A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAMP FIRE AND THE FIRST TEXAS COUNCIL
Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by Dr. Luther Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Gulick, as the first nonsectarian organization for girls in the United States. In 1975, membership was expanded to include boys.
Fort Worth was a Camp Fire pioneer; the date of the council’s first charter is 1919, but records indicate Camp Fire groups met in Fort Worth as early as 1914. Today, the First Texas Council is one of the country’s largest and most successful councils.
First meetings of Camp Fire Girls are held in Vermont. Dr. Gulick chooses the name “Camp Fire” as campfires were the origin of the first communities and domestic life. Once people learned to make and control fire, they could develop and nurture a sense of community.
Camp Fire groups first meet in Fort Worth.
The First Texas Council is recorded as the first council in the state.
The first Board of Directors was established, and W. T. Ladd is named the first president of the Council (1922-1924).
With the sponsorship of a local civic organization called the Civitan Club, the council hires its first Executive Director, Lucia Walker. The Civitan Club also gives the council its first camp, Camp Civitan, on Lake Worth. This site is used until 1932, when Camp Shawondasee in Mineral Wells became the council’s camp location.
Land for El Tesoro is purchased along the Brazos River near Granbury . To this date, El Tesoro is used as both summer resident camp and a year-round facility for Camp Fire clubs and other organizations.
Fort Worth’s original Blue Bird (now called Starflight) groups are established.
The First Texas Council is among the first in the nation to organize a system of districts. First among these is the West District, whose initial Chairman, Mrs. Charles F. Bedford, went on to become national Camp Fire president in 1965.
Louisa Haun becomes Executive Director and the office is relocated to 915 Summit Avenue.
The Wohelo Medallion becomes Camp Fire’s highest achievement and honor. The Medallion is named for Camp Fire’s watchword “Wohelo,” which stands for work, health and love. Recipients typically spend two years completing projects that foster leadership, teaching, service and advocacy. In 1996, the Wohelo Medallion is renamed the Wohelo Award.
Another move for the office is made to 4001 West Rosedale. The adjacent building at 4005 West Rosedale was purchased in 1964 and becomes known as the Annex.
The Council purchases 87 acres on Mary’s Creek west of Fort Worth for use as a day camp. When the property was sold in 1983, the proceeds were used to establish the council's endowment fund and, in 1985, to purchase Camp LaCaWi in Wise County.
Camp Fire expands its horizons and encourages boys to participate in all Camp Fire activities. Today, 46 percent of the youth served by Camp Fire USA are boys.
Zem Neill joins the staff as the eighth Executive Director of the First Texas Council.
In May, the Board of Directors adopted a resolution that marked the formal beginning of the council’s first major capital campaign. The purpose of this fund drive was to renovate Camp El Tesoro and relocate the Council’s office to a new facility, its present location at 2700 Meacham Boulevard in Mercantile Center. The new First Texas Council Service Center opened its doors on May 23, 1983. Renovation at El Tesoro was completed in 1986.
The Council celebrated El Tesoro’s fiftieth season on June 4, with over 1,500 attending a day long event at the camp. By that summer, resident camp attendance had grown from 12 staff and 60 campers in its first season in 1934 to 60 staff and over 1,200 campers in its fiftieth year.
In October, Dorothy McClure gave the Council an 18-acre site in North Richland Hills, known today as Camp McClure and used for day camp and week-end outdoor programming.
The Council celebrated its 75th anniversary, hosting Camp Fire’s National Congress that November.
The Council began its Campaign for Children, an ambitious and challenging program that raised over $4 million during 1991-1993 to build the council’s Resource Center and Family-Centered Child Care Center. In addition to increasing the size of the council’s facilities four-fold, this comprehensive community plan for family support through high-quality child care systems is unique in the nation outside of an academic setting. Texas Governor Ann Richards attends the dedication of the Resource Center.
Camp Fire begins providing national accreditation training and preparation assistance for child care centers and family child care providers.
The Family-Centered Child Care Center opens.
Child Care Resource and Referral, a service for parents and employers begins operation.
Extensive community training programs and special nutrition program for family child care providers are established.
The Council, working with major local employers, assists in founding Corporate Champions, a program of employers to increase the quality of child care and provide employees with resources for their children.
The Club Services Division continues to offer traditional club programs to school-age youth, as well as Community Family Clubs.
Camp Fire offers programming in non-traditional settings, including Diamond Hill Station, a before and after school youth center on the campus of Diamond Hill Elementary School.
Camp Fire celebrates the first Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® – a call to action for all adults to communicate their love and commitment to children through letters.
Camp Fire begins an alternative education program in conjunction with the Fort Worth ISD, a coalition with the YMCA, a special summer program in zip code 76106, after-school programming at three Fort Worth ISD elementary schools, and outreach programs in both Tarrant and Denton counties.
This year brought a new all-time high enrollment of summer campers, with almost 1,400 campers attending El Tesoro.
El Tesoro de la Vida celebrates its 10th summer.
A capital campaign for renovations at El Tesoro is started in 1998 and funds major renovations for RuLoHo, the upper swimming pool, and several other buildings.
First Texas Council celebrates its 85th anniversary.
The national organization votes to change its name to Camp Fire USA. With this came a change in the council’s name, to Camp Fire USA First Texas Council.
The First Texas Council starts the Community Family Club program, which was adopted by national Camp Fire and implemented in numerous councils throughout the nation.
Programs are expanded to include Connect4Success, which was funded through the efforts of U.S. Representative Kay Granger through an earmark by the U. S. Department of Education. This program was designed to work with child care centers in violence reduction in young children.
The Council expands the Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® program and includes substantial community and corporate support.
The local theme “Use a #2 to Tell Them They’re #1” also introduced a thirty-eight foot pencil, which toured the city for over a month.
The council celebrates its 90th anniversary with a community-wide program.