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When Is Camp Emerson’s Centennial?

1937 Camp Emerson Patch
1937 Camp Emerson Patch

In 2019, the California Inland Empire Council will be holding a year-long Centennial celebration for Camp Emerson.  There will be many events, not the least of which will be the Section W4S Conclave with Cahuilla Lodge as the service lodge for the event.

When An Anniversary Isn’t Quite An Anniversary

There is just one issue.  If you are celebrating an anniversary in the traditional sense, 2019 will be the 99th anniversary for Camp Emerson, not 100.

I will lean heavily on the fantastic Camp Emerson, an Incomplete History published in 1994 by Chris Manning and Dr. Norm Mellor in discussing this anniversary.  The book pops up occasionally on eBay and is an excellent find.

2019 will indeed be the 100th anniversary of Scouts camping in the community of Idyllwild.  2018’s summer camp is the 100th time Scouts from Council # 45 have held summer camp.  However, 1919’s Summer Camp was held Northeast of the modern Camp Emerson property, on the North side of Strawberry Creek.  For an idea of the approximate location, see Gray’s Meadow in what is now the Idyllwild Pines Camp.

At a campfire during that first summer camp, C.L. Emerson announced he was going to donate land downstream as a permanent campsite (what became Camp Emerson).  The second summer camp, held in 1920, was actually held on what is the modern property of Camp Emerson.  To complicate this further, the deed from C.L. Emerson to the Riverside County Council was not officially deeded until January 3, 1921.

One side effect of this is another anecdote I heard often when I was a youth:  that Camp Emerson was the oldest continuously operating summer camp West of the Mississippi River.  Camp Emerson is one of the oldest camps, there is no debating that.  But the anecdote isn’t true.  Camp Parsons in Washington has been operating since 1919.  When I used to update the Camp Emerson website, I made sure to remove that anecdote.  Emerson may be one of the 2 or 3 oldest camps, and that is something to be proud of.

About That Centennial

So what is the proper centennial?  If you are celebrating the camp itself, 2020 is the 100th anniversary.  From a legal standpoint, the 100th anniversary would be January 3, 2021.  If you are just counting camping in Idyllwild, the first year which was not held on the property, then you can say 1919 is it.  2019 is the 101st class of Scouts camping in Idyllwild, 100th class of Scouts camping on Camp Emerson property, and 99 years since that first camp on Emerson property.  The legal ownership centennial would be January 3, 2021.

The most logical way to pin the centennial confirms to when Scouts were camping on the property we know as Camp Emerson, and that would be 2020, not 2019.

I do not point out the issue with the year of the Centennial to take away any of the celebrations in 2019.  Camp Emerson has persevered and it should be celebrated.  Of the Councils that have come to comprise the California Inland Empire Council, many camps have come and gone.  Names like Camp Helendade (2007 Slide Fire), Camp Arataba (fire and termination of lease), Camp Tulakes (sold), Camp Hunt (sold), and Camp Evans (maybe others).  Emerson has stood the test of time.

Sources:  Camp Emerson, an Incomplete History,  by Chris Manning and Dr. Norm Mellor

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