A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the privilege of seeing our grandson graduate from Beginners Fur-Fish and Game Camp at Millstone 4-H Camp. He, along with a young friend of mine, were sponsored by the Sandhills Rod and Gun Club to attend one week of beginners camp and, in my young friend’s case, advanced camp.
Millstone 4H Camp is a hidden treasure tucked back in the Sandhills, east of Ellerbe. The site was once used to mine and turn heavy millstones which were used to grind corn and wheat. The flow of a local creek on site supplied the energy to run grist mills at different times during its history.
After years of private ownership, the Millstone property was shifted to the state of North Carolina. Then in 1938, with the help of Mr. L.R. Harrell (N.C. State 4-H leader), a nice 4-H Camp began to take shape at the Millstone site. With the help of the Federal Works Progress Administration and local volunteers, the camp opened in 1939. The site included a core dam, spillway and included an 18-acre lake. Also, several deep-water wells were dug on site to provide fresh water for the camp. Twelve cabins, a dining hall, craft shelter, caretaker’s house and washrooms were also built on the site.
Over the years the Millstone 4-H Camp has seen many changes — all for the better, of course. In 1950, the camp added a recreation hall, two more cabins, farm shop and pool. In 2005, a ropes course was built with funds from the local Cole Foundation. In the last few years, a museum (The House that Peanuts Built) was added to the site to display some of the great history of our state 4-H. The facility has added a nice horse barn and riding ring for the many young horse enthusiasts. In 2009, funding from the N.C. General Assembly was used to remodel the 14 cabins, adding heating and air, a newer sewer system and saw their camp kitchen completely remodeled. During the years of 2013 and 2014, the John Lentz Sports Shooting Complex was added to the site as a public shooting range. In 2015 — with help from Carolina Farm Credit, the Cole Foundation, the Amish community and many others — a masterfully crafted State Employees Credit Union 4-H Learning Center and Cole Foundation Auditorium was constructed on site. It has prime meeting space for conferences, banquets, classes and parties with state-of-the-art audio and visuals.
The full-time staff at Millstone includes a director (Keith Russel), camp program director (Erehn Frye), and camping tech expert (Rob Banks). During peak camping events, many part-time staff are hired to help with the different activities and act as cabin monitors.
During summer months, weekly camps are held for horsemanship, two camps for State 4-H, two Fur-Fish and Game camps, boating, shooting sports, and Cloverbud Camp for 4-H youth.
During the rest of the year, when there no camps scheduled, the camp can be rented or used for special events. One of the special events being held this year is “Picking in the Pines.” The proceeds from this event go to help support campership at Millstone. This is an adult-only event costing $50 per guest and will feature a bluegrass band, pig picking, heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet and a live auction. The event will be held from 6 to 11 p.m. on Oct. 21.. To register for the event, go to http://go.ncsu.edu/millstone. For more info contact Erehn at [email protected] or you can call the Richmond County Extension agency.
Well let’s go back to the Beginners Fur-Fish and Game Camp held at Camp Millstone, which my grandson attended this year. My daughter had attended both Fur-Fish and Game Camps earlier in her life and she absolutely wanted her son to go through this experience also. My daughter stayed in the un-air-conditioned cabins, but was glad that her son and the other campers could enjoy the newly installed A.C. units.
Another thing my daughter remembered about the week of Fur-Fish and Game was that the campers were awakened in the middle of the night to observe a fresh-killed deer being skinned and prepared to be eaten the next day. The good thing is that my grandson went through the same nightly routine also.
The first day of Beginners Fur-Fish and Game (Sunday, July 17), the campers took part in hunter’s education courses. Monday included courses in outdoor cooking, safe hunting, tree stand safety, plant and tree ID and introduction to firearms and ammo. On Tuesday, ethics/conservation, waterfowl ID, fishing, shot gunning, lure making and renewable resources. Wednesday included crafts, turkey calling, muzzle-loading, snake ID, skin-skulls and track casting; finishing off the night with a quiz and a deer study. Thursday, they started the day with canoeing and kayaking, archery, forestry and, after lunch, trapping, a hunting safety test and lastly, swimming. On Friday, every one of the campers had passed their hunter’s ed test and received their certification. All graduated from a week of being exposed to a lot of wonderful outdoor experiences and knowledge that can be used for the rest of their lives.
For a day or so, my grandson couldn’t quit talking about the things he had learned during his time a Camp Millstone. I think his favorite things to do were having the opportunity to shoot an AR-22 rifle, kayaking, lure making and swimming (even though they did spot a snake in the water).
Thanks to all the camp’s staff, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commisson, Wake County Wildlife Club and all the volunteers who taught classes, cooked or any other jobs that made this Fur-Fish and Game Camp a huge success.
To contact the Millstone Camp for any of these summer camps or events, call Keith Russel at 910-652-5905 or email him at [email protected] Also visit their website at Millstone 4-H Camp.Com. Camps usually run from June 18 through Aug. 2.
If I had to grade the facility and its staff at Camp Millstone for all they do, I would give them an A-plus.
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson County Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond County Historical Society and author of his new book “Just Passing Time.”