Starting With Camp Buccou
When the Bucks County Council was formed in 1927, one of the first considerations was the securing of a suitable camp. A committee under the chairmanship of Henry Palmer visited about thirty-three sites within a 100 mile radius of Bucks County, finally choosing one seven miles north of Flemington, New Jersey and located on the Rariton River. The camp was called Buccou (Bucfor Bucks and Cou for County).
Camp Buccou was occupied until 1940 and held numerous summer camps. The Doylestown Kiwanis Club had a building put up at Camp Buccou to be used as a Craft Lodge. Meals were served in a large tent and campers could stay for the entire summer (as was the way at the time).
The people of Bucks County were interested in having a camp in their own county by 1940 and a determined effort was made to find a suitable site. The Scout Executive, along with the Council Camping Committee, visited seventy-seven possible sites. In March of 1940 the first parcel of the land we now know as our camp was bought from Mr. Charles Larsen for the price of $17,500. The flagpole from Camp Buccou was erected on the parade grounds of the new camp by that summer.
At the suggestion of Mr. Edward Barnsley of Newtown, and after much discussion, the camp was named Ockanickon. The camp was given the name to honor the Leni Lenape Indian Chief, Ockanickon, who was one of the conveyors of the lands of Bucks County to William Penn in 1682.
It was impossible to move the Kiwanis Craft Lodge from Camp Buccou to the new camp. A new building that amply replaced it was built and named as before. A contribution to the camp made by the family of the late Henry Palmer enabled the camp to renovate the back of the old carriage house into a kitchen. The building was named Palmer Lodge and served for many years as the camp’s dining hall. In the fall of 1940, a fireplace in memory of Mr. Bruce Ford was built in Palmer Lodge through the generosity of Mrs. Ford.
In 1941, Mr. Charles J. Mathews gave the Bucks County Council $5,000 toward the building of a swimming pool in memory of his wife, Clara Mathews. The balance of the money ($8,000) was donated by friends of the Boy Scouts of Bucks County. In 1946 a log cabin in the Tohickon Valley was purchased for the particular use of Explorers. This cabin was renamed Uncas Lodge and the site of it is next to the current Rifle Range.
At the beginning of the 1948 camping season, the rostrum in the Chapel was dedicated by Dr. A. J. Strathie in the memory of his wife and son. At the same time the benches and shrubs in the Chapel were dedicated to the memory of those designated on the plaques.
During the 1950’s the boy scout program in Bucks County continued to grow and Ockanickon grew with it. In July of 1950, the Health Lodge was dedicated to the memory of Thomas B. Stockham by Mrs. Stockham and the Stockham family. The brass memorial plaque, which is still visible on the building, identifies Mr. Stockham and lists some of his services to scouting and the nation. In 1951 a more adequate supply of water for the pool was made by pumping water up from the Tohickon Creek. This water system was presented in the memory of Mr. William Fretz by his son. In 1955 nine acres of land was purchased by the Council from Harold J. Freed on the Southwest side of the camp. Two new campsites were established there. In 1956 twenty-three acres were purchased from the heirs of Christian Snyder and two new campsites were established there. In the same year thirty-seven and one half acres, with a house and a barn, were purchased from Raymond Powers. The Camp Ranger moved into the house which was located on the present site of the Science Center. This part of the camp was known as The Ranch.
On July 21, 1956 the Council Ring was dedicated by the Order of the Arrow which sold seventy-two dedicatory seats. Also on July 21, 1956 the Stone Conservation Lodge was presented to the camp by Mrs. Feinstone in the name of her grandson, Joseph F. Stone, a member of Troop 20 of Newtown. The Edward M. Happ memorial, a beautiful sundial at the base of the camp flag pole was dedicated on September 29, 1957. This memorial was presented by the men of Troop 52, sponsored by St. Joseph’s Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Doylestown and Post 18, sponsored by the United Church of Christ in Doylestown. During the 1950’s many adirondacks and washhouses were presented to the camp by various clubs and individuals from all over the county. Each of these gifts bore a plaque showing the name of the donor and some of them can still be found throughout the campsites. Dedication services were held for these presentations in August of 1953 with nine of the dedicated adirondacks being erected in 1955.
1960 – 1979
In December of 1960 thirty-eight acres of land, east to the Tohickon Creek, were presented to the camp by Mr. Edward C. Riley. In 1960 a foundation presented funds for Troop Lodge near Quabosco Campsite and in 1963 the Grundy Foundation presented a second (identical) Troop Lodge at the Five Star Site. Today the first troop lodge is the camp office and the second troop lodge is known as Grundy Lodge. A new swimming pool was constructed by Sylvan Pools of Doylestown in time for the 1969 summer camp season.
1971 was a very busy year at Ockanickon. The Ajapeu Lodge of the Order of the Arrow contributed the funds for the construction of the Order of the Arrow Memorial Lodge in 1971. The building was dedicated to the memory of Douglas Booth and William J. Erkes, both of whom were killed while serving in Vietnam. The camp maintenance building was also built at the camp entrance in that year. The former Watts Property in the valley was acquired in 1971. An adjacent property, including a cabin, was bought from the Troop 290 Association of Philadelphia for $4,000 in 1975. The Watts cabin burned down in the fall of 1976. Following the formation of the Council Camp Properties Committee in 1973, extensive upgrading of existing facilities and development of new facilities proceeded in a more rapid and orderly fashion from 1973 – 1975. These renovations included: complete renovation of the camp kitchen and a new septic system, rewiring of Palmer Lodge, the erection of three new water storage tanks, drilling of a new well and the installation of a new water system.
1980 – 2000
In the late 1980’s, after many years of debt and poor attendance, it was time to rebuild, replace and rethink Ockanickon. In 1987-89 all structures and buildings in the camp were re-roofed. A new filter system for the pool was also installed. In 1990 our entire electrical plant was replaced and a $20,000 new shower house was built at our pool. An architect was hired to determine new colors for our buildings and structures. Our entire facility was repainted in new earthtone colors in 1991. By 1992, our facility was improving and camper attendance was on the rise again. During that year the campfire and chapel seating was replaced and the lighting plant, campwide, was replaced. New kitchen equipment and lighting was also installed in the dining hall (Palmer Lodge). The Health Lodge was also remodeled to include central air conditioning and heating. In 1993 new pressure treated tent platforms replaced rotting oak ones and some new tentage was purchased for the camp. In 1994 it was necessary to completely remodel our pool area at a cost of $60,000. Our camp trading post was also remodeled in 1994 with new counters, insulation, and electric service. With camp attendance booming, a celebration was held to mark our 50th year and to kick off the largest capital campaign in our history. The primary purpose of this campaign was to build a new state of the art dining facility. This new facility, Foster Hall, was completed and dedicated on April 9, 1995. This new, year round facility, is the largest of its kind in our area.
In 1996 a new camp office in the former Troop Lodge was completed. It included private offices, central air and heat and attractive lighting. Thanks to many volunteers this building was completed at no cost to the council. New docks were built at the lake thanks to the Ajapeu Lodge and two new campsites have been added to meet attendance demands: Ajapeu and Neshaminy. The former Palmer Dining Hall has been renovated into a Handicraft Lodge and staff housing. A new, state of the art phone system was also added to the camp.
Since 1996 Ockanickon Scout Reservation has been the recipient of a grant from BetzDearborn Corporation to build the first ever Science Center at a Boy Scout Camp. The former Leadership Development Building was renovated to become the BetzDearborn Science Center in 1997 and the project included the purchase of a $7,000 telescope, an inflatable planetarium, and a complete chemistry lab. The renovation of the building has included a new roof, central air and heat, as well as new windows and doors. Project C.O.P.E. was also added to our camp program with the completion of a Low Course in 1997 and the start of a High Course in 1998. The camp trading post has again been renovated and expanded, and additional tent platforms have been added to expand existing campsites. The pool was upgraded with a new commercial D.E. filter system and in 1999 the pool deck and plumbing was replaced.
As we move into the next century Ockanickon continues to grow as a camp and program center for the Washington Crossing Council.