Table of Contents
1946 - Thought in Mind
In 1946, Roy Lomison of the Howard, PA Church of Christ and some others; namely Oscar and Olive Weaver sent some of their children to a Christian Camp in Stillwater, PA; which in those days was a long trip on a two-lane highway, through many towns to reach the camp near Sunbury, PA along the Susquehanna River.
Because the trip was so long and only a few of the youth could attend, they began a search for land to build a camp in their own area. A survey was sent out to the Christian Churches in the Valley, and it was unanimous that all were in favor of the idea of having our own Christian Camp closer to home.
Roy Lomison knew of an old CCC Camp Property with a freshwater spring that would have been favorable to build on. However, when he inquired about the property, he found that it was owned by the PA Forestry Department and was not available. Roy then spoke to Oscar Weaver from the Romola area, and Oscar knew of a tract of land in the Marsh Creek area which he was pasturing his cattle on.
In August of 1946, Oscar and Roy went to look at the possibility of acquiring this property, with the hope that soon we would be building our own church camp. I, Don Lomison, being Roy’s son went along on the hike. As a 12-year-old boy; I did not have the same vision as these two men.
All I could see were flies that would bite you, bees that would sting you, and sometimes a few snakes. Roy and Oscar however could visualize a wonderful spot for the new Christian Camp. There was a good spring for water and approximately 120 acres of open and wooded land.
August 1946 - Planning Begins
Frances Watkins Poorman (widow of Chester Poorman) from Bellefonte owned the property, and Bill Haas from Howard had cut some timber off of the land, so he helped Roy get acquainted with her. She, with the blessing of her three daughters, Faye, Ethyl and Beulah sold the property on April 28, 1947 to the following men for $300.00 which was at the time $2.50 per acre.
(To purchase this property today would cost approximately $400,000.00 which is approximately to $3,400.00 per acre.)
Roy and Oscar then spoke to four other men, and each man contributed $50.00 each toward the project. The original six men were:
Roy Lomison – Howard
Oscar Weaver – Romola
Clyde Myers – Mill Hall
Sherman Williams – Blanchard
Arlin Wagner – Flemington
The sixth man however was not a member of one of our churches. He was the President of the Beech Creek. PA Bank. He requested that his name not be divulged at the time that he wanted to stay anonymous. This man was also instrumental in setting up an account with his bank to get them started, and the land was purchased.
(The anonymous man was J. A. Haugh).
Fall 1946 - Work Begins
Work began in the fall of 1946 with the anticipation of the first camp week being held in the Spring of 1947. As the excitement of the build mounted however, there was great sadness when Roy Lomison’s wife passed away suddenly on December 19, 1946 at the age of 48. She was excited about the prospects of the project, and had a great vision of the coming camp, but never got to see it
There was a tremendous amount of work to be done to get ready for our first campers ever at Sylvan Hills. Many, many people were excited about it, and came to help with the early clearing, planning and building. Many donated money, materials and work. First came a place to eat and meet. The first Kitchen and
Mess Hall was built on the spot where the Recreation Hall now stands.
On the hill next to the Mess Hall was a small building which was the first camp store where we could buy soda and candy bars. A small study building is there now. Most of the buildings were constructed of cinder blocks from a plant in Lock Haven, PA and had metal rooves. We also built two out house’s; one for the boys and one for the girls from cinder blocks.
Summer 1947 - First Camp Week
I was there for the first camp in the second week. The first week was older elementary. The second week was High School. It was rather crude the first year. We all lived in tents borrowed from The Grange Fair in Centre Hall, PA. Our tents were set up just above the present ball field and evening vespers area now.
Our first missionary to camp was a very good teacher of God’s word. He had an unusual way of teaching through magic. He used cloth scarves and different colored thimbles. He was really good at holding the attention of all of the youth while he taught. His name was George Vartenesian.
George was also the Dean of the boys tents and had at one point in his life been a bugler. George would wake us up every morning with Reveille and put us to bed every night with Taps. One morning as he was about to play Reveille, he realized that his bugle wouldn’t blow. It was at that point, (and I don’t like to say who) that he noticed someone had dumped a whole box of Corn Flakes down the end of it. (Boys will be Boys).
Summer 1947 - Typical Day of Camp
6:00 am – Reveille
6:10 am – Basin of cold water from the Spring and bathe
6:20 am – Alone time, morning meditation
6:30 am – Breakfast at the Mess Hall
7:15 – 7:30 am – Help with dishes and clean Mess Hall
7:30 – 11:00 am – Classes with different Teachers
11:00 – 12:00 am – Lunch Hour
12:00 – 2:00 pm – Recreation (Soft Ball, lower field)
2:00 – 3:00 pm – A dip in Marsh Creek
3:00 – 4:00 pm – Free Time
4:00 – 5:30 pm – Evening Meal
5:30 – 6:30 pm – Get dressed for Vespers
6:30 – 7:30 pm – Vesper Service in Mess Hall
7:30 – 9:00 pm – Camp Fire and Singing
9:00 – 10:00 pm – Prepare for Bed
10:00 pm – Taps and Lights Out
Several Churches in our area had youth that were involved in the first year of camp. Some of them brought friends along. Howard and Blanchard Churches shared a minister, Pastor Clark. The following are some of the Churches and People who served:
Pastor Clark – Helped in 1947
Pastor Boswell – Mill Hall – Teacher and lead singing
Pastor Porter – Flemington
Ridgeway – Had a few youth from there
Pastor Albert Hauch – Lock Haven had a few, (others stayed at Stillwater)
Monument – A few campers from there
George Vartenesian – Was our Vesper Speaker
Our Nurse – Mae Weaver Boone (Oscar Weaver’s daughter)
Camp Cook – Myrtle Cox – Had owned a restaurant in Bellefonte
We had a great week of camp, and I knew this was the beginning of many years of progress in which Sylvan Hills would train and watch many young people pledge their lives to serving Jesus Christ where ever they went.
Summer 1948 - Summer Camp
The schedule was about the same with many of the same workers we had the first year. Some however had changed. We had a new cook which remained the cook for many years to come. Her name was Aunt Mae Strunk from the Howard Church. She had three grandsons who came out of Sylvan Hills and went on to Eastern Christian Bible College to become Ministers. Will, Casey and Phil Strunk. She also had many good helpers over the years that provided good meals for everyone.
Fall 1948 - New Additions
In 1948 we added a girls dormitory built from cinder blocks. It was erected where the boys’ cabins are today. Many people from the Churches flocked in to add buildings and equipment as it was needed. Tom Galbraith who had been a camper at Sylvan Hills became a contractor, and it was he who built the Chapel that became a great place of Worship.
A new girls dormitory was added to where it now stands, and the boys took over the old girls’ dormitory. It was later torn down and was replaced by the cabins that stand there today. A well was drilled by Harris Barto and the dormitories then had showers and toilet facilities.
The old Mess Hall was torn down and a new Recreation Hall was built in its place. The new Kitchen and Mess Hall was built on the hill, and a dinner bell was added. Next to the Kitchen and Mess Hall, a new Camp Store was built where the campers could purchase soda, candy and snacks.
During these years we had a part time Camp Manager for Sylvan Hills. He was also the Minister for the Howard Church. He helped organize camp weeks, and food purchases along with any maintenance that was needed. He also organized workers for camp repairs and new buildings that had been planned. We had something special right here in our own valley and would have it for many years to come.
Spring 1986 - Jump Ahead to 1986
It was in 1986 that the Camp Board made a decision to step out in faith into a full program at Sylvan Hills, and we hired a full time Camp Manager that would live there at the camp. The first Manager was Jake Lomison and his wife Carol. A new home was built and occupied by the fall of 1986. The home was built by Thomas Galbraith, the same person who built the Chapel and the Recreation Hall.
This was also the year we took on a tremendous challenge and built a new Kitchen, Dining Hall and Conference Center combined at a cost of $300,000.00. Jump to the present 2017, and it is still being used for many different and great gatherings such as the Men’s and Women’s Retreats. It is also rented out for other Church functions as well.
We have a great Camp Manager, Chris Miller and his wife Amy and their children. They are a wonderful blessing with a great love for Christ, and they make it a joy to be involved in God’s work.
I am thrilled and take it as such an honor to write this history on such a great Institution as Sylvan Hills Christian Service Camp. May God Bless all who come to work and learn here at the place where a few had a vision, and many have found Christ. Although this history is short, and many years are not mentioned. God has worked miracles through the years by those that have committed their time, money and prayers.
Written by Don Lomison, first time camper in 1947.
Served on the Camp Board from 1955 – 2013.
Thank you to all who have contributed both monetarily and with Blood.
Sweat and Tears to make Sylvan Hills the Great Institution that it is today.
Participation Churches over the years:
Howard Christian Church
Blanchard Church of Christ
Flemington First Church of Christ
Lock Haven Church of Christ
Mill Hall Church of Christ
(Avis) Pine Creek Valley Christian Church
Newberry Church of Christ
State College Christian Church
Water Mark Christian Church (Bellefonte)
Lycoming Christian Church (Linden)
Phillipsburg Christian Church
Montoursville Christian Church
Cogan Station Christian Church
Grover Church of Christ
Cogan House Church of Christ
Monument Christian Church