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Camp Grace - a historical place of faith lost to fire

Posted: Wednesday, Sep 26th, 2012

Piles of rubble, a chimney and one of two remaining cabins are stark reminders of the destruction that moved through Camp Grace in June. (Photo/Pat Mitchell)

This summer’s Arapahoe Fire began with a lightning strike that ultimately destroyed not only 95 structures but 100,000 acres of timber and grassland. It also wiped out an icon of faith that had been a week’s summer spiritual home to an innumerable number of Christian campers—Camp Grace.


Reverend Irwin C. Noyce, the father of Bob Noyce (of the recently closed Noyce’s Friendly Shop) was the visionary who originated the camp. The site that had gone through a myriad of uses from brothel site during the days when Ft. Laramie was an army outpost to Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC), became a non-denominational church camp in 1936 under Noyce’s direction. According to I Remember compiled by the American Missionary Fellowship of Villanova, PA. under whose auspices Noyce ministered, the first camp lasted three days, had 21 campers and cost $3.00 each which included supplies; $1.50 of that amount would be waived if campers brought farm/garden products to help with the meals. Miss Mary Goertz was the camp cook for three years and remembered butchering chickens brought by campers the first night.

It was required to bring one’s own dish towel and table service (each did his/her own dishes). If campers brought their own bed ticking, Rev. Noyce provided straw which made for better sleeping conditions.

By 1938, everything at the CCC Camp had been removed so Wiley Brown, the owner of Fletcher Park wanted to sell. Noyce put up $100 of his own money and $100 each from two Converse County ranchers made up the $300 down payment to start the $4,000 requested sum for the property. It was incorporated and $1 shares were sold to raise the balance. By 1943, only $300 remained on the bill.

The furnishings in the Fletcher Park buildings that were included in the purchase price were: 1 moose head, 1 full bear, 1 caribou head, 2 full wolves, 2 full coyotes, 1 eagle, 1 badger, 1 beaver, 2 antelope heads, 1 deer head, 4 helmets, 2 gas masks, 1 roulette wheel, 23 canes, 8 heads [unspecified as to heads of what], 4 Indian clubs, 19 swords, 10 guns, 1 Indian spear, 1 handcuff [perhaps for a 1-handed badman!] 1 Indian bead belt, 2 opium pipes, 8 tomahawks, and 1 ball and chain.” All of these items were sold except for the roulette wheel which was given to a museum.

Camp Grace Directors

From 1946-’65, Vernon and Phoebe Kruse were camp directors. Phyllis Thalken who lives east of Wheatland was one of the counselors in 1964-’65 under Kruse’s leadership. In 1964 she said it rained most of the time and was cold. The kitchen was the only warm place. Several times a day Thalken and ‘her girls’ would go sit in her car and run the heater to warm up. They put plastic bags on their feet to keep them dry but “ran out of bags.” Kruse ran the camp for one week out of the summer after it was sold in 1951 to Southeast Baptist Association. Rev. Noyce’s health no longer allowed him to manage Camp Grace.

After Kruses retired in 1965, Dorothy and Delbert Dick became the missionaries in southeastern Wyoming. The summer of 1967 was so wet that the Dicks had to lay boards around for campers to walk on. Everyone had to stay on the porch for flag raising. Johnny Thalken (now Dr. John) wore 5-buckle (but UNBUCKLED) overshoes to raise the flag. He stepped in a puddle and came out without his overshoe. Water bubbled right out of the ground in two places in front of the main lodge. Rev. Dick, Dorothy and a homesick camper were going to town to get supplies when the differential broke on the borrowed pickup. “I’ll never forget the kids coming up to me with money to help fix the pickup—sometimes with just a little, with whatever they had. It was probably one of the most spiritual camps we’ve every experienced,” Delbert said.

For the complete article see the 09-26-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 09-26-2012 paper.

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