LITTLE VALLEY — Christian Heights Camp will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Saturday and Sunday.
As families sought to recover from the trauma of World War II, several members of the LaSalle Church of Christ wanted to form a camp for their children to have Christian recreation opportunities. They pooled their resources and in 1947 purchased the Milks family dairy farm in the town of Napoli.
Located on a hilltop overlooking Little Valley, the camp has primarily served the Niagara Frontier, though campers from Ontario and states as far away as California and Florida have attended. Early campers remember sleeping in tents, eating in the old farmhouse and having to use privies, fondly called the Murphs.
The camp was incorporated in 1948 as Christian Heights, Inc. That summer they held their first camp session with O.H. Tallman as camp supervisor. The original board of directors was Sam (Dorothy) Blackwell, Charles (Vi) Clarke, Richard (Erma) Draper, David (Maxine) Mitchell, Don (Lena) Peirce, Norman (Vi) Peirce, Joe (Mildred) Snyder and Wesley (Margaret) Varney.
The board’s vision was to provide a place where children and adults would connect with their Creator by being surrounded by nature’s wonders as well as through Bible study, campfires and devotions as a place for planting seeds of God’s love.
Over the years, the 150-acre farm continued to be transformed into the camp it is today. The dairy barn was first converted to a dining hall and chapel, then sleeping quarters were added on the second floor — later removed for safety reasons — and again renovated for arts and crafts and a game room.
Tragically, in 1956, founder Richard Draper was killed when the Schoellkopf Power Station collapsed in the Niagara Gorge. His Niagara Mohawk co-workers were well aware of his work at Christian Heights, and they finished the paneling of the dining hall in his memory. The former dairy barn is now known as the Draper Memorial Building.
In 1998, the “Murphs” was retired as a modern building containing showers, toilets, a first-aid station, staff sleeping rooms and a large group room was constructed. It is known as Shepherd’s Staff. Outside there is a small pavilion displaying the bell that originally rang at the Suspension Bridge Church of Christ which was renamed the First Christian Church. The village of Suspension Bridge was later incorporated into the city of Niagara Falls.
A Memorial Pavilion was recently built recognizing the 75 years of workers and donors who have transformed the farm into a camp. The names of the original families and others are placed on a pine-paneled wall.
In addition to Christian Heights’ own program, it is home to Camp Agape for its children’s camp. St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church has its family camp there, CHC has a fall Veterans’ retreat and other groups/churches enjoy the expansive land and facilities.
All former campers and staff, donors who support CHC and friends of camp are invited to join the celebration. More information about Christian Heights Camp can be found at www.christianheightscamp.com.