A SHORT HISTORY OF SKYLINE CAMP
As remembered by Bob Walkley and
Edited by information from the Skyline Scrapbook
It all began when Reed and Eunice Higby homesteaded in the Encampment Valley. They proved up the homestead with what we now call Homestead Cabin. It soon became evident that they could not ranch on such few acres, but they had another idea. The Lodge was built by Clifford Higby in the winters of 1926 and 1927 for his Christian Camp for Boys, which operated until 1937. Boys were invited from Chicago to come out to the ranch for the summer to learn horsemanship, riding and roping. This was very successful.. The camp included trips on horseback to Yellowstone. When the depression hit, it was almost impossible to have the boys come, but Reed and Eunice purchased Skyline from Clifford in 1937 and continued their effort. U-Nice and Timberline cabins that had been built to house the boys were now pretty empty.
Along came the Rev. John Carnine, a Board of National Missions missionary who traveled the Union Pacific along the Southern Boundary of Wyoming. His stops included Encampment, where the Higbys were members of the Presbyterian Church. “Uncle John”, as everyone called him, asked the Higbys about using the Ranch for summer conference, and Reed and Eunice agreed to this good idea. Early in the 1930 decade the ranch was loaned to the Laramie Presbytery for conferences. The First Annual Skyline Conference for Young People was held in. 19311$. In 1939, Reed and Eunice deeded 20 acres, which included the Lodge and other buildings to the Laramie Presbytery.
Junior and Senior High conferences were held during the Second World War, and people shared their gas stamps and tire allotment to get carloads of kids to the conference. My wife, Loma, remembers sharing bunk beds with two in each bed, filling all the space available, and having great Missionaries and clergy leaders who came to preach and teach.
In 1963, Reed and Eunice deeded 60 acres, including the free access of the road, to Laramie Presbytery and moved to town. In 1965 the property, was re-conveyed to the ‘Presbytery of Wyoming and in an exchange of acreage the ehndition of life estate was removed. After Reed died, Eunice gave another 20 acres to”the Presbytery of Wyoming asking that the Presbytery continue to care for the gravesites on the property. In the 1953 an outdoor. Chapel was built and dedicated to Uncle John Carnine, and I had the privilege of putting up the plaque in the spring of 1962. In 1962 eight teepees were purchased to house the growing number of campers, and a group of volunteers spent a weekend peeling pine poles. My hands were sore for a week.
In 1963 showers and flush toilets for boys and girls were built in the “block house”. In the middle 60s a new kitchen was added to the Lodge, and the camping program included back packing and canoe trips. At that time the Junior High Camp was for two weeks, and we began to have Starter Camps for the 3rd graders. About the year after the new kitchen was built, two A Frame cabins were built with volunteer help from around the Presbytery. I remember camps where all of the facilities were filled to capacity, using the Lodge front room as well as the dining room for meals. In recent years the facilities have been used by Cheyenne elementary schools for science camps, where the students could study the environment and experience the night skies with no light pollution. The Presbyterian Women’s Retreat has been held at Skyline Camp every other year with 50 or so in attendance.
In the mid 19.80s the Encampment Church wanted to honor their pastor, the Rev. John McClure, and donated a cabin named in John’s honor. The old U -Nice cabin collapsed under snow and was rebuilt to twice the original size by a co-op of Laramie and Cheyenne volunteers during the 80s. Things remained pretty status quo until the late 1990s when an addition to McClure cabin provided restroom facilities on the North end of camp. Through the years a new well was drilled, a septic system was added and metal roofing replaced the old shingles. Every year the water was tested in the State laboratory to make sure it was safe for the campers.
A number of young people from the Presbytery have gone into ministry because of their camping experiences, Including one couple that came back from their ministry with the Wycliff Bible Translators in Central America because they wanted to give back to the Camp some of the joy the young man had received there. My own son is serving in the ministry having started as a camper and then a counselor at Skyline Camp. There is a pastor in Sinclair who went into the ministry in part because of his experience at Skyline Camp.
To establish a commitment to the Camping Ministry, the following components should be considered. Providing resources of people who have gifts/interest in camping; providing the people resources to effectively staff the camp ministry, campsite needs and [campsite] committee; Use local resources for programming (people, history of area); Providing financial support to the presbytery mission budget to sustain and grow a ministry of camping; [i.e.] providing capital needs to maintain and improve facilities; Demonstrate enthusiasm and creativity in response to opportunities our program, facilities and regional natural resources offer; Be intentional in planning for church and presbytery events/retreats that utilize the facilities of our camps; Recruit and encourage our youth and children to participate in the summer camping program; Recruit and encourage adults and/or families to participate in the summer camping program, develop retreats and conference’s; Develop a plan for ministry of the camps and facilities’. Beds to provide for such ministry; Have an orientation that provides a foundation in our Presbyterian faith for all programs and events.
We must increase publicity through church visits. Don’t offer visits – Call and make van appointment to be there. Show slides – meet kids/parents from previous years. Present upcoming programs — acknowledging what campers liked and asked for in evaluations. Play to the strengths of camping ministry. Have/present a program (mini-camp experience) in each church Wednesday night or Sunday morning. A year round director could help make this successful.
Marketing the campsites outside our Presbyterian camping ministry programs needs to be increased. Just like a house is meant to be lived in, our campsites are meant to be used. Increased usage by groups other than the Presbytery increases the bottom line and good will among renting groups and the Presbytery.