Compiled by Alfonso Espinoza
This article was originally written for the 1980 Hiawatha Council history.
Mr. Espinosa was camp ranger from 1967 to 1972.
Camp Woodland has a colorful history dating back to colonial times. It was during this period Indians traveling from Canada and Northern New York crossed what is now Camp Woodland, on the famous Oneida Indian Trail. A portion of this trail still exists within Camp Woodland as does "Indian Spring" where they would stop to drink and often rest overnight.
Before the turn of the century a small game preserve existed on what is now the north western section of the camping area. Behind the present Kiwanis Cabin, 200 acres were enclosed by a high wire fence for the raising of deer and moose. Remains of this fence can still be seen along the Sugar Bush Trail.
On Frederick Brook, two dams were constructed. The upper dam was used to raise hundreds of ducks and to supply water to a small trout hatchery, which were in turn stocked in the brook. Overlooking the dam was a log cabin used as headquarters for this game preserve and later as the caretakers lodge.
The dam downstream which now serves as the swimming area was originally constructed as a recreation area for sportsmen. Swans, geese, trout and pickerel were abundant.
The present Cub Scout Picnic Area was known as "The Grove". Here sat a long low building and a large fenced enclosure used for raising all manner of fowl, including pheasant, turkeys, peacocks and guinea-hens.
In the surrounding area wildlife abounded --- heron, wood ducks, dove, grouse, quail, beaver, muskrat, racoon, mink, weasel, a few bear and many other wild animals.
During the period of 1892 to 1920, Mr. Louis Will, former Mayor of Syracuse (1914 to 1916, Progressive Party candidate.) purchased land parcels in the area of his home. It was 1902 when Mr. Will selected the highest point in the area and started construction on his home, now used for the Ranger's quarters. All lumber and stone used in the construction of this house was gathered and milled right on the land.
Shortly after he purchased the land, Mr. Will constructed a Botanical garden of trees, shrubs and various wild plants and flowers native to this area. Centered in this garden was a pleasant little rest cottage which served as the Nature Lodge for the scouts for over 30 years. Many of the trees and plants may still be seen as may the paths near the present pump house.
During this time other buildings were constructed and became scout camp buildings. An old barn (torn down in 1966) served as trading post and craft lodge, the tin corm crib is still used for storage, the old pheasant pen was relocated and is now a storage building, the gardener's tool shed is now a "bunk house" for the Summer Camp Program Director, and served many years as a forestry museum. The old saw mill and granary burned down about 1932 and the old log cabin, long known as "uncle John's Cabin" was declared unsafe and torn down in 1967.
When first acquired, the entrance was from the old Salt Road (formally known as Redfield Road). It is interesting to note the Redfield Road was originally a corduroy road and is one of the oldest roads in the U.S. From the entrance the road to the camp closely paralleled the Sugar Bush Trail and entered camp near the Kiwanis Cabin.
On October 2, 1929, Mr. Frederick V. Burns, Philip A. Manro and Albert M. LeMessurier of the Onondaga Council Executive Board entered into agreement with Louis Will and his wife, Augusta Will and purchased Camp Woodland for $35,000.00. Mr. Will contributed $5,000.00 and a number of other men (names unknown) made contributions amounting to $9000.00. Mr. Will made an additional contribution of $1,000.00 reducing the obligation to $20,000.00.
During the depression years many faithful scouters struggled to keep the camp open and to help pay the camp mortgage. Several times it seemed as if the mortgage payment could not be made, but each time friends of scouting helped in one way or another.
In 1930 a cobblestone kitchen was completed in time for the first summer camp. No dining hall was available, so the scouts were fed in a large circus tent erected in front of the kitchen. This was standard procedure until Owens Hall was completed as a dining hall in 1944.
In 1965 the administration building was constructed and in 1958 the Syracuse Lions Club constructed the Health lodge. In 1960 the Marine Midland donated a temporary branch bank building to the Council. This building was cut down the center, moved to Camp Woodland, set on a newly constructed foundation and rejoined.
Scouting continued to grow more units, more boys made an expansion of facilities necessary. 1965 saw the construction of a new Picnic Shelter and table for Cub Scouts and a new, large Winter lodge for Boy Scouts. 1968 brought a new camper shower; a new pump, pump house and water system, re-working the dam and dredging of McKibben pond, renovating of the camp kitchen and Ranger's Quarters and a new visitors latrine.
When you visit Camp Woodland, by all means, look around. As you do remember the camp has been in constant use, winter and summer for 38 years. Remember almost 100,000 boy days of camping have taken place here. While some of the campers have left scars, many more have left only their foot prints behind, but all have taken back with them fond, happy memories. It is a certainty that as they grew (and grow) into manhood these scouts know it was many interested citizens who made it all possible.