History of Shoal Creek Camp
In November, 1957 the Government canceled the lease of the Fort Smith Methodist District Camp at Shores Lake, so the District Camp Committee, composed of Rev. Ethan Dodgen, D.S., Rev Paul Kelley, Rev. Elmo Thomason, Herschel McClurkin, Guy Conley, W.E. Rohrer, B.A. McConnell and R.W. Lynch met at Mulberry on November 14, 1957 for the purpose of establishing a new District Camp.
By December, 1957, Rev. Paul & Ina Kelley, had given 17 acres located on Shoal Creek, 1 mile off of Highway 22, at New Blaine, Arkansas. In April, 1958, the District Conference designated a Sub-Committee of G.C. Hardin, Buel McConnell, R.W. Lynch, and John Stair to begin trying to get the $25,000 that was felt to be needed to build the necessary facilities.
Response was great and cooperation with the Paris Civic Club, Chamber of Commerce, Judge, and folks over the District, and especially in Logan County, proved the efforts were very worthwhile.
In September of 1958, the architects, Bob Laser, and Kim Cheyne, had plans ready. Churches in the District took ton their “quotas” with an anxious willingness and wonderful spirit!
In November, 1958, actual construction of a dining/recreational hall, 2 bath houses, and five cabins was begun, with Rev. Paul Kelley being the builder/contractor. (Actually 8 cabins ended up being built).
Reported in the Goddard Memorial Methodist, “Grape Vine” : “Remember we are not building just for a few days, but this is a program for generations to come. Each and every person in the church should feel a great responsibility to make a contribution toward this most worthy project.”
Rev. Elmo Thomason, Camping Chairman, announced in May, 1959, that July 13-17 would see the first camp. A Sr. High camp directed by Herschel McClurkin and Frank Clemmons. This camp had 38 campers : Booneville – 9, Fort Smith – 8, Goddard – 3, Paris – 3, Greenwood – 3, St. Paul – 3, Van Buren – 3, Lavaca – 2, Ozark – 2, and Scranton – 2. The counselors were: Ann Eubanks, Linda Bryan, Wilma Downum, Billy Fox, George Kleeb, Brady Cook, Camp Manager, and Lionell Jewell, Life Guard. Cooks were Mrs. Curtis, Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Masingale.
Other camps the first summer of operation were another Sr. High Camp directed by Bill Connell and Jiggs Ames. August 3-7; Jr. High July 20-24 directed by Brady Cook and Kenneth Renfro; July 27-31 with David Conyers and Robert Sessions directing; August 10-14 Jr. High with Frank Clemmons and Earl Hughes as directors and August 17-21 Jr High with Bill Wilder and Bill Cheyne as directors.
Back in the late 50’s, within a period of 2 years, positive things happened in the camping program of the Fort Smith District. A foundation was laid for the meaningful work that is being carried on by the interested and faithful folds today, for the camping program of our future.
In 1996, the Fort Smith District polled the congregations as to their interest in Shoal Creek Camp. It was explained that conference funding would be ending at the end of 1999 and that a decision must be made at the District Conference. The camp was in sad shape. The Health Department had condemned the water. There were only 2 scheduled camps that summer. Choir camp and upper elementary. The District Conference was presented 2 alternatives. 1) Sell the camp and use the proceeds to build a cabin at Mount Eagle Camp, or 2) become serious about maintaining the camp with the eye toward making it usable, rentable, and someday self sufficient.
The vote of the conference was that many folks had fond memories of their own camping experience at Shoal Creek, and wished to make those experiences available to their children and grandchildren. The mandate was given to the camp trustees to repair and update the camp with the plan of making it usable for our own camping program and rentable to other groups. The dream is to make the camp self sufficient.
A program committee was established to plan and implement camping programs under the leadership of Mardell McClurkin.
The camp trustees instituted a fund raising drive that allowed us to install city water and natural gas lines.
There were 2 camps during the 1996 season
We completely remodeled the bath houses with tile floors, marble sinks, new pipes, and water heaters. The cabins were repaired, worked on the kitchen, adding new flooring, replaced wiring and lighting fixtures. The repair work was reported to the 1997 District Conference and expressed the dream of a swimming pool. In the past, the children were hauled to Subiaco for swimming. Once again, the people of the Fort Smith District generously contributed prayers, labor and funding. By April, the pool was completed and paid for by June.
There were 3 camps during the 1997 season
During 1998 we also replaced 3 freezers and 2 refrigerators and 2 air conditioners in kitchen. 90 cots were received to replace the old hospital beds.
The dream for 1999 is to build a bath house by the pool, to air condition the dining hall, and replace the kitchen stove.
There were 5 camps during the 1998 season
A/C was added to the dining hall.
There were 9 camps during the 1999 season
The large metal garage/storage building was added to the caretakers house location.
After the passing of Herschel McClurkin, the McClurkin family graciously asked for memorials to be made to Shoal Creek Camp. Thanks to many generous gifts, a covered pavilion was constructed on top of the hill, in view of the pool.
A large dedication was held in April, celebrating the opening of the “McClurkin Pavilion”. It is estimated that over 200 people attended. A catfish lunch was served for all those wanting to stay for lunch. Bishop Gary E. Mueller of the Arkansas Conference was in attendance and gave a wonderful dedication memorial and prayer. Stephen Coburn, District Superintendent of the Northwest District was also in attendance, along with many other church leaders and congregants.
In October of 2018, Terry Johnson, beloved caretaker of the camp for 8 years, suddenly passed away.
This year, Shoal Creek Camp will celebrate 60 years in ministry.
Thanks to many generous donations, the camp trustees have begun construction on a new addition to Kelley Hall, containing new restrooms and showers. This project was completed in June.
February: Connie Parker was hired as camp caretaker / hostess.
April: SCC began the pursuit of American Camping Association (ACA) accreditation.
June: The small bridge was constructed over the drainage stream, next to the craft shed
September: Camp received notice that we had passed all requirements to become ACA accredited.
This was the year of the Covid-19 Corona virus outbreak. All the Methodist camps were cancelled by order of the Bishop. We were however blessed with some other denominations camps whose original camp locations had closed. We were unable to do our regular fundraising such as Lenten services, and a camp gathering.
July: Thanks to a programming grant, a 9 hole disc golf course was installed.
October: After a 3 year campaign of raising funds to put a new metal roof on Kelley Hall, it was finally done! We had it scheduled to do about the time the Covid-19 hit. Prices of materials soared, and a contractor backed out, and we had to extend our fundraising for a few months.
December: Connie Parker Retired
January: Trustees began a kitchen remodel, removing the small bathroom in the kitchen area, making room for a large refrigerator.
February: Mike Hise was hired as Caretaker
March: Kitchen has been updated with new stove. The old, small restroom has been removed to make room for the ice maker and larger refrigerator.
April: Shoal Creek Camp applied for a Ministry Impact Grant from the organization United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries. We were awarded a $41,372 grant to replace all of our beds. With the addition of bunk beds, we were able to increase the number of campers that we could house. This was an incredible blessing for camp.