Yonahlossee and Catawba: Mountain Summer Camps of the Past

Summer’s cool temperatures in the Blue Ridge Mountains have beckoned tourists and visitors to the area for over a century. The area has also been a destination for school-aged students attending several weeks long, overnight recreational camps in the mountains.

Left: Camp Yonahlossee camper learns to start a fire; Right: Camp Catawba campers participate in horseback riding.

The histories of two camps, in particular, have fascinating pasts — especially since neither are still in existence: Camp Yonahlossee and Camp Catawba. Their histories are preserved in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection in Belk Library and Information Commons’ Special Collections at Appalachian State University.

Camp Yonahlossee, once located near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, was a summer camp for young women that operated from 1922 to the late 1980s. The camp was founded by Dr. Adam Perry (A.P.) and Mrs. Margaret Kephart, educators from Greensboro, North Carolina. Camp Yonahlossee was the female counterpart to the boys’ Camp Yonahnoka located nearby in Linville, North Carolina. In 1954, the camp was sold to Mr. and Mrs. George M. McCord and Mrs. Agnes Jeter. The camp’s primary focus was outdoor recreation with programs including horseback riding, archery, rifle shooting, swimming, sailing, and fencing. Crafts and dance were also taught. The camp closed in the 1980s and became a resort focused on equestrian activities.

Left: A Camp Yonahlossee camper jumps her horse, 1920s; Right: Campers learn archery, 1950s. Photos from AC. 687, Camp Yonahlossee Collection, Box 3.
Left: Camp Yonahlossee campers in the camp pool; Middle: A camper learns to play the dulcimer; Right: Campers handle a snake. Photos from AC. 687, Camp Yonahlossee Collection, Box 3.

The archival collection related to Camp Yonahlossee features materials related to camp life, its administration, and its history. Extensive photographs (such as those pictured above) and scrapbooks also illustrate the Camp Yonahlossee experience throughout its operation. To learn more, visit the collection guide: http://www.collections.library.appstate.edu/findingaids/ac687

Camp Catawba was a summer camp for boys that operated from 1944 to 1970. It was formerly located near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, near what is now the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The camp was founded by Dr. Vera Lachmann, a poet and professor of classics, whose German-Jewish background forced her to seek refuge in the United States in the 1930s. Focused on a balance of recreation and the arts, the summer camp’s activities were especially influenced by Lachmann’s expertise in the classics and literature. Activities included horseback riding, hiking, swimming, archery, as well as dramatic performances of Shakespeare, Aristophanes, and Chekov, bedtime stories from The Odyssey and the The Illiad, and musical instruction under the direction of microtonal concert musician and composer Tui St. George Tucker.

Left: Camp Catawba campers playing chess; Middle: The Camp Catawba truck; Right: Camp Catawba campers with camp music teacher Tui St. George Tucker (middle in dark pants), playing recorders. Photos from AC. 214, Camp Catawba and Vera Lachmann Papers, Boxes 3 and 8.
Left: Camp Catawba founder and director Vera Lachmann leads a hike through the woods; Right: Camp Catawba campers in song. Photos from AC. 214, Camp Catawba and Vera Lachmann Papers, Boxes 3 and 8.

The archival collection related to Camp Catawba documents the operation of the camp and its history, and includes correspondence with campers and counselors, as well as ephemera and sound recordings related to the camp. Additionally, this collection contains materials related to the camp’s founder, Vera Lachmann, such as poetry composed by Lachmann and her personal correspondence. To learn more, visit the collection guide: http://collections.library.appstate.edu/findingaids/ac214

Read more about Camp Catawba on the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s website: https://www.brpfoundation.org/blog/remembering-camp-catawba

The Camp Yonahlossee and Camp Catawba archival collections are both available for research. For access or more information, please contact spcoll@appstate.edu or 828–262–4041.