Alums to celebrate Aug. 3 at historic campground, once called Camp Hanoum
THETFORD, VT | Fond memories of campfires, canoeing, swimming, singing, and just being with friends old and new will be revived this summer as Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains celebrates the 110th anniversary of Camp Farnsworth’s beginnings in Thetford, Vermont.
Girl Scout alums are invited to join their sisters for a celebration of the camp’s history on Saturday, Aug. 3, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Participants will tour the camp and relive their favorite camp activities, participate in a flag ceremony, take a canoe ride, enjoy meals in the dining hall, and close out the day with a campfire. All are invited to connect with old friends, share their memories and even try out the new Camp Farnsworth History patch program. Those who want to relive their full camp experience can even add a Friday and/or Saturday overnight stay to the trip.
“Camp Farnsworth is a special place with wonderful memories for so many former campers,” said Patricia Mellor, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “I spent many summers trying new things and making wonderful friends. We hope the 110th celebration provides a perfect opportunity to reconnect and experience the magic of camp once again!”
Originally Camp Hanoum
Camp Farnsworth was originally founded as Camp Hanoum, so named by Charles and Charlotte Farnsworth in 1909. “Hanoum” is a Turkish word meaning “gracious lady.” Charles Farnsworth had been brought up in Turkey by his missionary father, so there was a distinctly Turkish flavor to the camp. Charles was known as “Chelebe” (Master) and Charlotte was affectionately known as “Madama” (Mistress), according to a history published by the Thetford Historical Society. Since instructors and professional musicians summered in Thetford and taught at the camp, it was known locally as “the singing camp.”
Its original location was on Houghton Hill Road, but moved 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.
Focusing on girls
In 1911, Charlotte Farnsworth pursued her idea to have an organization specifically for girls that was set around camping. She called her group the Camp Fire Girls, and Camp Hanoum operated under that name for several years. The Thetford Historical Society notes that the Camp Fire program was adopted by Charles Farnsworth’s sister, Mrs. Luther Gulick, who is often credited with founding Camp Fire Girls. When Juliette Gordon Low proposed that Camp Fire Girls merge with her group, Girl Guides of America (now Girl Scouts), her proposal was rejected, as Camp Fire Girls was the larger group at the time.
Girl Scouts enter
When Charles Farnsworth died in 1946, ownership and management fell to sisters and former campers Helen Joiner and Martha Hightower. Their management ended in 1959, when the camp was transferred to the Girl Scouts and renamed Camp Farnsworth. Joiner was the Girl Scout council president at the time of the transfer. It remains in operation as a day and resident camp for girls to this day.
Camp Farnsworth today
Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains hosted 734 resident campers last year, along with 892 day campers at Farnsworth and other Girl Scout camps. Some girls stay for more than one week, resulting in 1,045 resident camper weeks last year at Farnsworth.
Camp Farnsworth is a 200-acre facility that features a large pool, playing fields, a forest setting, and a 50-acre lake that can be used for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and ice skating. Camping facilities include small cabins, platform tents, and Adirondack shelters. All have beds with mattresses. All units have shelters, drinking water, and toilets, and there is a central shower house. The Recreation Building has a large open space with stage, plus a shower and kitchenette, along with flush toilets. The dining hall overlooks Lake Abenaki and seats up to 200 people. There is a bunkhouse that sleeps up to 16, a fire circle with wooden bleachers, and an in-ground heated saltwater pool that is 3 to 5 feet deep. There is a horse barn, riding ring and horse paddock; archery targets; Gaga Ball pit; balance beams; low climbing walls; and a 30-foot-tall climbing tower that features several different challenges.
Camp Farnsworth is the busiest in summer, but hosts activities all year long. Campers plan their own activities for the week, whether it’s trying yoga on a paddleboard, making a camp bench in the wood shop, taking a hike to the Seven Gables, or conquering their fear of heights on the climbing tower. Girls learn to ride horseback, shoot an arrow, learn about nature, go white-water rafting, even go on two-week treks on foot or by canoe. In the winter, Camp Farnworth is home to Winter Fest, Winter Weekend and Winter Palooza, where girls of all ages can snowshoe, sled, cook a meal over a campfire, go ice fishing, and even camp outdoors. In spring, older girls camp overnight, cook breakfast outdoors, and help prepare the camp for the summer season. It’s also the place adult volunteers come to learn basic and advanced outdoor living skills so they can safely lead their Girl Scout troops.
Farnsworth is home for some camporees, too. These are gatherings organized by a group of Girl Scout troops independently of the council camping programs.
Girl Scout camping
Getting outdoors is one of the core pillars of the Girl Scouts program. Through girl-led outdoor activities, the Girl Scout experience comes to life. Girls seek and meet challenges, become resourceful problem-solvers, work cooperatively, and develop a strong sense of self. Research has shown that half of Girl Scouts said the program provided them with opportunities to experience the outdoors in ways that could not have done otherwise, and about 75 percent said Girl Scouts gave them the chance to build their skills or try new outdoor activities.
Residential camping sessions run from June 30 to Aug. 16 at Camp Farnsworth, with a short day camp session July 1-3.
Save the date
Those interested in reliving the Girl Scout camp experience are invited to attend the 110th birthday celebration on Aug. 3. For details, see https://www.girlscoutsgwm.org/en/events-repository/2019/camp_farnsworth_110t.html
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.