The history of Camp Betty Washington Road

Today, I want to share something special – a guest post from an incredibly good friend of mine for the past, I don’t know, 17-ish years? (Wow?!) Her name’ Jennell Moser, and she has always been WAY better and more into history than me.

When I saw a couple weeks ago that she’d been researching the area around her new home, I said, “Hey, you should write about that for my blog!” And she was kind enough to oblige!

Say hi to Jennell, whose post is included here!

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I have lived in Northern York County all my life and have loved learning the history of the area for years. Recently I have moved to Southern York County and have felt out of place, not connected to my surroundings.

I happen to live near one of the longest street names I have ever encountered, Camp Betty Washington Road. Driving this winding road with a name as long as the road itself got me wondering who was Betty Washington and where was this camp.

One night, as I lay in bed, I took to the internet on my smart phone and started looking for answers. Many of the answers I found were found on the Only in York County blog.

As with most history research more questions than answers were found along with tidbits of other information that piqued my interest. So I will start with my initial findings and then continue onto some of the more obscure information I found with hopes others can possibly help fill in the rest.

I really just wanted to know who Betty Washington was, and found the October 16, 2009 blog post “Where did Camp Betty Washington Road get its name”. From this post I found that there was a girl’s camp located on the road in the 1920’s through the 1940’s with pools and a small zoo.

The camp had been severely damaged by the flooding of Mill Creek in 1933, with the animals being safely moved before the flood waters reached them. The road itself was named after George Washington’s younger sister Betty Washington, a relative of Mrs. Lucy Neville (Mitchell) Smith. Mrs. Smith was active in the St. Johns church and had backed the creation of the Girls Friendly Society Camp.  The camp was run by Mr. and Mrs. Heiges. I could not find any pictures of the camp or of those who so lovingly put their all into running the camp.

On my travels in Google-land I came across information on an old cemetery called Moser’s Cemetery located at an S-curve on the South end of Camp Betty Washington.

Since my last name is Moser I was very interested in what happened to this old cemetery but unfortunately there is very little information available. From what I have been able to ascertain the plot was unceremoniously plowed over and the grave markers thrown into the nearby woods in the early twentieth century.

In the early 2000’s the land was then bought by a developer and houses built over the area where the cemetery once laid. Some fight was given, referred to in the township minutes as Mosser’s Cemetery, to have the bodies disinterred before building began but the fight was in vain. The stones were destroyed and unfortunately the names and locations of those who were laid to rest in the Moser Cemetery are forever lost.

Another feature of Camp Betty Washington Road I came across was that of a train line that ran along the road with a station located just after Belle Road heading south. The station was called Ben Roy and was a stop on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. The station was turned into a house and can still be seen from the road.

A landslide in 1899 occurred near the old Ben Roy train station causing a large derailment, many of the train cars piled up on one another along the tracks. I have been able to find very little information about the accident other than some photos. It looked like a massive accident and I would have thought there would be a lot more information on something a significant as a train pile up as extensive as this one seems from the photos.

I must say that after finding out what I have about Camp Betty Washington Road I feel a lot more at home and still would love to know more about the area.

I would like to know what the road was called before the 1920s when the name was changed to reflect the Girls Camp. I am also curious as to where the cemetery was exactly, whether the people who live in the area around the old cemetery are aware of its existence before moving in and if there is any record of the names of those who were buried there.

Driving down the road I look around and try to imagine a camp anywhere along the creek banks and find it hard to imagine there was room anywhere along the way for such a camp. With so much history, a street with a name like Camp Betty Washington Road deserves to be that long.

***

Many thanks to Jennell for this awesome post – and for teaching ME a bunch of stuff I didn’t know about this area! Special shout-out to fellow commenter Greg Halpin for taking the photo Jennell found, and also, a special note to local historian and cemetery-preservation expert Blake Stough of Preserving York, who I think will also have interest in the former Moser’s Cemetery!

About Joan

My name is Joan and I'm a lifelong Yorker. Throughout high school and college, I swore I was getting out of here as soon as possible. Now, a few years later, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be. I love my town, and I hear every day from readers who love their towns, too. So please, connect with me and let's share what makes life in York County great. I'm here to help you enjoy this place as much as I do!
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9 Responses to The history of Camp Betty Washington Road

  1. Stephen H. Smith says:

    I collect bits of information on various people named Stephen Smith or Steve Smith, for obvious reasons. This collection started in 1974, upon the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company I worked for (York Division of Borg-Warner, at the time) after I discovered the first president in 1874 was Stephen Morgan Smith (S. Morgan Smith).

    From my “Stephen Smith files” I pulled a paper with the following genealogical details. The information was from a 1996 visit to the Genealogical Reading Room at the Library of Congress. I found this by looked in the index of a book of Washington Family descendants for any Stephen Smith entry; there was a Stephen F. Smith in the index. This was Stephen Fahs Smith (he went by S. Fahs Smith) and is a son of S. Morgan Smith. The following are details of his wife Lucy Neville Mitchell’s connection to George Washington via Betty Washington.

    Neville Mitchell Smith’s maiden name was Lucy Neville Mitchell; she is Betty Washington’s great-great-great-granddaughter. Betty Washington’s one-year older brother is George Washington. Therefore Camp Betty Washington was named to honor Neville Mitchell Smith’s great-great-great-grandmother.

    August Washington married Mary Ball in 1731. Their first child was George Washington, born in 1732. One year later George Washington had a sister; Elizabeth Washington, although she always went by Betty Washington. Betty Washington married Col. Fielding Lewis.

    Betty Washington’s son Fielding Lewis was born in 1751. Fielding Lewis married Mary Ann Alexander; Robert Lewis is one of their children.

    Betty Washington’s grandson Robert Lewis was born in 1769. Robert Lewis married Judith Walker Browne; Betty Burnett Lewis is one of their children.

    Betty Washington’s great-granddaughter Betty Burnett Lewis was born in 1808. Betty Lewis married George Washington Bassett; Judith Frances Carter Bassett is one of their children.

    Betty Washington’s great-great-granddaughter Judith Frances Carter Bassett was born in 1836. Judith Bassett married Charles Tunis Mitchell; Lucy Neville Mitchell is one of their children.

    Betty Washington’s great-great-great-granddaughter Lucy Neville Mitchell was born in 1872. Lucy Neville Mitchell married Stephen Fahs Smith; Burwell Bassett Smith is their only child.

    I had visions of contacting Burwell Bassett Smith to discover why his father and grandfather only used the first initial of there first name, unfortunately Burwell Smith died in 1975 and I have not been able to locate any children, if he had any.

    In my research at the York County Archives, a land deed of October 18, 1928 gave details on the origins of Camp Betty Washington. Four plots of land totaling 8.9 acres were conveyed in trust to the Girls Friendly Society of the Diocese of Harrisburg, as a Girls’ Camp and Holiday House. Two acres of land are on the west side of Mill Creek, then known as the Little Codorus Creek, and is mainly in Spring Garden Township, but also runs south just into York Township. The remaining 6.9 acres of land are on the east side of Mill Creek in Springettsbury Township; this includes the swimming pool and surrounding property north of the pool.

    Also from the York County Archives is a November 22, 1928 agreement made between the camp and the Edison Light and Power Company to put up electric poles on the property in the Townships of York and Spring Garden. This agreement lists the camp name as Camp Betty Washington Girls Holiday House of Harrisburg Diocese and is signed by Mrs. J. Chas. Heiges; on their behalf.

    I decided to do a Google Book search using these new search terms and came up with a book containing The Record of the Girls’ Friendly Society in America. I did not find Camp Betty Washington because this book did not extend back to 1928, however it did contain a record of their initial camp along the Susquehanna River at Burnt Cabin:

    “Harrisburg Opens a Holiday House Sunday, June 17, 1923”

    “The new Holiday House of the Diocese of Harrisburg at Burnt Cabin was formally opened by the Rev. Paul S. Atkins, Rector of St. John’s Church, York, assisted by Mr. Carruthers, of Columbia, Pa.”

    “A large number of people were present to take part in the services and to inspect the Camp. The place is an old farm house, quite in the country. There are two wonderful springs, one of which will provide water for a swimming pool. There are tennis courts, volley and basket-ball. Owing to the isolation of the spot, there is beautiful wild scenery, which makes it ideal for its purpose.”

    “Mr. Gitt, of Hanover, donated a lighting plant, which was installed by Mr. Wilhelm, a member of St. John’s Church, York. This will give lights not only in the house and grounds but in each one of the ten army tents, which are to be used for sleeping purposes by those who prefer to sleep out of doors.”

    Donations have been received from various interested friends of The Girls’ Friendly Society, and Mrs. Heiges, the President, looks forward to a most satisfactory and successful summer.”

    I remember seeing in a blog about the camp having to move from the Susquehanna River location because they unknowingly were polluting Marietta’s water supply. I know that is entirely possible because Burnt Cabin is at the location of the headwaters of Wildcat Run on which the Marietta Water Reservoir is located, before the overflow water goes over Wildcat Falls and flows into the Susquehanna River.

    My Smith grandparents had a bungalow along the Susquehanna River up river from Accomac. With numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, there were always large group gatherings and sleep-overs during the summer at this wonderful bungalow. One tradition was a long walk each weekend; walking up to Wildcat Falls was one of my favorites, and occasionally we would hike uphill to the Marietta Water Reservoir.

    If our family drove to the bungalow the back way, we headed onto what is now River Road off of Codorus Furnace Road. Part of the Burnt Cabin One-Room Schoolhouse could still be seen back then. I remember Dad raising the question, “How would you like to go to a school called Burnt Cabin?”

    I recently decided to see if any of Burnt Cabin School was still visible. One could barely make out some of the foundation walls in the brush on the west side of River Road 0.3 miles north of the Codorus Furnace Road intersection. The culvert carrying the headwaters of Wildcat Run was just south of the schoolhouse ruins. The Camp and Holiday House of the Diocese of Harrisburg at Burnt Cabin was likely at a farm on the east side of River Road at this location; possibly at the 1550 River Road address.

    This reply probably has more details that anyone every wanted to know about Camp Betty Washington and Camp Betty Washington Road. However I’m not finished; I am still trying to discover the original name of the road and I would still like to see a picture of Camp Betty Washington.

  2. Jo Ott says:

    Two wonderful and very interesting additions to this blog. It’s always great to see how far people go to find information and I look forward to reading more.

  3. Jim Fahringer says:

    When I was a little boy in the 1950’s I remember seeing the cement pool of the Girl’s Camp. It was located almost next to the Camp Betty Washington road. I had a neighbor, Jake Weinbroom who evidently owned the pool or had permission to work on it. I remember him taking me to the pool with his son, Danny and we tried to help clean it out. It was full of algae, plant growth and some debris. For some reason we never got very far. I would often see the pool as we rode by to visit my great aunt’s farm to the west of Camp Betty Washington Road and up a hill. Her name was Maggie Fitzkee (her son strted Fitzkee’s Candy). We would also see the pool when we travelled down Camp Betty Washington Road on our way to Spring Woods Swimming Pool which was two or three miles beyond the Girl’s Camp pool. Spring Woods pool was fed by the ice cold waters of springs and was located on Spring Woods Road. The Railrod tracks went right past the pool and in the early days the train would stop at the pool and let out passengers and pick up passengers. Actually some of the cement remains of Girl’s Camp swimming pool can still be seen along Camp Betty Washington Road. Some years ago I shared the site with Jim McClure on one of his blogs or the Exchange. I cannot remember when the pool was totally destroyed. I believe most of it was still still there for a good part of the 1960’s. Even though it was unusable, the four walls still stood. It may have been completely destroyed during tropical storm Agnes in 1972.

  4. Tracey says:

    I hate that freaking road.

  5. Lisa Gaeckler-Smith says:

    My husband and I travel Camp Betty Washington Road every day to go to the gym at Gabriel Brother’s Plaza. During our trip every day, I enjoy gazing at the trees, houses, creek, and all the other surroundings on that interesting stretch of road. It made me want to know the history of that road and the houses and why some are built on stilts. Why there is a brick wall built into the side of a hill and so many other unanswered questions. So I googled the history of the road and found this blog and it’s comments. It has been interesting to read and now just gives me more to look for on my next journey down that road tomorrow. I am interested to try and determine where the camp, pool and cemetery were all located. None of the questions I originally wondered about were answered and now I only have more questions, lol. Hopefully future bloggers on this site will be able to help. Thanks for the stories. :-)

  6. Dan M. Bowers says:

    Brothers Samuel and my ancestor Michael Moser immigrated in 1749 and settled on that piece of land located at the big loop curve on Camp Betty Washington Road. They owned a forge and mill on Mill Creek. Most of their children went West between 1790 and 1800 – mainly to Ohio. It is said both brothers and their wives were buried in the Moser Cemetery that is no more.

  7. Peg Vanderau Lyons says:

    I spent many summers at the camp as a child from Chambersburg when Bud Heiges and his friends Jake and Ben Winebroom hung out at the pool and Mrs. Loucks with her son Kenny helped to run the camp..Mary Barton was the camp cook,,Kitty Buffington of York was also a camper….wonderful memories for a woman who will soon have her 93rd birthday!!!

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