Alums from over the decades joined in on a day of reminiscing
THETFORD, VT – There were smiles and hugs, songs and shared memories, swimming and hiking, as alums celebrated the 110th birthday of Camp Farnsworth on Saturday, Aug. 3.
Reminiscing about the old days, noting the many improvements to camp facilities, sharing meals and old photos, even modeling camp wear like bloomers from the1940s, women who spent their summer days at the “singing camp” in Thetford were happy to gather once again and relive their camp days.
There was a full day of activities provided by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council that now owns the camp. Participants started the day with a flag raising that incorporated a mounted color guard, then enjoyed paddling on Lake Abenaki, archery, swimming in the camp pool, and – of course – an evening campfire. Many stayed overnight before and after the day’s celebrations for the full camp experience.
One highlight of the birthday was the unveiling of a state historical marker at the entrance to the camp noting the camp’s long history in Thetford. Susan Joiner Rudloff, whose mother, Helen Joiner, was the camp director from 1946 to 1959 and served as the Girl Scout council president, tore the veil from the sign as Girl Scout officials and alums looked on.
Beginning as Camp Hanoum under the ownership of Charles Hubert Farnsworth and his wife, Charlotte, Girl Scouts honored their memory by renaming it Camp Farnsworth when they acquired the property in 1959 from the Joiner family. The Farnsworths saw the camp as a place where young women could gain strength, confidence, and practical skills while enjoying an exceptional natural setting.
A historical sketch written by the Thetford Historical Society records that the camp was a simple outing of a dozen or so students from the Horace Mann School at Columbia Teachers College in 1909, where they summered with the Farnsworths in Thetford.
The camp expanded from its original location on Houghton Hill Road to the shores of Mud Pond (Lake Abenaki) and offered a formal eight-week program that included nature study, swimming, canoeing and water safety, crafts, and hiking. Music also played a large role in camp life, and Camp Hanoum was known locally as “the singing camp,” with instructors and professional musicians who summered in Thetford and taught at the camp. Hanoum publications are full of songs written by the campers themselves.
Because Charles Farnsworth had been brought up in Turkey by his missionary father, the camp names had a Turkish flavor – Charles was known as “Chelebe” (Master) and Charlotte as “Madama” (Mistress). The camp still features such Turkish-sounding names as Keushk, Kaflik, Ojakle, Yaryole, Acemi, Yolacan, and Tovariche. “Hanoum” comes from the Turkish, meaning “young ladies” or “gracious lady.”
By the late 1930s, the Farnsworths eased out of their active management of the camp, and duties fell to Marjorie Wentworth (Willum) Traut. The camp produced an annual report called “The Mektub,” with evolved into an alumnae magazine. Charles Farnsworth died in 1946, and the camp ownership and management transferred to sisters and former campers Helen Joiner and Martha Hightower. They managed the camp until 1959, when it was transferred to the Girl Scouts and renamed Camp Farnsworth.
Today, Camp Farnsworth operates as a residential and day camp for girls, offering one-week or two-week camping sessions serving hundreds of girls each week. In 2018, the camp served 734 resident campers, where girls explored nature, improved their outdoor skills, and made new friends. Girls choose their own activities, like making a camp bench in woodshop, trying yoga on paddleboards, hiking, horseback riding, rock-wall climbing, bike trips, and more. There are campfires, cookouts, swimming and arts. Girl Scout camp is open to girls from kindergarten through 12th grade, and financial assistance is available.
Getting girls outdoors is one of the four pillars of Girl Scouting, allowing them the opportunity to try new skills, build their skills, and take on leadership roles. Outdoor experiences in Girl Scouts provide girls a chance to discover, connect, and take action in a way that builds their courage, confidence, and character, so they can become G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders).™
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.