The Rockbrook Tie

The most distinguishing feature of the Rockbrook Uniform is the Red Rockbrook Tie.  The tie has been part of the camp uniform since Rockbrook was founded in 1921.  This made us wonder…what is the origin of the Rockbrook tie?

After doing some digging, it looks like that many of the early girls’ camps like Rockbrook had a tie as part of their uniform.  While they come in many different colors, they all share a similar element- the Friendship Knot.  It appears that the history of the friendship knot in camping came from the Girl Scouts.  According to the Girl Scouts, the Friendship Tie (and knot) stand for the “tie that binds all girls and women who are part of the world association of Scouts”. The knot is a sign of the continuous friendships they share.  Nothing could be more true for all of our Rockbrook girls and women all over the world.  The red Rockbrook tie is surely a symbol of the Spirit of Rockbrook that binds us all together!

Vintage camp photos of women in ties
Rockbrook Uniform, 1920’s
modern camp girls in ties
Rockbrook Uniform, 2012

We also found a wonderful poem that speaks to the beauty of the Friendship Knot.  While we are not sure of the author, we know that they definitely went to camp!

The Friendship Knot

This knot is women in friendship true,
And interlaced with memories, too.
Of friendship found and share by you,
That times and miles cannot undo

Rockbrook Girls Ahead of their Time

Vintage camp girls relaxed pose

Did you know that Rockbrook was founded only 2 years after women earned the right to vote?  The 19th Amendment was passed on June 4, 1919 and Rockbrook officially opened on July 6, 1921.   Nancy Carrier, founder of Rockbrook, was certainly ahead of her time in creating a space for young women to come to gain independence, learn skills, make friendships and take part in adventures.  It is hard to imagine the excitement a camper must have felt to pack up and ride the train to Brevard and stay at camp for 8 weeks!  Here are some wonderful historical excerpts from an early camp catalog that describe the adventures.

“For 25 years camping parties have gone out from Rockbrook, thus they know by experience how far the first hike may go, where is the best spot for a moon-light supper and in what sheltered coves tents may be pitched for a stay of several days.  They know where the coldest springs lie hid; when the huckle-berries are ripe on the top of the ridges’ and on whose property a canoeing party may camp.”

vintage camp girls hiking

“Hiking. Here at Rockbrook, it means a well regulated walk amid scenes of unsurpassed beauty with a party of congenial comrades.  The over-night hikes, taken after the girls have learned to climb up and down, to make camp and to care for themselves and others, are among our most popular sports.”

early camp horse riding

“The Pisgah National Game Preserve is within reach of both riding and hiking parties from Rockbrook.  The forest regulations are complied with so that campers may enjoy the camping and fishing if they wish to do so.”Thanks to strong, empowered women like Nancy Carrier, we think Rockbrook Girls have always been ahead of their time!  Here’s to many more years of fun, friendship and adventure in the heart of a wooded mountain.

Rockbrook in The New York Times

In our last blog post we shared some interesting information about the history of Farming at Rockbrook.  During our research on the history of the farm, we also found a fascinating news article from The New York Times about The Carriers bringing the first motorized tractor to the area saving the farming season with their new machine.  Mr. Carrier was in the automobile and tractor business down in SC, and that is how he came to Brevard in the first place. H.P. Clarke, founder of Rockbrook Farm and father of Nancy Clarke Carrier (camp founder) ordered an automobile from Mr. Carrier’s dealership.  While delivering the car, Mr. Carrier met Nancy Clarke and their romance began.  They would eventually marry and Mr. Carrier would relocate to Rockbrook Farm.  It is during this time that Mr. Carrier joined Mr. Clarke in his farming business and eventually purchased the tractor that would come to serve such an important role in farming of the French Broad River Valley.

Henry N. Carrier of Brevard North Carolina
The New York Times, September 12, 1920

The article states that:

When Mr. Carrier took over Rockbrook and became a farmer, he carried his auto-traction interest with him.  He had his car and his truck, and he got a couple of tractors.  He sold one tractor to the town of Brevard for street and road purposes, and then the French Broad River got busy.  It flooded the valley three times before May 1.  Farmers who had lost their crops in the bottoms before began to despair.  Not a grain of corn was planted in the whole valley, but then came a few precious days of dry warm weather and the tractor got busy.  It plowed up whole fields in the time when a team of mules had previously covered only acres.  It ran from sunrise until after dark, without a whimper.  It carpeted the young green valleys with mighty areas of rich dark brown.  The sound of its chug-chug as it sturdily turned its wide furrows from river’s bank to mountain side, echoed back from distance coves and told the wondering mountaineers that a new era had dawned on the French Broad.  Excerpt from The New York Times, September 12, 1920

Isn’t it interesting that this bit of news made it all the way to The New York Times?  Mr. Carrier really did save the day!  It is said that not only did he lend out the tractor to local farmers, he also traveled with the tractor to teach his friends how to use the new gas powered machine.

From Plow to Tractor
Transition from plow to Tractor, The D.H. Ramsey Special Collection

Rockbrook Farm and HP Clarke

Did you know that before Rockbrook was a summer camp it was well known in the area as a working farm?  Henry P. Clarke, the father of Nancy Carrier, camp founder, was a well respected farmer in Brevard.  After doing some research we have found that Mr. Clarke bred chickens, shorthorn cattle and even raised dogs.  There was a large garden plot, muscadine grape vines and a dairy that was run by a family member of Mr. Clarke.  When Rockbrook was founded in 1921 the farm provided all of the food and meat for the whole camp!

chicken yard at Rockbrook Farm

The chicken yard at Rockbrook Farm

While researching the history of the farm, we came across Mr. Clarke’s name in several publications.  We learned that Mr. Clarke operated a kennel called Brevard Kennel.  Here is a snippet from The Field Dog Book:

Dog boarding listing
From The Field Dog Book

We also discovered an interesting advertisement in the back of The Country Gentlemen Magazine for Rockbrook Farms Shorthorn Cattle.  Check out the ad as well as a birthing record of two of the cows Lady Mell and Minerva.

Cow announcement
Birthing Record, 1900

It is clear that Mr. Clarke was a man of many talents! In our next blog we will share a great article about Mr. Clarke “saving the farming season” with his new modern tractor.

Rockbrook Remembers Jennie Lewis

Jennie Lewis

It is always a sad day when we learn of the passing of a member of our Rockbrook Family.  It was particularly hard when our dear friend Jennie Lewis passed away this summer after a courageous fight with breast cancer.  Jennie was a long time Rockbrook girl, attending camp for years from a little  junior to a head counselor.  She was known for her fabulous sense of humor, her crazy dancing style, her wonderful energy, some wacky costumes and being the best friend you could hope to have.  Along with her sister Chrissy and her mom Marguerite, the Lewis ladies are Rockbrook legends and have been an important part of camp life to so many people.  At Jennie’s memorial service the spirit of Rockbrook and friendship was clearly evident.  Camp friends from all over the country were there to celebrate the life and amazing spirit of a wonderful friend.

We all know Jennie as our camp friend, but she was also a very successful woman in her “real” life outside of camp.  Jennie worked for The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA as a Senior Associate Director.  She focused particularly on democracy and peace building efforts in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. She traveled with President Jimmy Carter in Sudan to monitor elections in 2010 and also South Sudan’s vote for independence in 2011. Her career of service took her from Afghanistan to Sudan and many places in between.  What an amazing woman!

Jennie Lewis and her mother
Jennie and Marguerite

Here at Rockbrook plans are now underway to create a memorial in Jennie’s honor.  We want to make the most fitting tribute to our dear friend so we are creatively brainstorming and developing our ideas.  We will stay in touch with you all as those plans continue.  This summer during camp our good friend and camp mom, Dolly led the campers in creating a wonderful mosaic tribute to Jennie.  It will hang in the dining hall where we can all see it daily and smile when we think of Jennie!

Tribute Mosaic to Jennie Lewis
Tribute to Jennie Lewis, created by Rockbrook Campers 2012

Here’s to you Jennie Lewis!  The spirit of Rockbrook is with you always and the spirit of Jennie is with us always.

Reuniting at Rockbrook

Camp Alum women and daughters
Sophie, Kelley, Dibble and Kathryn

Opening and Closing Days of our camp sessions are always filled with happy reunions.  You can feel the excitement as parents tour the camp, led by their camper, old and new friends meet or reunite and camp pen pals find one another, thrilled to meet after exchanging letters.  There is so much enthusiasm and Rockbrook love flowing around camp on those days.  It is also a special time when camp alumnae get to share the magic of camp with their daughters and granddaughters.  Many of our current campers are second, third or fourth generation Rockbrook Girls.  You can always tell the camp alumna because of their enthusiasm

This photo above captured a particularly sweet reunion of camp alumnae, as a former counselor and her camper were reconnected.  Kelley was Dibble’s counselor at Rockbrook in the 80’s and they had not seen each other since their time together.  It was a special moment for both moms and their daughters.  In just a few years their daughters Sophie and Kathryn may be counselors at Rockbrook, continuing the Rockbrook legacy in their families.

The Wildflowers of Rockbrook

Showy Orchid

The Showy Orchid, Brevard, NC

As we walk the paths and trails of Rockbrook we are always excited to find unusual species of plants and flowers.  On a recent walk, Rockbrook alumnae Barrie B. and Maggie K. spotted this orchid, known as the The Showy Orchid.  The Latin name is Galearis Spectabilis.  While they are not rare in NC, they are on the endangered list in SC and several other states.  The Showy Orchid grows in deciduous forests and can typically be found growing on rocks.  It flowers in the spring, the bloom lasting 2-3 months.  When the campers arrive in a few short weeks, the orchids will still be putting on a beautiful show. Thanks you Maggie for sharing this photograph with us!

If you missed our last wildflower report, check out this recent blog post on the Trout Lilies that grow at RBC.

The Lodge Legend

Stone Hume Hotel
The ruins of the Hume Hotel, Dunn’s Rock, Transylvania County, NC

In the oral history of Rockbrook there is an interesting story of the connection between Brevard’s oldest hotel, The Hume Hotel and Rockbrook.  Legend says that the stones from the hotel ruins were used by Rockbrook’s engineer Royal Morrow in the construction of The Junior Lodge at RBC.  While we can not authenticate the story, it seems possible that the stones could have easily been used due to the hotel’s proximity to the Rockbrook property.  As you can see in the photo above, the ruins lie just below Dunns Rock, on the current Island Ford Road right across from main camp. Currently there is a house on the site, but there are a few remaining rocks left from the 1840’s hotel.  At the time it was built, it was the first hotel in Transylvania County. We may never know the real answer to the mystery, but we like to think of Rockbrook’s connection to such an important landmark.  Check out this blog post from our archives for more information about the hotel.

Rockbrook Camp Junior stone lodge
Junior Lodge, do the stones match the old hotel?

The NC Digital Library and Rockbroook

The Transylvania County Library recently contributed over 200 photographs and newspapers to the North Carolina Digital Library.  The digital library includes a searchable database of the entire NC Digital Heritage Center Archives.  With the ability to search images and newspapers from the early days of Brevard, we have had a great time finding out more about the history of Rockbrook and it’s founder, Nancy  Clarke Carrier.

Our first article we discovered is from the Sylvan Valley News, Brevard’s first newspaper which was published from the 1890’s until 1916.  The article is from May, 1908.

Nancy Clarke wins
Sylvan Valley News, 1908, Brevard, NC

Nancy Clarke was 19 years old at the time of this tournament.  We know from past research that she was a student at Columbia College for Women, so possibly this was a school sponsored tournament?   As mentioned in a previous blog post, The Rockbrook House featured a tennis court in the side yard.  Perhaps this is where Nancy honed her tennis skills?

Carrier House Tennis Court
The Rockbrook House Tennis Court

When Rockbrook was founded in 1921, tennis was one of the activities offered that first season.  With our new insight into Mrs. Carrier and her love of tennis, it is no surprise that she would include it in the activity roster.  We continue to offer tennis today and know Mrs. Carrier would be proud to see her legacy continued!  Stay tuned for more from the digital archives.

camp tennis 1940
Rockbrook Camp Catalog, 1940

Rockbrook’s Trout Lilies

Yellow Trout Lily
Yellow Trout Lily (Dogtooth Violet)

Do you recognize this wildflower? Do you remember seeing those very distinctive spotted leaves at Rockbrook? It’s an American Trout Lily (Erythronium Americanum). This is the time of year it begins to bloom, and sure enough it’s everywhere at Rockbrook! Being a perennial, this wildflower returns every year, blooming about now, signaling the Spring season. Its name comes from the elliptic, green and deep maroon spotted leaves that resemble the coloring of brook trout, a native Appalachian species. This flower is also called a “Dogtooth Violet,” (even though its flower isn’t violet at all!) because its underground bulb is shaped like a tooth. Unfortunately, they also contain a dangerous plant toxin called Colchicine, so you (or your pet dog!) should never eat them. We love seeing these beautiful flowers at camp. They are gorgeous reminders of summer being right around the corner!