskel Jerrolds, Pat Jones, Andy Kendall, Pee Wee Maughan, Dennis May, Randall Mayfield, Paul McReynolds, Mike Minton, Doug Oakley, Tom Orr, Dalton Russom, Kelly Shepherd, William Sims, Jimmy Winters, Bart Williams, Jean Garrett, Jody Hill, Jimmy Davis, Terry Hansen, David Morris, Larry Arendale, Lee Hyden, Jim Kennedy, Jean King.

"The best kept secret in Madison County is now out". Camp Clark Williamson is a growing Christian camping facility, and invites you to be a part of it. It is available for use by any church or group willing to abide by its few Christian policies. Whether it be a resident camp, day camp, weekend retreat, conference, or pool party the Camp Board looks forward to sharing its ministry. For those who are interested reservations need to be made at least six months in advance. For availability call Camp Clark Williamson at (731) 784-3221 or (731) 225-5589.