Rockbrook Riflery Woman of the Week

Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to have former camper and counselor Dolly Robertson Herron stay with us for a few weeks during 1st session. Dolly helped out around camp in a variety of ways, and one of her biggest projects was refurbishing old riflery plaques from the 1960s. After over 40 years on the riflery range, the weathered plaques had lost their shine, and Dolly decided to preserve these important pieces of Rockbrook history. While cleaning the plaques, which were emblazoned with the names of expert riflewomen, Dolly noticed that one name in particular, Vesta Bateman, was inscribed several times on a 1974 plaque. After doing a bit of her own research, Dolly found Vesta’s contact information and sent her an email asking about Vesta’s camper days.Vesta wrote Dolly back, confirming that that was indeed her name on the plaque. Vesta also sent a picture of her shooting on the Rockbrook range in standing position! Thanks to Dolly’s hard work, Vesta and other former campers will continue to be honored and recognized for their sharpshooting abilities!

Riflery Woman
Rockbrook Riflery Award- Before and After
Vintage rifle girls
Far left, Vesta Bateman shooting from the standing position, 1970’s RBC Catalog

In Memoriam: Ellen Lensing

Ellen Lensing

It is with great sadness we report the passing of Rockbrook Alumna Ellen Lensing.  Ellen passed away on June 22 at the age of 92.  Phyllis Shaw sent us a beautiful email that captures the spirit of Ellen:

“I am very sorry to report the passing of Ellen Lensing, age 92, last night June 22.  Her passing is truly the end of an era for my generation of Rockbrookers.  None of us feels old enough to be the front line!

Ellen worked with Jerky in the office and was a counselor on senior line.  I have known her since I was 16 years old.  She lived a remarkable life of teaching (she had a PhD in business), mentoring, serving others, traveling all over the world, camping, hiking, etc.  Finally at age 89, she decided not to get ON her roof to clean her gutters!

Her health declined in very recent years prior to her moving to Milwaukee to live with her sister two years ago.  She was a remarkable embodiment of the Spirit of Rockbrook.  We will miss her dearly and remember her always.”

Trail Rides at Rockbrook Camp

Horseback Riding at summer camp
Campers gather near the old barn for a trail ride, 1920’s

In the early days of Rockbrook, trail riding was a popular activity.  Rockbrook’s location 3 miles from Brevard was far enough from the hustle and bustle of town to allow the girls to ride to the river or down the road towards Caesar’s Head.  They also had daily instruction in the ring on what is now our sports field.  In the 1920’s, Mrs. Carrier along with the barn staff would even ride the horses over Caesar’s Head and down to Greenville to return them to their winter home. What an adventure!

Eventually, the riding program outgrew the sports field location and moved across the road to it’s current home.  This location features 3 riding rings and a jump course as well as several pastures and an inviting trail that follows the French Broad River.  We no longer ride over Caesar’s Head on horseback, but there are plenty of exciting adventures that happen down at the barn!

The Carrier House Tennis Court

We recently found another Rockbrook photograph during our search of the archives at The Transylvania County Library.  In their records they had this photo of the original tennis courts at The Carrier House.  The Carrier House or Rockbrook House as it is now known was the home of the owners and directors of Rockbrook, Henry and Nancy Carrier.  Here at their house many camp activities were offered including tennis and lawn dancing. Tennis was a popular activity from the beginning of camp and quickly outgrew this first court as the  number of campers increased.  In the late 1920’s two more courts were added and then ultimately three more courts were built.  This original court was removed from The Carrier House lawn and was turned into a beautiful side porch.  Note the small boxwood hedge in the background of the picture, those same boxwoods are now over 9 feet tall!  Here is a previous blog post that tells you more about our current tennis program.

Carrier House Tennis Court
The Carrier House and Tennis Court, circa 1920’s

Camping in the Mountains

Check out this great page from a 1941 Rockbrook Catalog.  Campers had the opportunity to go on lots of different adventures including overnight camping trips.  Camping trips now follow the principles of Leave No Trace, but back in the 1940’s you can see that the camp outs were quite elaborate.  Don’t you know those S’mores tasted delicious?!

Campers at Rockbrook enjoy an overnight camp out
Rockbrook Catalog Excerpt, 1941

The Land of Waterfalls

Rockbrook Campers enjoy a waterfall hike
Rockbrook waterfall hike, 1940’s

Did you know that Rockbrook’s home Transylvania County is also known as “The Land of the Waterfalls?” Transylvania County contains over 250 waterfalls thus earning it’s nickname.  Whitewater Falls is one of the highest waterfalls on the east coast and is only a few miles from Rockbrook.  We even have two waterfalls on Rockbrook’s property- Stick Biscuit Falls and Rockbrook Falls.

Click here for a local waterfall map.  Have fun on your adventure!

Rockbrook campers enjoy a visit to Rockbrook falls
Rockbrook Falls, Brevard NC

Rockbrook Campers at Triple Falls

Campers enjoy an out of camp trip to a local waterfall
Rockbrook Campers, 1923, Triple Falls

While doing some research on camp history at the Transylvania County Library, we came across this photograph of some Rockbrook Campers from 1923.  The label on the back of the photograph indicates it was taken at a local waterfall, (believed to be Triple Falls ) which is located in today’s Dupont State Forest.    Dupont State Forest was founded between 1995-2000 and is a 10,300 acre state forest featuring over 9 spectacular waterfalls.  In the early days of Rockbrook campers got to visit these waterfalls.  At some point the property fell into private ownership and was not reopened for visitors until 1995.    We now offer our campers trips to Dupont, just like we did in 1923!

Let us know if you remember any waterfall trips from when you were a camper.  In our next blog post we will feature more about our local waterfalls.

The Art of Weaving at Rockbrook

Fiber arts have long been a popular activity at Rockbrook Camp
Weaving Class at Rockbrook Camp, 1930

Arts and crafts has been an important part of the program at Rockbrook since it’s founding in 1921.  Giving girls the chance to express themselves creatively, the crafts program features many specialties such as jewelry making, pottery and painting.

A favorite creative outlet at Rockbrook is weaving on the loom.  Weaving takes place as part of the “Curosty” activity.  Curosty (a regional term for “know-how”) is the home of our fiber arts classes which include weaving, basketry, knitting, cross stitch, and needlepoint.  The class takes place in our 19th century log cabin which can be seen in the photo above.

In a catalog from the 1930’s Curosty is described as: “a place where the lore of the mountains is preserved in the indigenous craft of weaving.”  In the 1920’s the creative outlets were also considered important to young women as they would “help make their homes more attractive.”  Although the roles of young women have changed a lot since the 1920’s, the creative outlets still give the campers the chance to express themselves creatively and expand their skills in a multitude of outlets.

Click here for more about our current craft program which still features weaving on the very same looms from the 1930’s!

Polar Bear Swim at Camp- Brrr!

Swimming at Summer Camp
Swimming at Rockbrook, 1925

One of the most common memories shared with us from our former campers is their recollections of  Polar bear swim in the chilly lake at camp.  Campers would get up at the rising bell, and with their counselors would run down to the lake for a quick dip.  What a refreshing way to start the day!!

We found a great write up about Polar Bear in our Rockbrook Memories Book.  Jerkey, a much beloved Rockbrook director would lead the girls in their morning plunge.

“Much of the fun at camp that summer stemmed from Jerkey’s leadership.  I can see her now as she led us during those wee hours of the early morning in a series of setting up exercises before we jumped into that icy cold pool.  Somehow, even in my shivering state, she made it seem glorious thing to do.”

You will be glad to know that the Polar Bear tradition continues today and that the camp lake is as chilly as ever!!  As the camp song states: “Polar, polar, polar bear, you can be a part of it all, if you dare!”

SC Artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner

Charleston Artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner
Elizabeth O’Neill Verner by Marie Danforth Page, 1937

There are many fascinating and inspirational women who have been a part of Rockbrook and it’s history.  None more so than the artist Elizabeth O’Neill Verner of Charleston, South Carolina.  Mrs. Verner was a long time neighbor of Rockbrook, her seasonal home Hanty Branch Hill is located next door.   Her daughter Elizabeth Verner Hamilton was the first camper at Rockbrook in 1921.  Mrs. Verner and Mrs. Carrier were good friends and Mrs. Verner was often recruited to come teach the campers the art of sketching and pastels. We can imagine her walking over from her home, ready to teach the enthusiastic campers.  She is mentioned in the journals and scrapbooks of several campers from the mid 1920’s.  It must have been a great occasion when Mrs. Verner was in attendance.

While at Rockbrook she also created an etching of the waterwheel that ran the power for the camp.   We will be sure to share that image with you in a later blog posting.

Rockbrook campers in the early 1920's take part in a drawing class
Rockbrook campers sketching with Elizabeth O’Neill Verner

As an artist, Mrs. Verner is recognized as the “matriarch of the Charleston Renaissance” and is considered the “best known twentieth century woman artist of Charleston. “She is famous for her etchings and pastels of life in Charleston. Her studio The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Gallery is still in operation in Charleston and is the oldest fine arts gallery in the city. She is such a well respected and important artist that the state of SC has named their highest honor in the arts after her. The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards  recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina. According to their website: “These awards honor South Carolina arts organizations, patrons, artists, members of the business community, and government entities who maximize their roles as innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts. In 1980, the Verner Awards took on a special significance with their designation as the official “Governor’s Awards for the Arts.”

Mrs. Verner’s great great grandchildren are current campers at Rockbrook.  What a treasure that they can share in their families wonderful legacy at RBC!