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Camp Minnehaha
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2021-02-23

            The Perkiomen Creek was quite a vacation attraction in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Vacation resorts and summer camps dotted the water's edge from Palm to

Living quarters at Camp Minnehaha consisted of tents

with wooden floors and iron spring cots.  The Spartan

living quarters provided a suitable and exciting adven-

ture for the youth

Collegeville.  A few lasted longer than that.

            Most of the nearby camps were started to give young people an outdoor education and a chance to experience the camaraderie and fun that camping brings.  One such camp was known as Camp Minnehaha.  The name is said to be Native American for Laughing Waters.

            Kehl Markley Jr. first opened the camp in June of 1922.  It was located directly north of the longest covered bridge in Montgomery County and across the creek from one of the earliest mills in our region.

            The land was known as the Markley property at the time and there were two houses located on the site back then.  The property included 115 acres, a 14-room stone house where Kehl lived, and another house where Asa P. Markley resided.  Asa

Asa Kehl operated the Minnehaha Chopping Mill at the 

time the Camp Minnehaha was started.  Located along the

Perkiomen Creek just south of the covered bridge, ite be-

came a landmark for most camp-goers.  The 301-foot

Markley's covered bridge can be seen in the background.

operated the Minnehaha Chopping Mill at the time the camp was started.  But the mill business at that location dates back to 1727 when German immigrants George and Margaret Welker built the first one there!

            The 301-foot span was known to many as Markley's bridge.  It was built in 1835 at a cost of $2,500.  The impressive structure carried the Philadelphia-Kutztown Road (known as Knight's Road today) across the Perkiomen Creek at that location in Upper Hanover Township.  The bridge sat upon four piers made out of red stone that was quarried in the nearby hills.  The two historic structures were quite a sight for out-of-town campers.

            In the early years, many of the campers were boys from the Perkiomen School.  Most of them were from other states.  Some were from other countries.  Usually, 30 or so youngsters, ages 8 to 16,

Usually, 30 or so youngsters, ages 8 to 16, would spend

time together at the camp and enjoy tennis, baseball,

basketball, boxing, wrestling, swimming, rowing, fish-

ing, horseback riding, and many other games and events. 

would spend time together at the camp and enjoy tennis, baseball, basketball, boxing, wrestling, swimming, rowing, fishing and many other games and events.  Friendly, but spirited, competition added to the fun.

            Living quarters for the boys consisted of tents with wooden floors and iron spring cots.  The Spartan living quarters provided a suitable and exciting adventure for the youth.  In a newspaper article one of the boys was quoted as saying, "Sleeping is great here … and we're always glad for a blanket."

            The day started around 6 a.m. for the camp and councilors.  Before breakfast, each camper took a dip in the crisp, clear waters of the Perkiomen.  After the morning meal, the activities and fun began.  Sometimes that fun included bus trips to Valley Forge, Crystal Cave, and other nearby spots.

            Kehl Markley Jr. and his out-of-town boys at Camp Minnehaha formed a Boy Scout troop in 1923.  Markley served as the Scoutmaster and campfire meetings were held every Friday evening.  The Minnehaha Scouts also spent time with other local troops engaging in a variety of scout activities at the Pennsburg Boy Scout cabin on Mill Hill.

            Camping by the Mill and Bridge in Upper Hanover Township also had its dangerous moments.  One of the most severe occurred on July 24, 1925.  The event was characterized as a "24 hour period of one continuous thunderstorm."  According to an account in the Town and Country newspaper, the downpour started around noon and assumed unusual severity and resembled a cloudburst.  At 1 p.m., the Hosensack dam, north of the Upper Hanover Township line, broke sending a wall of water racing down the Hosensack Creek to the Perkiomen Creek, and downstream to Camp Minnehaha. 

 

The land that once was home to the Minnehaha Chopping Mill and Camp Minne-

haha became the site of a new bridge and part of the Green Lane Reservoir and

Philadelphia Suburban Water Company.

 

            Upon finding out that the dam upstream had been breached, Kehl and his assistants gathered the campers from their tents and herded them to the high ground of the camp cottage as the creek waters carried their bed linens and other belongings downstream.  Many of the items were later found downstream clinging to the Swinging Bridge.  The low-hanging footbridge had acted like a net and captured many of the lighter items washed away by the raging water.

            Markley's bridge, the Minnehaha Chopping Mill, Camp Minnehaha, and the houses and barn of the Markley property passed into history when they became casualties of the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company Reservoir construction in the mid-1950s.  By then the property was owned by Judge Harold Knight, who continued to conduct activities and other social events at the camp until the water company took possession of the property.


 

 

 

 

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