A History of Gravatt

The life of Gravatt begins with Roy Stewart, former Gravatt handyman’s grandmother, Frances. In 1915, she was given the land in as a wedding present, but then lost it during the Great Depression. In 1942, Lake Henry, the lake on what is now the conference side, was dug out by German Prisoners of War. Around this time, the land was bought by Mr. Cullum. In 1944, Roy’s grandfather began working the land for Mr. Cullum.

In 1947, Mr. Cullum gave the land to the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina to use. Bishop Gravatt decided to develop the 100 acres of land and 15-acre lake to be used as a summer camp. Over the next three years, Bishop Gravatt raised the necessary $3700 with the help of the diocesan churches to develop the land into a camp. An old building was donated by the Aiken Army Air Base to be used as a kitchen, dining hall, chapel, and recreation hall. More buildings were added as dormitories, bathhouses and staff cabins, some of which were donated from Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA.

On June 13th, 1949, the first day of summer camp, a junior high session, was held on what is now known as conference side.

At this time, Father Clyde Ireland was at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia. The rector of Good Shepherd brought him and many others to the summer camp to make up the first camp staff in 1949. He later went on to seminary and missed camp so badly that he wrote Bishop Gravatt to be back on staff at the camp. In 1953, he was moved to be the waterfront director for the summer, and then later ordained in 1954.

Under the leadership of the first Camp Director, Jack Clarkson, new septic lines were added to the conference side, all dug by hand. Later, in 1954, the original kitchen and dining hall were replaced by a fully equipped kitchen and new dining hall that is now known as Stewart Hall. That same year, the Diocesan Convention approved the loan for Cullum Hall.

Around 1955, the Rt Rev'd Rogers Harris, a seminarian was sent by Bishop Cole to work on the faith formation program at camp. During his time there, his wife Anne was the go-to person for homesick campers. As a way to treat homesickness, kids were sent to the nearby rectory in Batesburg to use the brand new telephone to contact their parents.

After Father Jack Clarkson's leadership came Father Ed Clippard who was Camp Director until 1957. He was followed by Father Clyde Ireland, who came back to be Camp Director until 1961. The first ever senior high conference was held in 1957. Father Ireland, Betty Jean Ireland, Pollye Bostick (Carl Bostick's mother), and Melvin Lasin Bee were the only adults in charge of the 100 senior high students.

Father Byrd was a camper in the 50s and later became a staff member. In his 64 years of almost constant involvement, he has described Camp Gravatt as “a wonderful, holy place.” Gravatt developed through the leadership of Bishop Harris and Father Byrd due to their involvement and dedication in the development of the youth program of the diocese.

When camp was still held on the conference side, they occasionally experienced crazy, terrible storms in the middle of the night, just like we do today. For example, near the dining hall, stood a tall electrical pole that supplied electricity to all of camp. During every single storm, this pole would get knocked over, causing all the power at camp to go out. So, they’d call Father Byrd’s father, Mr. Byrd, to come fix the transformer. This happened so often that they began calling him the camp electrician.

In 1957, Carl Bostick began working at camp as the handyman for Clyde Ireland. He did everything from using the tractor with Mr. Stewart to installing Piccolo music players. During his time here at camp, he helped build this place up any way that he could. According to Bostick, they “bought, borrow or stole” to build camp. One day, Bostick and John Bell were on break driving in a brand new 1957 Chevy back from Columbia when they got lost at night and drove straight into a watermelon patch. So they filled the entire trunk with “borrowed” watermelons. Upon arriving at camp, they didn’t know what to do with the watermelons, so they hid them in the walk in freezer. The next day at breakfast, Clyde Ireland told the camp they were going to have a watermelon cutting. One staff member asked Ireland where he got all the watermelons from, and he replied “I didn’t get these watermelons,” and stared straight at Carl Bostick.

From 1962-1964, Winfield Smith was the camp director. It was Clyde’s idea to create an “outdoor living” area at camp. So, Smith bought the covered wagons and teepees to camp. They were built by Foote Goodman and used for camp outs- girls in wagons and boys in teepees. Eventually, the wagons fell apart and were put in storage until the 1980s, when Roy reassembled them.

After Smith, William Luther McDermott was Camp Director in 1965, followed by Warner Montgomery in 1966. From 1967 to 1969, Wallis “Foote” Goodman directed camp. Under Goodman, the Brown House, now used as the office, was built.

In 1969, Carol Anne Bostick married into camp. Her daughter, Pollie Bostick, was a camper, while Carol Anne was the camp nurse and cook. One day during registration, a mother brought 15 bags of medicine for her child. She named all sorts of allergies. Father Byrd remarked, “Is this child allergic to the gnats and pine straw too?” Luckily, the mother did not hear him.

In 1967, additional land was purchased for a youth camp and Foote Goodman became the first full time residential director of Gravatt. This land became what is now known as camp side of Gravatt.

Pop Lawhon was Camp Director in 1970, followed by David Huntley in 1972, and Jim Hill in 1973. Somewhere between 1973 and 1976, we had the Camp Directors Willhart and Richard Carbough. From 1976 to 1983, Father Byrd was Camp Director. During the late 70s and early 80s, many buildings were added to camp. Cabin 7 on boys’ side was built and the pavilion was extended. While he was here at Gravatt, Father Byrd taught that “building relationships and taking stock in Camp Gravatt” were some of the most important things to do.

In 1973, Father Scotty Brock began his career at Gravatt as a junior counselor. Once while he was a JC, he remembers taking the nails out of the steps of the director’s cabin while Jim Hill was director and filling the dinner bell with cotton, so that one morning Jim Hill woke up, fell down the broken stairs, and attempted to ring the bell to no avail. After that incident, Jim Hill was so tired and emotionless toward the gank, that he returned to the director’s cabin and went back to sleep.

Throughout his time here at camp, Brock was a counselor, CIT Director, Program Director, and Camp Director in 1986. The camp director in 1984 was Clyde Ireland, and in 1985 was Pop Lawhon.

During this time period, the faith formation program, Footprints, began to develop. Priests, deacons, and seminarians were assigned by the diocesan bishop to work at camp for a week or two at a time. They would work with the staff to develop themes for the week. It provided good lessons and experiences through student teaching.

Around this time, Gravatt was run by the Department Committee of Christian Education in the diocese. This committee ran Gravatt; many staff members were dissatisfied with the decisions of the committee. Therefore, in 1981, Camp Gravatt became autonomous. At this time the Vicar, which we now call the director, was Father Clyde.

In 1986, Mac Westmoreland came to Gravatt, for high ropes training. Upon returning home to his wife Jan, he raved about how much he loved the staff and how delicious the food was. He knew he had to get involved. His first job, in 1986, was that of the Assistant Director. From 1987-1996 Jan and Mac Westmoreland were the Summer Camp Directors. Jan describes working at camp as “the time of our lives,” and “the very best.” She also states that “God has us out here for a reason.” Together, the Westmorelands led Camp Gravatt through some of the best years it had ever seen. One of Jan’s most memorable times at Gravatt was one night when the counselors picked up her and her husband’s car and put it inside the pavilion. They woke up the next morning shocked at the location of their vehicle. Needlessly to say, they made the counselors move it back.

Somewhere in the mid-1980s, Cole Lodge and the Chapel were built and Cullum hall was renovated. After the Westmoreland’s leadership came Laura Cole in 1998 and Cheryl Gans in 1999. Duncan Ely led from 2000 to 2001. In 2002, the Collett Dining Hall was built to accommodate the growing numbers. Later in 2003, Cullum hall and the Chapel were destroyed by fire, but in 2009, the Chapel of the Transfiguration was rebuilt. L. Sue Von Rautenkranz led camp in 2002 and 2003, and in 2004, John Reddic served as camp director. In 2005 the director was Ame Day and in 2006, it was A. Fletcher Spigner IV. Lauri Sojourner Yeargin directed during the years of 2007, 2008, and 2009, followed by Hope Spruell from 2010 to 2011. Gravatt’s current Executive Director, Scott McNeely, also held the position of Camp Director, serving in that position from 2012-2016, when the role was passed on to Frank Townsend.

Though camp has changed much over the years, many traditions are timeless. For example, Cruisers. Father Clyde Ireland explains the origins of the mysterious title, stating that “they were the only ones allowed to move during the meal, just like the word “cruise” means to move.” Another tradition that is that of Dr. Noid visiting during lunch, brought to camp in the early 1980s by Thane Lorbach. One of the most iconic traditions of Gravatt is the lighting of the torches at the last Shalom. According to Father Byrd and Roy Stewart, the tradition was always performed, beginning sometime before the 1960s. Yet, the ceremony has changed over the years. When camp was still on conference side, the counselors carrying the torches would dress up like Native Americans and perform a “pony dance” around the torches as the campers watched on the lake shore. They floated three huge crosses across the lake and lit them near where the Chapel of the Holy Spirit now stands.  

The oldest and most significant tradition of Gravatt is the singing of Shalom at night. According to Father Clyde Ireland, “Shalom has always been sung,” though it has been called by different names, such as “Friendship Circle.” Around the time the Westmorelands began working at camp, they renamed it “Shalom Circle.” Personal touches were later added, such as the song “Circle of Friends,” written by Sean Rankin. The fact that Shalom has always been a part of Gravatt shows that while here, everyone has the chance to experience God’s peace.