Randolph County 4-H history being collected

Submitted photo Former 4-Hers meet with Spencer Kuchle, AmeriCorps member serving 4-H Camp Pioneer, to begin the process of collecting 4-H History from Randolph County. Committee members study historic pictures. Seated from left are Spencer Kuchle, Dawn Swecker, Sheila Johnson and Carole Daniels. Not pictured is June Meadows Seminick.

BEVERLY — For more than a century, 4-H camps across the country have offered experiences for young people that encourage them to learn by doing and to become leaders in their communities.

Randolph County 4-H Camps hold a prominent place in the history of 4-H. In 1915, the first organized camp for rural youth was established in Randolph County, about 20 miles south of the current site. “Camp Good Luck” was the beginning of a summer camping tradition for 4-Hers around the world. 4-H Camp Pioneer in Beverly continues to promote the enduring legacy of youth development and community leadership.

For many years, 4-H volunteers in Randolph County have been interested in preserving the wealth of history from former 4-Hers, leaders and Extension Agents in our region. Recognizing that preparing young people for the future requires helping them understand the past, the Randolph County 4-H Leaders created a committee a decade ago to capture oral histories. Because stories and storytelling can serve as an introduction to the past and foster powerful connections across time, 4-H Camp Pioneer is embarking on a new oral history and archives project, building upon previous interviews.

This year, the Randolph County Parks and Recreation Board that oversee 4-H Camp Pioneer is pleased to announce the utilization of an AmeriCorps member serving 4-H Camp Pioneer to begin the archival process. Spencer Kuchle joined 4-H Camp Pioneer from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, where he served as a post-doctoral fellow for two years after earning his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. Spencer’s first task was to digitize yearly 4-H camp photographs that adorned the halls at camp. More than 100 of these photographs have been posted on the Camp Pioneer website for the community to enjoy. Yet, photographs from the early years, 1915-1959 are still sought. Spencer’s goals include conducting video oral histories of former 4-Hers, compiling and digitizing pictures, creating a plan for a future on-site museum, and working with the community to collect 4-H information. The archival team is especially interested in preserving oral histories from people who attended camps at the Valley Bend site or the early years of Camp Pioneer in Beverly.

Anyone interested in sharing stories about their experiences at Camp Pioneer is invited to do so. Whether reminiscing about how your time at the camp inspired an appreciation for nature and wilderness or how it felt to be away from home for the first time, we want to hear about your time at the camp. In addition, plans are being made for a 4-H gathering at Camp Pioneer, where community members can bring their own pictures to be scanned on site, share stories or information and offer suggestions to support the initial stages of this project.

Community members who are interested in helping with this project may complete an electronic form found at Camp Pioneer website, camppioneerwv.com, or a hard copy found at the WVU Extension Service office in Elkins.