Hey, everyone! The below photo is of Sumner F. Dudley, AKA “The Father of YMCA Camping in the USA.” He was born in Massachusetts in 1854, eventually moved to New Jersey, and worked in New York City. And this is the story about how overnight camp in the US came to be.


His ancestors can be traced back to this neat castle in England, which was built about a thousand years ago:

Here’s another view of Dudley Castle – the “East Range”

His direct ancestor, Thomas Dudley, sailed with his family from England to the “New World” in 1630, where he became a governor for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Over 200 years later, in New York City, Sumner F. Dudley worked for his father’s business, Shepard and Dudley Surgical Instruments…

…which was located on William St. in New York City.

In this same location, Sumner F. Dudley received payments from members of the New York YMCA, while he was the Treasurer for the organization in the early 1880s.

While selling surgical instruments paid the bills, his work with the YMCA, specifically Boys’ Work, was his true passion and calling. This is from the 1884 31st Annual Report of the YMCA of the City of New York:

(That’s right… they hung out with the Thomas Edison…)

The Annual Report would’ve been presented out of this building in NYC, during that time.

This is George A. Sanford, who was a General Secretary for the NY State YMCA in the 1880s. In 1885, he helped Sumner F. Dudley organize a summer YMCA camping trip to Orange Lake, near Newburgh, NY.

The camping trip was a success, and the next year, even more boys attended. But this time the excursion was held at a different location: Lake Wawayanda in New Jersey.

These early campers were members of the Boys’ Camping Society. More and more campers continued to enroll in the following years. Later, Sumner F. Dudley would host camping trips on Lake Champlain, and that camp would be called Camp Dudley. It’s no longer a YMCA camp, but it remains one of the oldest, continuously running camps in the country. 1908 is when Camp Dudley would find its permanent home. This is a Camp Dudley postcard postmarked 1909, from the camp in Westport, NY.

Boys in the BCS would utilize both the Wawayanda and Champlain sites in the early days of the organization, and as mentioned before, Camp Dudley would settle on the shores of Lake Champlain. Camp Wawayanda would be established officially in 1901, and was also known as the Jersey Boys’ Camp. That camp would later move and become known as Frost Valley – and I’ll have more about that in my next post!

The Jersey Boys’ Camp Emblem:         

Postcard scene from Camp Wawayanda in its first location:


Thanks for being a part of Frost Valley History!

About the Author

Anna Morelli

Anna has been working at Frost Valley since 2008. She began as a Program Instructor for Environmental Education, as well as Group and Family Retreats. She started managing Frost Valley's historical archives as a side project and is now the camp's full-time Historian.

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