Welcome

Camp Sequoyah in Weaverville, NC was founded by C. Walton Johnson in 1924. “Chief” operated the camp for the next 43 years until his death in early 1967. His son Bill kept the camp operating for the 1967 season, and then leased the camp to Bruce Capps, who ran the camp for another 11 years. The camp closed its doors after the 1978 season, but for the past 45 years, there has been a vibrant alumni presence devoted to preserving the property and the memories. This website is devoted to remembering those formative camp experiences from the youthful part of our lives.

Camp Sequoyah Timeline

  • C. Walton Johnson (“Chief”) purchased camp property in 1923.   At the time, it was a beautiful apple orchard.
  • Camp opened with 27 boys attending in June 1924
  • In the early years (1930s), Chief offered a 10-day “coastal camp” option for Sequoyah campers on Pawley’s Island, SC.
  • The original canoe camp was operated along the French Broad River a few miles downstream from Hot Springs, NC.
  • Lake Nantahala (originally called Lake Aquone) was built in 1942, and Chief moved canoe camp to this site in the years that followed. The canoe camp lodge was built in 1950.
  • In 1951, the Tsali program was created for boys 14-17 years old as an extension of the sourduff and sourdough programs. Tsali provided a unique life experience based on advanced woodcraft and wilderness living skills.
  • Chief ran the camp for 43 years – 1924-1967
  • Camp had a total of 80 buildings on 125 acres at its peak
  • Chief died at 80 years old in January, 1967.  Mrs. Chief died in 1973.
  • Chief’s son, Bill Johnson, ran the camp for the 1967 season.
  • Bruce & Bettie Capps leased the property and ran camp from 1968-1978.
  • 1978 was the final summer of camp.
  • Property remained with the Johnson family for many years but was idle.  During the 1980s and early 1990s, several attempts by others to purchase and reopen an active camp failed.
  • In 1997 Katherine Lauder purchased the property. She and son Barry Durand began to save and protect what they could.  Katherine started a summer day camp for children but eventually sold the property.
  • Under their watch, the 1st alumni reunion was held in 1999 celebrating 75 years. 
  •  The current owners purchased the property in 2009 from an investor who owned it for a short time after buying it from Ms. Lauder.  They purchased the camp as a family retreat and home with the goals of 1) preserving the land, 2) honoring the history and legacy of the camp, and 3) for future use and enjoyment by others. Alumni reunions continue to be held every two years
  • Through the efforts of Katherine Lauder, Barry Durand and the current owners, 25% of the original camp property is now in a conservation easement. It is one part of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Woodfin Watershed conservation easement project that now protects 1800 acres of land from the camp property up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Saving and preserving camp structures was and is an ongoing process.  The owners arranged for a local saw miller to set up a portable saw mill in the Senior Camp riding ring to mill lumber from the Camp property to use during repairs.  Timber for preservation work was milled from several of the giant old growth hemlocks that died in the Hemlock Woody Adelgid outbreak in the early 2000s. Salvageable material from cabins was also reused.  All cabin and closet doors were removed and saved (see photo archives) as were the remaining cabin plaques that are now displayed on the walls of the dining hall and the camp store. 

For more detail about the history of Camp Sequoyah, Steve Addison has compiled a timeline of newspaper articles about C. Walton Johnson and the camp from 1912 through 1988. Click here to access the 60-page document, or follow the link in the Archive section.

Preservation Efforts

  • Hoffman cabin – 2010
  • Camp office cabin – 2012
  • Dam – 2012
  • Garage/shop – 2012
  • Lodge – 2013
  • Chief’s home became “Chief’s bunkhouse” – 2016
  • Junior camp lodge – 2016 and ongoing
  • Stable repairs – 2017 and 2022
  • Owners build their new residence above athletic field near the council ring with design in keeping with other camp structures – 2018
  • Dining hall – 2020
  • Mountaineering cabin – 2022
  • 14 adjacent acres are purchased to add to camp property

Preservation Projects funded and completed by alumni

  • The original CampSequoyah.org website was launched – 2000 (retired in 2020)
  • Camp Sequoyah Alumni Facebook page launched – 2008
  • Prior to 2009, a group of alumni tried to save the old-growth hemlocks from the hemlock wooly adelgid which was killing virtually every hemlock in the southeast.  All hemlocks on the 150 acres were treated with chemical injections. Many were saved, but many were lost.  The largest hemlock was lost, which was estimated to be >500 years old.
  • Chapel roof – 2014
  • Nature Den porch – 2015
  • Cabin 30 – 2016
  • Naiset-Awi porch – 2017
  • Cabin 15 – 2018
  • Chapel pews treated with tung oil – 2022
  • Cabin 11 – 2023
  • Three Tsali cabins including the “double-decker” – 2023
  • New Sequoyah website launched – 2023.  (campsequoyah.net)

Photos

(Last updated – July 4, 2024)

An archive of Camp Sequoyah photographic memories from across the decades.

(More to come)

Click on the images or the links below. Then come on in and explore a while.

Camper diaries from the mid 1940s – Bill McGrew and Wilby Coleman (click on the links)

1960s

(Photos by Mike Miller unless otherwise noted.)

1970s

(Photos by Pete Landry or Bruce Capps unless otherwise noted.)

Katherine Lauder purchased Camp Sequoyah from the Johnson family in 1997. For nearly 20 years, the camp sat empty with only basic necessary maintenance – lawn mowing, road maintenance, occasional new roofs, etc. By the late 1990s, the camp was looking a bit rough. These photos from the 1990s document how the forest closed in. I believe Barry Durand gave me these photos to post on the website. My apologies if I am mistaken about that.

I’ve used face recovery software at various places in the photo archive, particularly in the camper and staff group pictures. Usually this is an improvement. But, depending on the original scan quality and other factors, face recovery can distort people’s face. If you don’t like the way your face looks, let me know and I can send you the original.

Videos

Camp promotional films from the 1970s. A film from the 1950s about the Tsali experience. Miscellaneous still photographs mixed in to the videos.

Camp promotional films from 1976 and 1977. Photographs from the 1940s and 1970s.

Tsali video from the 1950s. Camp promotional videos from 1973, 1974, and 1975.

Stories

Camp Sequoyah Oral History Project

At the 2023 reunion, we asked for volunteers to share memories from their camp days, to talk about people who influenced them most while at camp, and to reflect on the impact camp had on their adult lives. Their stories are captured in the videos below. Click on the thumbnails or the names to hear what they have to say about Camp Sequoyah.

Paul Schmidt
(1957-1965)
Chuck McGrady
(1960-1969, 1972-1973)
Stewart Stokes
(1964-1966)
Roger Williams
(1966)
Garrett Randolph
(1968-1974)
Jess Cheatham
(1969, 1974)
David Gay
(1971-1976)
Scott Rafshoon
(1975-1978)
Roland McNutt
(1975-1978)
Tito Craige
(1958-1960, 1962-1966)
Tom Lutken
(1962-1964, 1966-1974)
Mike Miller
(1965-1974)
Grover McNair
(1966-1969, 1973)
Will Smithwick
(1969-1972, 1976-1978)
Patrick Fulton
(1971-1975, 1977-1978)
Steve French
(1973-1978)
Steve Fay
(1975-1978)

If you would like to contribute your stories and memories to the Camp Sequoyah Oral History Project in a video interview, please contact me at wkuentze@gmail.com.

Archive

(Last Updated on July 1, 2024)

Timeline (1912 to 1988) – A collection of newspaper clippings documenting the history of C. Walton Johnson’s Camp Sequoyah – Compiled by Steve Addison.

Click on the heading or the image below to view the Timeline

Catalogs – 1934 to 1977 – Promotional brochures for camper and staff recruitment.

Click on the heading or click on the covers below to view the full length catalogs.

If you want a full copy, click on the catalog you want and use the download link on the right side of the page.

Am I missing any? There’s a gap between 1937 and 1956. Let me know if you have any from those years. (See contact information below).

Thunderbirds – The Thunderbird was a periodic newsletter that included all kinds of information about Camp Sequoyah people and events during the summer and the off season. This collection contains 36 editions between 1966 and 1978. Please send more if you got em! (wkuentze@gmail.com).

(Click on the heading or the image below to view the collection of Thunderbirds)

Honors & Citations – Camper Awards

Prior to 1950, the awards were for the 8-week session. After 1950, awards were given at the end of each 5-week session. (Click on the year below to see the full list of annual awards.)

Final Reports – At the end of the summer, the program director, head counselor, personnel director, tribal leaders, program area heads, and occasionally the business manager submitted summaries of camp activities, operations, and successes to Chief Johnson and Bruce Capps. These summaries were then combined into a final report for the camp season with recommendations for the future.

There’s a ton of information in these reports. For example the 1946 report includes all the Hobahcee sheets, or the daily program schedules with staff assignments. We haven’t yet found the Hobahcee sheets from other years, but the 1946 report provides an incredible record of daily camp life.

So, click on the links below and explore for a while. I have about 25 final reports from the 1930s through the late 1960s. I’ll be adding more as I am able to get them scanned.

  • 1945
  • 1946 – Program Director (Pop) Report
  • 1946 – Activity Reports
  • 1946 – Tribal and Administrative Reports
  • 1947 – Program Director (Pop) and Activity Reports
  • 1947 – Tribal and Administrative Reports
  • 1948
  • 1949

More to Come…

Camper and Staff Rosters – These rosters show the name and home town of all campers and staff who attended Camp Sequoyah in a given year. I’ve eliminated addresses and phone numbers given the remote chance that confidentiality might be an issue some 45+ years later.

Click on the dates to open the rosters.

More to come...

This link shows a history of Christmas cards and Christmas Club letters mailed to Sequoyah campers across the years. It also includes the 1963 pamphlet of Christmas reflections written by Chief Johnson (pictured above).

Drama & Music Programs Sequoyah during Chief Johnson’s time always maintained active music and drama departments. Here are the programs for a variety of evening concert and theater performances at camp that cover the years 1925 through 1963.

Click on the heading or click on the image below to view the full length programs.

Reunions

(Last Updated – May 7, 2024)

Memories from Camper & Staff Reunions

Various owners of the Camp Sequoyah property have welcomed alumni back for camper and staff reunions on the property. These gatherings began in 1999 and happen every couple of years. We have been able to watch the decline and the renovation of camp over the years, and have been fortunate to continue sharing in the legacy and brotherhood of such a special place.

(Click on the image or the link)


Contact

Questions, contributions, announcements, suggested improvements, ID people in an image, remove an image…

Contact Walt Kuentzel at wkuentze@gmail.com

Don’t forget to check out the Camp Sequoyah Facebook page. (We have over 500 members.)