Cooperstown Bible Camp

In their desire to see the gospel message have a greater outreach, the Saron Evangelical Free Church, under the leadership of Rev. Ludvig R. Lunde, purchased an International truck and a van was built with a folding platform and organ.  With this gospel wagon, services were brought to the people in the towns and communities in the area.  The gospel wagon was traded for a large tent and the first Bible Conference came into being on June 21, 1925, at the site that we know now as the Cooperstown Bible Camp.  Since then an annual Bible camp has been held.

The success and progress made during the early years of camp were the result of much sacrifice and a lot of hard work by the people of Saron Evangelical Free Church and interested friends of the community.  Rev. Ludvig R. Lunde, under whose leadership the Bible Camp started and began to grow, served as pastor of Saron Church for twenty-five years.  Hans Seldal, who designed and supervised in the building of all the earlier buildings spent many weeks each year in making improvements on the campgrounds.

Before 1925 the area of the campgrounds was a wilderness of grass and underbrush and much clearing had to be done before the tents could be put up for the opening of camp, June 21, 1925.  In the spring of 1926 half of the old horse barn at the Saron Church was moved to the camp and rebuilt just west of where Elim building now stands.  Part was used as a kitchen and dining area for the speaker and song leaders and their families.  The other part was used as a refreshment stand where ice cream, pop, and candy was sold.  Many of the families of the area purchased tents, which were filled to capacity with campers.  In 1927, two cabins Hephzibah and Saron were built for the use of speakers and song leaders; and in 1929 the people began building the tabernacle under the direction of Hans Seldal, who designed the building.  The tabernacle was completed and used during the conference of 1929 with a dedication service July 4.

In 1930 the camp bought and dismantled the nearby Gallatin schoolhouse and built the first section of a multipurpose building called "The Inn".  This building provided kitchen and dining room as well as sleeping rooms upstairs.

During the first few years the only lighting available was gasoline mantle lamps in the tent and kerosene lamps around the grounds.  With the new building each year, better lighting was needed.  A small 32-volt generator and a gasoline engine were put into use, followed by a 110 volt direct current generator and a tractor motor, used for several years until R.E.A. lines were built in 1948 and all the buildings were wired.  With ice cream and pop selling for a nickel and large candy bars five cents and a penny, the sale of refreshments was big business after the services even in depression days.  The old refreshment stand was replaced in 1934 by a new building called "Elim".  Elim was used as a storage building for many years, but has now been repaired and restored, and is used again as the refreshment stand.

In the spring of 1935 two small cabins and a large four-room cabin were built at the south end of the campground on what was then known as Riverside Drive.

With the ever-growing need for dining room space and sleeping quarters, the "Inn" was remodeled and enlarged in the spring of 1936.  That same year a laundry room and shower room was built on the banks of the river south of the "Inn".  Water from the river was stored and heated by the sun as the water supply.

In the early years of the camp the only means of refrigeration was ice.  Every winter, men and teams of horses gathered for the annual ice harvest. The ice was packed in one big block and covered with hay or straw, in a woven wire enclosure.  In 1939 a barn that had blown down was purchased and rebuilt as an icehouse.

In the spring of 1938 the heirs of Lars Johnsons, gave their log cabin to the camp as a memorial to their parents.  The cabin was dismantled and then rebuilt on the campgrounds where it now stands.  Also in 1938 the basement was dug and foundation built for the Pioneer Building.  In the spring of 1939 the two stories were added, for additional sleeping rooms and office space.

In 1956, the Cooperstown Bible Camp Association was incorporated under the laws of North Dakota.  A camp board was elected and has been responsible for the operation of the camp since its incorporation.

In 1964 a new dining hall was built.  The old Inn was torn down and the new building was built during the fall and winter.  The new building, now known as "Ludvig Lodge" also includes sleeping rooms upstairs and the whole building is insulated and heated and used during the winter.

Building and expansion have not stopped at the camp: a camp administrator's home was built in 1977, during the summer and fall.  In the fall of 1979 a tennis-basketball court was built.  In 1981 a new bathhouse was constructed.

Twenty churches make up the camp association today, from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.  The camp has been supported by many other churches in the area, and the Bible Camp has been leased to many different groups of other church affiliations as well as to interdenominational groups.  The camp program today is structured to include Family Camp, Junior High, Senior High, Niners, Junior Boys, and Junior Girls camps, using the grounds one week each summer.  The camp is used year-around, with many camps and retreats held throughout the fall and winter.

Rev. Al Reimer, Rev. Earl Eveland, and James Booth have served as camp administrators in the past. Keith Anderson is the camp administrator at the present time, and has been at the camp since 1977.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 152

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