Upland Chronicles: Sevier County’s Camp Smoky offered opportunities for youth
The 1960 Sevier County Baptist Association minutes includes the following paragraph describing the closing of Smoky Mountain Academy and expressing appreciation to those who made the school possible:
“Since Smoky Mountain Academy has gone into sacred history, we the committee on recommendations, concerning Smoky Mountain Academy, bring- the following recommendations:
That one page of the Sevier County Association book of minutes be designated in honor of Mrs. S.H. Hill’s sacrificial services at Smoky Mountain Academy, as she so unselfishly and devotedly laid her life on the altar of service.
“Also carry her photograph, express gratitude and deep appreciation for Knox County Women’s Missionary Union, Dr. F.F. Brown, Henry D. Blaine, R.L Harris family Reverend S.F. Paine and other donors of property for the school and many friends of Knoxville who continually contributed to the existence of the school.”
At the annual association meeting in 1960, messengers accepted a recommendation that the association retain the Smoky Mountain Academy property and use it as a summer camp.
Although there was some vocal opposition among Baptist church members throughout the county, the Association executive board appointed a committee to develop plans to operate a summer camp program on the property.
Elected Camp Smoky trustees, Ray Miller, Walter Ogle and Estel Ownby, replaced the Smoky Mountain Academy trustees. They accepted responsibility for obtaining a grounds custodian and purchasing insurance. Glenn Cardwell served on the camp committee for 25 years, serving as chairman from 1967 to 1988.
From its inception, Bill Atchley who served as association missionary from 1955 to 1976 was an outstanding force behind development of Camp Smoky. Bill and his family gave freely of their time with little or no pay.
With some remaining hesitancy on the part of the association, a budget item of $500 was finally approved in the fall of 1963 for a Smoky Mountain Academy Camp for the summer of 1964.
The first camp opened in 1964 with certain stipulations such as boys and girls would not be allowed to attend at the same time. 51 boys attended the first week followed by 38 girls the next week with Rev. Herbert Gibson serving as director. The following year a four- week camp (two for boys and two for girls) was approved. Rev. Ray Williams served as director from 1965 to 1966.
Campers were transported over to Emert’s Cove in the afternoons to swim in the Flint Rock swimming hole during the first two years of the camp. In the fall of 1965, a special designated “Camp Smoky Pool Fund” was established by the association. Initially, a condition applied that there was to be no “mixed swimming.”
Beginning in 1966, a group of missionaries spent 12 weeks at Camp Smoky each summer. The young missionaries were appointed by the Tennessee Baptist Convention missions department.
The camp program was extended from four weeks to six weeks in 1966 with 236 campers enrolled. The 12 summer missionaries built the open-air chapel, later dedicated as the Bill Atchley Chapel in honor of many years of devoted work at the camp.
Rev. Ray F. Williams served as camp director from 1965 to 1968. Bryan Atchley followed in 1968, serving in the position for three summers. Atchley was followed by John Leeper, 1972; Glenn Whaley, 1973; and Ray F. Williams, 1974.
Barbara Atchley led the camp in 1975, and her father Bill Atchley assumed the role in 1976. Other directors include Melinda Kenny, 1978; Mike Henagar, 1979 and 1980.
Ray F. Williams was back at the reigns from 1981 to 1986. As a matter of fact, Williams spent 21 summers either as Camp Director or as camp pastor. Mildred Faulks, Thomas and Sara Holland traveled from Mississippi to assist in the kitchen, free of charge, for six years beginning in 1981.
Sally Gibson spent several summers as counselor and assistant director. Two women who contributed greatly to the camp through their excellent cooking were Eunice Carr and Monica Ellis. Both ladies were school dietitians who gave up most of their summer vacation to provide nutritional meals at Camp Smoky.
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Rogers lived at Camp Smoky for 9 years. Mr. Rogers served as ground supervisor and Mrs. Rogers was a dietician.
Several individuals and families, such as Gatlinburg businessman Luther “Coot” Ogle and the Temple and Waters families, have given liberally to the camp over the years. Both Glenn Cardwell and Estel Ownby served tirelessly as a chairman of the trustees and committee member.
Representing the association, Bill Atchley applied to the Home Mission board for a US-2 couple to work in the Sevier County resort area. The US-2 plan provided a missionary appointment on a two-year basis. Thus, it became a sub-committee of Camp Smoky. Mr. and Mrs. Randy Hurst served in the position in 1975.
The work was so effective that the Home Mission Board sent Stan and Joan Albright in 1978. The Albrights stayed until January of 1981 when they left to attend a Seminary. Randy Harris came in 1981 to help at Camp Smoky as well as to participate in Resort Ministries.
Under the direction of the Home Mission Board, Bill and Cindy Black came to Sevier County to head the Resort Ministries program. The Blacks immediately began a program of ministry that has been added to and built upon since that time.
While the future of Camp Smoky as a traditional summer camp for boys and girls is in doubt, the board is exploring other options for the historic campus.
Rev. Smith F. Paine donated the hill to Sevier County Association of Baptists for the purpose of building a school. At that time the area was called “Poor Hopes.” Rev. Paine said “the land is so poor it won’t grow a decent head of cabbage, but can be used to develop heads on students.” Since the first school session in 1915, young people have taken advantage of Rev. Paine’s generosity.
For 44 years as a school and since that time as a summer camp where young people could develop their physical abilities and spiritual life, the accomplishment by those dedicated mountain families almost a century ago has served Sevier County well.
— Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.