Perspectives Online

Everybody benefits from Camp Millstone alumni fun weekend

Current campers, administrators, alumni and camp benefactors gathered at Millstone in June.
Photo by Art Latham

The muggy June day at Millstone 4-H Camp, honoring camp benefactors and veterans Fred and Dot Wagoner, was filled with fellowship and good food.

And the day ended with the establishment and partial funding of an endowment fund in the Wagoners' name to help pay for repairs and renovations for the venerable, non-air-conditioned camp in the piney woods east of Ellerbe.

The Wagoners earlier had been the first 4-H Honor Club members to accept the challenge of establishing 4-H Awards Program endowments. They endowed the 4-H Forestry Cumulative Record and annually fund the 4-H Forestry trip to National Congress. In 2004, they added to the endowment to provide for the forestry trip in perpetuity.

The $15,000 Millstone endowment, now funded to $13,194.25 through donations from friends and 4-H "family," is another first - the first endowment dedicated to renovation and repairs for North Carolina 4-H camps.

Such unique endowments are critically important to 4-H camps' continued growth and success, since camps receive little repair and renovation funding, says Sharon Rowland, N.C. 4-H Development Fund executive director.

"This is a great day for our North Carolina 4-H camps," said Larry Hancock during the alumni day ceremonies. "Not only are we honoring Fred and Dot Wagoner, but we also are laying foundations for significant improvements at the 4-H camps they loved so much." Hancock holds Fred Wagoner's original position as state 4-H camping specialist.

Speakers during the day's events included Jim Harrill, son of L.R. Harrill, North Carolina's first state 4-H Leader; George Joyner, former Swannanoa 4-H Camp director; and Carol Ann Tucker, former Mitchell 4-H Camp staffer.

The sticky weather and the weekend's events pointed out the need for camp renovation. For instance, while everyone seemed to have a fine time, after the steamy day ended with volleyball, basketball and other outdoor sports, camp alums and family trooped indoors to the old wood-floored, screened but not air-conditioned recreation hall. There they viewed silent auction items and a camp memorabilia exhibit and danced. They then retired for their second night into the screened but non-air-conditioned wooden cabins, some in place since 1939.

The Wagoners, as veteran 4-H'ers and 4-H boosters, understand the problems. The couple met at 4-H Club Week, now 4-H Congress.

In 1940, Fred Wagoner, an outstanding 4-H Club member in his native Guilford County, was tapped into the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club, the highest honor then afforded to a club member. He represented 4-H at National 4-H Club Congress and later played football for his alma mater, State College (now N.C. State University).

Wagoner began 4-H work in 1949 in Edgecombe County and was quickly moved to the state 4-H office. As part of his lifelong passion for 4-H camps, he reopened Mitchell 4-H Camp, and was Millstone's director while also working with his district's county agents as a camps specialist.

While an Alamance County 4-H'er, Dot was named State Health Queen and state clothing winner.

"Dot could easily be named the 'First Lady of 4-H Camping in North Carolina' for she was never far behind Fred in his camping endeavors," said Jim Clark, the day's master of ceremonies and author of Clover All Over, a history of 4-H in North Carolina. "She has always been involved in 4-H Honor Club as a supporting spouse and often assisted with the Collegiate 4-H Club at State College."

Since Fred's 1974 retirement, the couple have been growing trees at their Fraser Knoll Christmas Tree Farm in Ashe County.

Editorial disclaimer: The writer admits to attacks of nostalgia connected with Camp Millstone, as he is an alum.

- Art Latham