Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 3.54.26 PMFormer Mountain Xpress editor and reporter Jon Elliston published an investigate series of reports in 2008 that retold the harrowing story of how residents of a small town in Transylvania County ran a summer camp out of town back in 1963.

The camp was set up by out-of-towners who designed it to give both children and adults equal say in deciding rules and activities. The camp was integrated. And the camp offered help to migrant workers. All pretty heady stuff for small town Rosman in 1963.

Rumors began swirling about what went on the camp, rumors about nudism, drug use and more.

From the North Carolina Miscellany blog:

Roughly a week into the camp opening, groups of angry townsfolk gathered at night to “run Summerlane out of town.” Dozens of armed locals waited outside the camp yelling threats. A nearby pond was set on fire, and as the flames died down, camp staffer George Hall claims that he “Got into one of the little boats and paddled next to the reeds that were still burning. Then [he] roasted some marshmallows.”

Elliston’s series highlighted a dark chapter in Western North Carolina history, and is worth a close read .

Read the entire Mountain Xpress series on Camp Summerlane here.



  1. I was supposed to attend this camp. My mom enrolled me, took me shopping with my camp list, and packed my duffle bag. Three days before my scheduled departure, she told me that I wasn’t going to camp. When I asked her why, she replied, “They burned it down”. I was only 9 or 10 at the time.

  2. Jon Elliston says:

    Thanks for this post, Jason, I’m just now seeing it. Even now, 50 years later, I’m learning new parts of the story, which I hope to share soon. I’ll keep you posted. (And thanks for the kind words, Jennifer!)

  3. I had never heard of this, so thanks for mentioning it. I just read the whole thing, and by far the scariest aspect of it are the comments along the lines of “If the camp came today, we’d do it all over again”. Harrowing indeed.

  4. One of the best Xpress features I’ve ever read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *