Out & About: New Exhibit Looks at Long History of Summer Camps in Orford

  • Entrepreneurial Orford residents would pick up luggage from an area train station to deliver to the different summer camps in the area. (Courtesy of Orford Historical Society)

  • Camper at Camp Pemigewassett used to wear wool uniforms. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

  • A patch for the all-girls camp Camp Merriwood is part of the new exhibit "Our Summer Neighbors: The Orford Youth Camps" at the Town Hall Heritage Center in Orford. (Valley News — Liz Sauchelli)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, July 02, 2018

Orford — Summer camps have woven themselves into the fabric of the Orford community ever since they started appearing in the town in the early 1900s.

Orford residents helped build and maintain them. They cooked for campers and tended their injuries when they were hurt. Come the offseason, they worked as caretakers for the properties. 

Those camps and their impact on the town are explored through stories and artifacts in "Our Summer Neighbors: The Orford Youth Camps," the current exhibit of the Orford Historical Society. It can be viewed from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Town Hall Heritage Center.

Three summer camps now operate in Orford: Camp Merriwood, a girls camp; Camp Moosilauke, a boys camp; and Camp Pemigewassett, a boys camp that is in both Orford and Wentworth.

Jean Dyke, a member of historical society board who is the lead curator of the exhibit, spent a summer working at Camp Merriwood. Her daughters, sister and nieces all worked there for a time too.

In addition to increasing Orford’s summer population, the camps “brought a lot of economic development to the town,” Dyke said, particularly in the form of seasonal employment for residents.

To put the exhibit together, Dyke reached out to the camps themselves, as well as people in town she knew had a connection with them. Items include camp uniforms and group photographs. 

“The lakes were the start of it,” Dyke said about the appeal of Orford to summer camps, which she recalled having numbered five in town. “It gave them water sports.”

There were also open fields where playing fields were built and access to the White Mountains for hikes.

Both Moosilauke and Merriwood are still owned and operated by the Miller family.

“It’s the third generation,” said Sam Hanford, secretary of the Orford Historical Society.

Camp Pemigewassett is still owned and operated by the Fauver and Reed families.

After the exhibit opened, Dyke began learning more about the camps.

“Different people have approached me in town,” she said, adding that she’s eager to learn more. “Anything that anyone has would be more than welcome.”

Editor’s note: Keep an eye out in the Calendar for future events taking place at the Town Hall Heritage Center. For more information about the Town Hall Heritage Center, call 603-353-4318. To share Orford summer camp memories with Dyke, email 3j8gdyke@gmail.com. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.