Here’s a question for you: what do you do when someone tells you about a 1950’s-era Scout camp, the remnants of which lie abandoned in an isolated woods within the confines of a popular state park? You go find it, of course!
It was a cloudy day and a long trek to reach the location that was reportedly the site of a summer camp back in the post-WWII era. So take a visit to back when times were a little simpler and the forest was just a wee bit thinner.
IF YOU VISITED this page before 11/10/15, it might benefit you to give it another read! Based on further information discovered, this article has been heavily edited.
PLEASE NOTE: for the sake of privacy, the folks who accompanied me on this visit have been removed from the photos. As I am not photo shop-savvy, I have simply cut them out of the pics and filled in the area remaining with a solid color. I apologize for the lack of aesthetics in this post, but do try to look past the glaring edits to see the beauty of nature reclaiming this old campground.
And now, the history…
As you might imagine, a find like this left me itching for answers. While my source knew the approximate location of the abandoned ruins of the above camp, my source wasn’t sure what years the camp operated, what it was called, or if it was a Boy Scout camp versus a Girl Scout camp. Upon returning home and to internet coverage, I began my search immediately.
Surprisingly, information about this particular location was hardly forthcoming. Several hours of searching left me thinking I’d never get to the bottom of this one until a name popped up in an old newspaper clipping from 1941: Camp Lucy-Mac.
Upon reading the article, I realized I had found what I was looking for. I found yet another newspaper article, this one from 1944, which gave me the lowdown of this little-known campground.
Back in 1932, the Girl Scouts (GS) took over a Boy Scout camp at Canfield Lake, which is just north of Ludington near a town called Manistee. It was renamed Camp Michawa. This worked out well for a few years until this small inland lake dried up to the point where it no longer supported water activities, and the GS folks moved across the lake to Wisconsin to Camp Sinawa in 1936. But the Michigan GS troops wouldn’t find themselves traveling across Lake Michigan to attend camp for long.
In the early months of 1937, a lady named Lucy McCarthy was watching her efforts to create a GS camp in Ludington State Park (LSP) take root. Having organized the meetings between the Michigan Conservation representatives and the GS leaders, the site for a GS camp within LSP was approved on a 6-degree March day. From that point on, construction and reorganization began.
Mrs. McCarthy organized local men from Ludington to come out and cut down trees, clear out poison ivy, and make the area generally inhabitable for excited Girl Scouts and their counselors. She also orchestrated the transfer of items from Camps Sinawa and Michawa to the new site, bringing over everything from tents to tent floors to latrines and an outdoor stove to Lucy-Mac via Lake Michigan.
On July 11, 1937, Camp Lucy-Mac opened and was named in honor of the lady who had worked so hard to start it. According to the Ludington Daily News, Mrs. Jennie Lind was the director, and the camp, though humble, was off to an auspicious start. By way of activities, Lucy-Mac boasted outdoor cooking classes, swimming, boating, hiking, overnight trips, handicraft, and an opportunity to work on scout badges.
That isn’t to say the budding camp wasn’t without its problems. In its first year, there were no permanent buildings–only tents. The Girl Scouts who attended that year named the main dining tent “the sieve” due to the amount of water that poured in through its holey roof during rain showers. The outdoor stove was the only location where food could be cooked in the entire camp, and so all food was cooked outdoors–rain or shine. The wells that were sunk on the day that the camp opened were soon shown to have bad water, so all water was brought to Lucy-Mac from the CCC Ludington-Pere Marquette camp from across Hamlin Lake in large milk cans. To boot, it seems that the men Mrs. McCarthy had recruited to pull poison ivy were not as thorough as they ought to have been as the paper reports that this first year, most of the staff got poison ivy so badly that nearly each of them had to go home at some point to recover.
In later years, permanent buildings would be added, starting in 1938 with a screened-in kitchen. The outdoor stove became an incinerator and a convenient location to make popcorn at night. By 1941, the State Park would add a bathhouse, laundry, a lodge, and recreation building.
According to a newspaper article from June 22, 1944 (which is the main source for this article), the lodge building, which is likely referencing Bldg 1 in this particular case, was described as being at the end of a lagoon with a great view of the lake. (For further info on why this has been a point of contention in my research, please scroll down for a link to the next article pertaining to Lucy Mac!)
Behind (south of) the lodge, there was the sandy playground–surely the clearing we came upon on the way to the camp–which was used for making tin can breakfasts, playing baseball, and hosting nightly campfires and evening dramas put on by the campers. The girls’ tents were set up around the lodge and swimming area. And finally, Pirate Island, which was just north of Lucy-Mac, was nearby enough to host camp-outs and tin can cookouts (remember those tin cans one of my companions had noticed in the water?).
While I was able to discover its opening date, I have not yet discovered when or why Camp Lucy-Mac was closed or what led to it being demolished to its foundations. If any of you happen to know the history behind this curious camp, please leave a comment below!
EDIT 11/10/15: I have recently gained access to the aforementioned newspaper clippings that reveal more information and also contain some photos of this camp. The article containing this info is now live! For your convenience, please follow the link below:
Main newspaper article referenced in this post: Ludington Daily News, June 22, 1944
Ludington Daily News, July 14, 1944
Newspaper snippets about Camp Lucy-Mac:
Ludington Daily News, August 6, 1940
Ludington Daily News, August 16, 1949
Ludington Daily News, September 3, 1964