In 1945, the Executive Secretary of the Board of Education, Rev. S. Foster Walker took a map of New York State, located the section for the boundary lines of the Northern NY Conference and pinpointed the center with a 10 mile radius. He found it included Brantingham Lake and a small lake nearby named Pleasant Lake.
Conference Layman DeWitt C. LeFevre reminisced, the land was “located on a small lake with sandy beaches, containing a good cement block farm house (built before 1940 and still being used today) and some small barn buildings, having large groves of tall pine trees and acres of flat, sandy land. This farm seemed ideal for our camp. All this time we were simply acting on faith, faith that this camp project, long planned and dreamed of would become a reality. Our mission was successful.”
Purchased by the incorporated Board of Education of the Northern New York Conference of The United Methodist Church (now the Upper New York Conference) in 1946, the King Farm property at Brantingham, NY, fulfilled the dream of a place where lives could be changed. The property became Camp Aldersgate.
During the year 1946-1947, the details of the master plan were drawn up and buildings designed and located. Between 1947 and 1948, the original Aldersgate buildings were erected. These included the dining hall and kitchen, four cabins and a washhouse for Unit A for the boys; seven cabins and a wash house in Unit B for the girls. The first units housed 14 campers and 2 counselors each.
During the summer of 1948, Aldersgate welcomed 804 campers and 142 “faculty.” Rev. S. Foster Walker’s report to the conference the summer of 1948 stated, “We do not want the camping season to be confined just to the weeks of the summer. There is a real opportunity in the realm of fall and spring camping and before another year rolls around, we expect to be utilizing this period as a part of a new program in camping.”
Rev. Stanley E. Brown, in a 1954 conference report declared that, “Everywhere there is a growing interest and pride in Aldersgate. Throughout Northern New York Methodism, I have sensed a growing appreciation for the spiritual stature of Aldersgate in the Christian experience of our people.”
In the years that followed, other buildings were completed, including a women’s staff house, dean’s cabin, staff lounge, infirmary, storage buildings, 7 cabins and a washhouse in Unit C, 4 additional cabins in Unit “A”, and the recreation and fellowship hall. In 1960, the men of the Conference presented Aldersgate with the land and property across the main road from the camp with a house for the male members of the summer staff.
The Methodist Protestant Church that eventually became Aldersgate’s chapel was moved from the Brantingham Four Corners to Aldersgate’s grounds between 1958 and 1959. The church was built in 1880 and continued to be active until 1942 when the board dissolved it. During the summers of 1946-1948, the Rev. S. Foster Walker had helped reopen the church and served as the pastor on a voluntary basis. The church was finally abandoned and closed May 1949. Romola Walker wrote, the “little church was placed back in where the trees came out and it looked as if it had always been there.”
The 1960 M.Y.F. Clarion notes, “Aldersgate’s main objective is to provide as many girls and boys as possible with a camping experience. We live together as Christians under capable leadership. Through worship, study, and fellowship, we learn to be a part of a Christian community. It is a wonderful experience for everyone.”
In 72 years of providing these ministries, Aldersgate has carved out its own unique history of affecting lives for the sake of Christ. It is exciting to see the work that God is doing in those who attend programs at Aldersgate and respond in faith to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We pray that Aldersgate will continue to minister to God’s people through those who continue to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.