CAMP NAMANU - EARLY HISTORY
BY W. S. RAKER
In the summer of 1921, while serving as a member of the Board of the Oregon Humane Society, I was invited
to sit on the executive board of the Camp Fire Girls of Oregon, being assured that it would require one hour
per month, with summer holidays out.
Members of the Board at that time were Mrs. Ralph Wilbur, Mrs. W. H. Thomas, Mrs. Otto Wedemeyer, Miss
Jessie Millard, Ralph Hoyt, and others. A Mrs. White was executive secretary, who had conducted a summer
camp on the Clackamas River near Carver that year. I showed an interest in the camp and went to Carver to
see the “site”. I immediately recommended a more suitable camp and was promptly appointed Chairman of the
Camp Committee and told to build one.
Mrs. White, the Secretary, and I proceeded to inspect every possible available site within a radius of
50 miles, and by the following camping session we had succeeded in finding a temporary location in a cedar
grove on Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River, a few miles this side of Estacada.
We camped there that summer and continued the quest for a suitable permanent location. Early the next
spring, while doing some scouting on the Sandy River near the foot of the Lusted Hill, on Powell Valley
Road, we called on Mr. Lusted, a pioneer homesteader, who told us of a place near Bull Run that had been
homesteaded in the sixties1 by a pioneer family named Taylor, who had sold the homestead to a syndicate
headed by Sam B. Cobb, a Portland lumberman of Scotch origin, who had planned to build a power plant a
half mile below the confluence of the Sandy and the Bull Run Rivers. Land had been acquired on both sides
of the river, but final surveys told the owner that their completed dam would submerge Dodge Park and the
then headquarters of the Bull Run Water Department of Portland’s water system. The power plant was abandoned.
The Cobb interests had held the land for 20 years at this time, and little or no use had been made of it.
After a brief survey we decided that here was our ideal camp site. We consulted the owner and told him
we had no money, that we needed a permanent camp, that he had just the kind of place we needed, and wanted
a donation of enough land to establish a permanent camp. After listening to our brief story of Camp Fire,
and exhibiting some photographs of the girls and their camp activities, he very promptly expressed a desire
to cooperate with us, and suggested that we go the next day and select such lands as we needed and he would
present the ground to the girls.
Mrs. White having resigned, she was succeeded by a Miss Eathel Moore, executive secretary, and she,
accompanied by Mrs. Wedemeyer and myself, made a survey of the Cobb properties on both sides of the Sandy
River, selected the present site of Camp Namanu, and Mr. Cobb not only gave us the land, but set to work
to help us improve the place, set up the tents, built the tables and benches with his own hands and furnished
most of the lumber, and even built a floor under the fly tent roof of the dining room, to keep the tables
and benches on an even keel, so that the children could eat in comfort.
Tents had been borrowed from the War Department and were pitched on the meadow, and emergency buildings
erected. Water was piped from a spring by Oscar (Shorty) Luther and Otto G. Muhlig, volunteer plumbers,
and part of an old house was salvaged and used for a kitchen, and the plumbers put in hot water equipment.
More than 100 girls were there for the camping session of Camp Namanu in 19232.
The following spring, to our surprise and chagrin, we were notified by the War Department that the camp
equipment could only be used for military purposes, - as Camp Fire Girls were not so classified, “we could
not use their tents”.
A meeting of the Camp Committee was called and a council of war was held. We decided that as we now had
the land, we should build for permanency, and frame buildings in the long run were decidedly more comfortable
and economical. We proceeded to draw plans for permanent buildings. After some embryo drawings were made to
arrange for space and size necessary, we took our drawings to W. H. Crowell, of the A. E. Doyle firm of
Architects, who was told that we had no funds, what our dilemma was, that we had the land and wanted to
build permanently. They promptly prepared the plans for the main lodge 40’ x 70’, dining room and kitchen,
including porches, and 16 cottages 12’ x 16’, for sleeping quarters, and completed all the details,
including kinds and amounts of lumber, hardware, roofing, brick, tile, cement, etc. Equipped with this
information, we proceeded to call on H. B. VanDuzer, of the Inman Poulsen Lumber Company and repeated our
story, accompanied by photos of our tent camping quarters. VanDuzer looked at the plans, - the lumber bill,
60 thousand feet, and promptly said he thought it could be done, that half a dozen mills could spare enough
lumber to fill the order. He mentioned, first, Inman Poulsen, Miller, of East Side Mill & Lumber Co., Jones,
of Jones Lumber Co., Knapp, of Peninsula Lumber Co., W. B. Ayer, of Eastern Western, Kingsley of the Oregon
Lumber Co., Clark of Clark-Wilson, and the Monarch Lumber Co., and proceeded to call up some of them to
supply their pro rata share, which the did cheerfully.
The next step was hardware – Marshall Wells, Honeyman Hardware Co. and the U. S. Steel Corporation.
Mr. Bloom furnished most of the hardware, Columbia Brick & Tile furnished material for the chimney.
F. J. Fuller, Vice-President and Manager of the P. E. P. R. R. Co. furnished transportation to Bull Run,
within a mile of our camp.
Then the question of labor, since the ground and material had all been donated, we felt it only fair
to give the Labor Temple and Carpenters’ Union an opportunity to contribute their share. This they did
cheerfully. The Carpenters’ Union made a week-end picnic and barbecue of it and more than 100 carpenters
and their families spent the week end at Camp Namanu, and when they left the lodge dining room, kitchen
and porches and the 16 cottages were completed. John Mann, City Commissioner, volunteered to build the
fire place and chimney as part of his contributions.
Since then we have added a shower house with seven showers, and wash trays, with concrete floors, hot
and cold water at all houses, and a laundry department that enables the girls to keep their wearing apparel
clean and tidy, as well as their anatomy.
Crane Company, the Consolidated Plumbing Company, and their predecessors, furnished most of the pipe and
fixtures that supplies water to every building in camp, including two batteries of automatic flush toilets
that were salvaged from some dismantled school buildings in the city. Fire hydrants and 1˝ inch hose,
salvaged from the City Fire Department, give ample fire protection, and one-half dozen Bite the Bubble
fountains supply drinking water to all parts of the camp. As the water is piped from a spring on our own
property, less than a quarter of a mile from camp, there is no meter, and pure spring water, without
chlorination, is generously used and highly appreciated.
Later, as the need arose, other buildings have been added, - a spring house and a two inch stream of
cold spring water, flowing through a concrete tank 16 feet long by 2 feet wide by 18 inches deep, keep
food supplies and milk properly cooled.
A hospital, with hot and cold water and an annex for indisposed girls to rest in the quiet shade of
some cedars, under the constant care and supervision of a trained nurse, adds peace and comfort, and a
Museum building, the only relic of pioneer days, houses the curios and nature lore.
A metal Sun Dial, supplied by Lance Smith, mounted on a concrete base, constantly supplies “the correct
time” to groups of girls whose wrist watches persist in getting out of order, or in their haste to get to
bed when tap sounds, they have forgotten to wind.
Directions and the weather vane on top of the flag staff, the flag pole with a solid concrete base, was
donated and erected by Captain Delmar Shaver, of the Shaver Transportation Co., and the beautiful Flag was
donated by John Schibel.
The work shop, designated as “Robin Hood’s Barn” is a hive of industry throughout the summer. Located in
an old orchard adjoining the meadow, where archery, volley ball, and other games are stressed, and nearby
is a play house or open air theater, with a roof over it, known as “Uncle Toby’s Story House”, - a structure
50 x 75 feet, with a stage on one side 20 feet wide by 12 feet deep, with dressing room at each end, two
balconies or mezzanine floors, two fire places, - one on each floor, - and a dark room for photography.
This building spans a babbling brook and overlooks the meadow and is a haven in wet, cold or stormy weather
and a mecca for those interested in dramatics, theatricals, operettas and dancing, and around the fire places
on a cool or wet evening, many a fireside tale is told.
To supply the needs of older girls, a senior unit was built with fire places both inside and on one of the
porches, with a mezzanine floor and sleeping porch, that will comfortably sleep 36 girls, who conduct their
own programs, plan and cook their own meals, have a fully equipped kitchen with hot and cold water, - and
this building is also equipped with toilets, as well as hot and cold showers at all hours. The heat is
furnished by some water coils in the fire place. This building is known as Kiwanis, and part of the material
and construction cost was supplied by the Portland Kiwanis Club, who contribute generously to a camp fund that
enables many a girl to go to camp for a week, that would otherwise be deprived of that privilege.
Perhaps the most attractive and popular place in camp is the Guardian’s cottage, “The Alice Wilbur cottage”,
named for our first guardian, large enough to house and sleep 2 dozen guardians at once, - a well equipped
kitchen, hot and cold water, toilets and wash room, fire place, two porches, mezzanine floor for sleeping
quarters, and equipped with Simmons beds and thick, comfy mattresses. The back porch overlooks a lake or
fish pond, stocked with brook trout, and below the water falls is another lake or fish pond, stocked with
trout, that will furnish trout dinners, ultimately.
Just off the meadow is another lake, - water supplied by the same stream of spring water that ripples
over a miniature Waukeena Falls” before reaching the lakes, but in plain sight of the Kiwanis Lodge or
Senior unit. This lake has a dual purpose, - it is used for amateur canoeing and is the home of a colony
of wild Mallard ducks, that keep the lake supplied with baby ducklings during most of the summer. Feeding
the fishes and the baby ducks is a popular pastime for the younger campers.
Swimming, diving and boating is carried on in the Sandy River.
The constant care and attention of a caretaker keeps the place in order. He cuts the wood, makes the
roads, drives the truck, - a 1˝ ton Chevrolet, with equipment for carrying girls or luggage, food or fuel,
anywhere. Where the garage now stands was the old homestead barn, made of hewn logs for frame and covered
with cedar shakes, made from cedar trees that grew nearby, and the present shake roof on the log cabin now
used as a museum were split from cedar logs on the ground and are ten feet long, and after 603 years of
use still keep the rooms dry, - a lasting tribute to the quality of material and workmanship, as well as
Mr. Cobb made us a deed to 80 acres originally, and last year, while on a visit to camp, expressed his
appreciation of what Camp Namanu had accomplished in ten years, and to enable them to expand, he deeded
the girls another 80 acres, plus a 5 acre tract above the swimming pool4 (all his holdings on that side
of the river) for their use forever.
Mr. Cobb in the mean time discovered the girls had no swing. He recalled the joyful hours as a boy in
a swing, and proceeded to erect a swing, - 40 feet high, - that is a joy to every girl in camp.
Two years ago it was discovered that the spring from which our water supply came was not on our property,
but 100 feet south, on property owned by the city, in the water shed of the Bull Run Water bureau. Steps
were taken to immediately acquire title to this spring and adjacent property, approximately 20 acres5 were
bought from the City at a cost of $200.00, warranty deed for that property was issued by the City, and the
Camp Fire Girls of Portland, Oregon, now have unencumbered title to approximately 180 acres of land in
Clackamas County, just 25 miles east of a line one half mile south of the City of Portland.
Following the resignation of Miss Eathel Moore as executive secretary came Miss Gladys Snyder from Indiana,
whose administration continued for four years, during which time Camp Fire was solidly anchored in Portland.
Following her resignation came Miss Louise Nunn, who successfully administered Camp Fire in Portland for
three years, until Camp Fire in the Portland area had attained the distinction of the second largest group
of organized and registered Camp Fire Girls in America. Following her resignation in the fall of 1932 Miss
Elaine Gorham succeeded as executive secretary and Camp Namanu is flourishing under her administration.
The Camp Committee began with the appointment of W. S. Raker, chairman, and authorized him to select his
own committee. Mrs. W. S. Henderson was the balance of the committee, and a most efficient committee she
proved to be until elected to the Presidency, when Theodore "Uncle Toby" Harper was appointed to succeed
her. This committee still stands, and to it should be added the names of Otto G. Muhlig and Oscar Martin
"Shorty" Luther, who for all these ten years have contributed of their time and money, rarely missed a
Sunday at Camp Namanu, and largely due to their loyalty, energy and ability is Camp Namanu what it is today,
- and neither of them ever was elected or appointed on the Camp Committee, nor did either of them ever have
a daughter in Camp Fire. In fact, Oscar Martin "Shorty" Luther never was married, but devoted the week ends
of the last ten years of his life to Camp Namanu. He died suddenly at the end of a day's work in the winter
of 1933, aged 67. Since the passing of "Shorty", Donald Minor has been added to the volunteer staff of the
Camp Committee, and many of the artistic finishing touches to the buildings have been added by "Don" Minor
and Otto Muhlig, - both master mechanics.
I should add, to keep the history records straight, that each year for several years additions to the
Camp Committee have been named by the President of the Board, and they add in prestige what they lack
Although the manuscript is undated, it is apparent that it was written in 1934.
Edited by Jerry King, April, 2003.
1 John R. Taylor, born in California in 1849, moved to Oregon about 1890, received the patent to land
in 1899; it is unlikely that he homesteaded the area much before this date.
2 The summer of 1924 was definitely the first summer for camping near Bull Run.
3 Most likely, this building was about 30 years old.
4 Refers to the Sandy River "swimming pool", and land on the west side of the river.
5 Actually is 14.6 acres.