COLESBURG, Iowa (AP) - The Brownfield Mill Spring valley, home to a cold-water stream and spectacular waterfalls, was a favorite of picnickers near Colesburg in the 1950s. However, the litter left behind bothered Clifton and Sophia Klaus, who farmed nearby.
In 1955, a Boy Scout troop from Clarence asked permission to use the grounds for camping.
By the time the Scouts concluded their trip, they had cleaned up not only their own campsite but also picked up trash throughout the valley. The Klauses were impressed and remembered the good deed when members of the Northeast Iowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America approached them with a proposal to use the area for a summer camp.
“If that’s what you teach Boy Scouts, you just tell me what you need and I’ll do what I can,” Clifton told the council, according to the (https://bit.ly/29SwoQY ) Telegraph Herald.
A 25-year lease to the 137-acre parcel was signed in the spring of 1956, and the overwhelming task of constructing a summer camp in three months began in earnest.
Temporary administration facilities were established, and campsites - including latrines, wash houses and tents - were set up along the hillside.
Funds for sanitary facilities were raised through the sale of The Magic Carpet, a large, flat-bottomed boat used to shuttle Scouts to Adventure Island, the council’s previous summer camp, on a Mississippi River island near Guttenberg.
The Rural Electrification Administration ran power lines to the new site, and area businesses and individuals stepped up with donations of money, materials and manpower. John Deere Dubuque Works built a one-acre lake, while A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing Co. installed the camp’s water system.
Scouts, too, contributed to the project, clearing brush, constructing a council ring, establishing a picnic area and creating roadside signs. By July 8, Camp C.S. Klaus would be home to 100 boys per week. The council included 50 troops from Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware and Dubuque counties, as well as East Dubuque, Illinois.
“When we came here in ‘56, there were no buildings,” recalled Roger Westemeier, of Dyersville, who attended the camp that first year. “The dining hall was a big tent. They brought the kitchen down from Adventure Island, and that was just panels that they just bolted together. There was maybe 20 feet between the (buildings). I can remember the waiters on a rainy day kept trying to run across there and slipping on mud and going down with a tray full of food and everything else.”
“We took our physicals right down here on the parade grounds. Everybody stripped down to their underwear, and they had the doctor there.”
“The old lake was across from the parade grounds. It was not very big,” Westemeier remembered. “When we canoed, if there were too many of us in there, we all had to go one way, and then we’d all stop and we’d all go the other way around.”
“I was not a real tall guy, but I can remember standing up and the water came up to about here on me,” he said as he motioned. “So, it was about chest deep. And they had bullheads in there, and you could feel the little bullheads coming up and biting on your leg as you were standing there. So, it freaked a lot of guys out, but it didn’t bother me any.”
That wasn’t the only thing that rattled city slickers.
“Every outhouse had wasp nests in it and great big spiders,” Westemeier said. “You can imagine a little guy going in there who was afraid of wasps and spiders.”
“Second year I was here, we came into camp on a Sunday. Monday, we left here. We hiked over to Garber and then we went down the Turkey River, down into the Mississippi by canoe, all the way down to Dubuque. Then we got back out here. Spent Friday back out here, and Saturday we went home. It was fun. I enjoyed it immensely.”
Dick Heller, formerly of Troop 13 in Dubuque, also attended camp during its second year, when it was formally dedicated.
“It wasn’t much,” he recalled. “Most of the buildings were canvas - the quartermaster station and the trading post. The archery and rifle range were where the lake is now. We’d shoot at the side of the hill in those days. It was awesome. I learned more there than I did in college.”
“(Clifton Klaus) had cattle in there. He would run them down though the pasture at the bottom. He’d come down every day in his green Jeep station wagon and check on them. They ran the whole camp, wherever there was grass. They went right into the campsites.”
Heller also remembered hikes to the nearby ice cave. “When I was on staff, we’d cook dinner and have activities down there.”
James Langridge, of Dubuque, was a Boy Scouts executive in 1964, when the council decided to explore a more permanent arrangement for the camp.
“We were leasing from Clifton and Sophia for $1 per year,” he said. “(Council President) Duane Munter, a banker in Strawberry Point, talked to Clifton and Sophia about purchasing the property.”
After some thought, the couple “agreed to give the deed to the property to the Northeast Iowa Council with two conditions. 1. It must be continually used as a Boy Scout camp for 30 years, or it would revert to the Klaus family or their heirs. 2. When camp wasn’t being used in the summer, the cattle could roam there.”
Decades later, that spirit of giving continues to drive the camp.
Construction and maintenance - such as that on the 40-foot rappelling and climbing tower, completed in 2000 - is performed by volunteers and funded by donors. Timmeu Lodge #74, an Order of the Arrow Lodge, organizes camp fundraisers, including the annual Mother’s Day Pancake Breakfast at Dubuque’s Eagle Point Park. It also promotes leadership training, and many of those Scouts find summer work at camp.
“We’re very fortunate because, like a lot of camps, our staff members are youth that were Scouts themselves,” said Northeast Iowa Council BSA historian Paul Lewis. “It gives them the opportunity to develop leadership and train other kids in what they’ve learned as Scouts when they’re working on their badges and activities. We’ve got a small enough camp and a small enough staff that they can provide more personal service than some of the other camps do, which I think is a real benefit.”
Westemeier, an expert woodcarver and former camp handicraft director, currently volunteers at the handicraft station.
“It’s so important to see these young kids come through the program and get involved, and the leadership they come away with is unbelievable,” he said. “They don’t realize they’re getting it as they go through the program, but they do get it. You see some of these young guys come in, and they’re going every direction. And, all of a sudden, bang, just like that, they’ve completely changed. I think that’s what we try to do.”
“The Klauses have no idea what they did,” said Heller. “That place is magic.”
Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.