Have you heard of The Kent Camp? Did you know that Kent School, a college preparatory school in Connecticut, has an historic connection (or two or three) to Essex and environs? It was news to me—welcome news—especially considering John Bird Burnham is once again at the heart of the story.
I have mused upon John Bird Burnham’s adventures aplenty in recent years.
- John Bird Burnham: Conservationist and Adventurer
- John Bird Burnham: Crater Club & Log Cabins
- John Burnham Adirondack Mountain Creams
And Burnham’s wife, Henrietta (nee Du Bois), has also appeared frequently in my posts, especially those concerning Adirondack Mountain Creams.
- Made in Essex, NY: Adirondack Mountain Creams
- Authentic Adirondack Mountain Creams
- The Legacy of Adirondack Mountain Creams
In fact, I grew so intrigued with the Burnhams and their maple sugar enterprise that I started encouraging Essex friends to reinvent the delicacy that placed Essex, NY on the “national confection map” more than a century ago: An Essex, New York Tradition is Reborn.
But today’s post provides a new Burnham narrative. Not the Klondiker, the conservationist or the Crater Clubber. Nor even the scion of maple sugar confections. Today we discover John Bird Burnham, the founder of a rural summer camp for prep school students.
The Kent Camp
Whether I am a Burnham groupie or an Adirondack Mountain Creams groupie is for you to decide. Either way you can well imagine my excitement upon receiving word from Kathy Nadire about both. She and her husband purchased Barnaby House from Sally Johnson last October. Ms. Nadire explained that she originally “fell in love with Essex when my sister moved there in 2008”, but now she’s come across another intriguing Essex connection.
My husband and I work at Kent School in Kent, CT, where we have been for nearly 18 years. I do research for the school, and I am wondering whether you know of the close association between Kent School and John Bird Burnham. Mr. Burnham sent three sons to Kent: John D., Koert and William.
When John D. was at Kent, Fr. Sill, the Headmaster, asked the Burnhams to consider establishing a camp in the Adirondacks for the students (at that time all boys) — somewhere that the boys could go for the summer.
The Kent Camp was established by John Bird Burham on what was then known as Warm Pond near Poke-O-Moonshine. The camp was on one end of the lake and the Burnham’s house was on the other end… The Camp ran from 1912-1920. Jack Burnham ran the camp for a few years, and then Ted Evans from Kent ran the camp. In 1920 Colba Gucker of the Lincoln School of Teachers College bought the equipment and moved the camp to Auger Lake in Keeseville. (Kathy Nadire)
Ms. Nadire explained that the Kent School archive include materials about The Kent Camp, and she was generous enough to scan a 1913 brochure (and a few pages that differ from the 1914 and 1915 version) which is included here. According to the brochure, parents could entrust their sons to Reverend F.H. Sill for most of July and August for the tidy sum of $150. Transportation via river boat and/or train could be arranged from New York City and Albany. Platform tents, spring water and fresh milk supplied by Mr. Burnham’s farmer, Henry Elliot, rounded out the essentials. Adirondack hiking, swimming, tennis and baseball provided the enticement. Though limited to twenty campers, the photographs from the first season suggest a great deal of merriment and adventure!
In addition to extracurricular escapades from prep school students during summer vacation, Ms. Nadire suggest that The Kent Camp may also have served a more patriotic need.
I believe that the Burnhams housed soldiers on leave from the war (WWI) and suffering from shell shock at the camp. (Kathy Nadire)
Perhaps others in the community can help us flesh out the history of The Kent Camp?
Adirondack Mountain Creams at Kent School
Ms. Nadire offered a few additional insights regarding local connections to Kent School as well. I pass them along in the hopes that memories will be stirred and other readers may be able to contribute further details.
I should also mention that Henrietta Du Bois Burnham used to supply the boys at Kent School with maple candy, in particular at Thanksgiving. She opened the Burnham home in Essex to any boys who needed a place to stay during Christmas break. The Burnhams were friends with A. G. Paine of Willsboro, and Paine was one of the first backers of Kent School when it was established in 1906. A G Paine sent his son, Peter, to Kent. Fr. Sill had a chapel at Flat Rock on the Paine property in Willsboro when the camp was in session. (Kathy Nadire)
With so many layers to the Essex-Kent School connection, I hope that anecdotes, photographs and other archives will continue to surface, gradually amplifying this quiet corner of history. Thank you, Kathy Nadire, for bringing this intriguing information to the Essex community.
See a gallery of images from the Kent Camp brochure below (click an image to enlarge):
- Adirondack Mountain Creams: Essex Tradition Reborn (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- John Bird Burnham: Crater Club & Log Cabins (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- John Burnham Adirondack Mountain Creams (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Old Brick Schoolhouse (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Vintage Postcard: Crater Club (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- John Bird Burnham: Conservationist and Adventurer (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Made in Essex, NY: Adirondack Mountain Creams (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- The Legacy of Adirondack Mountain Creams (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Authentic Adirondack Mountain Creams (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)