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Cathedral Pines History

In the summer of 1919, the Rev. Will Shanks, who was then pastor of the First Baptist Church of Buhl had a dream of the establishment of a permanent site for a summer camp for the young people of the church. He decided to explore the area north of Ketchum for the establishment of such a site.

The first year there were eleven people who along with Rev. Shanks made the trip north. It took them two days to get there in two Model T Fords. Among those who attended this first camping adventure was Lois Brabb, now Mrs. Earl Allen who "with her husband still live in Buhl. In later years, Earl and Lois were married on what is now Inspiration Point.

The first camp site was at what is now the Easley Campground just below the Easley pool which at that time was nothing more than a wooden sided overgrown bath tub. Being a fisherman, Rev. Will Shanks would fish the river along what is now the present: site of the camp. He decided that would make a fine place for a camp and cleared its use with the Forest Service.

Camping in those days was a pioneering adventure. Tents and all supplies had to be brought in by the old Model T’s or open touring cars and just getting there was a chore. It was necessary to build a bridge across the river. The first bridge was of logs which were transported to the site by an oxen team owned by a logging company that was in operation a short distance above Easley Hot Springs.

In the beginning some families built cabins on the site. Rev. Shanks built a camp a little way above the new bridge but a snow slide carried it into the river. He later built another cabin and built a huge V-shaped rock pile above the cabin to protect it but eventually another slide went over the barrier and that was the end of cabins at that site. Remains can still be seen at the river's edge.

The new camp site was called the Baptist Summer Assembly but (later a contest was held for a name and Shirley Bentzinger of Jerome won the contest with the name Cathedral Pines). The first small store was on the right side of the road just before crossing the bridge.

In the 1930s, permanent cabins were built for youth summer camps.  Up until then, families either brought their own tents or built small cabins on the grounds.  Two large dormitories “Leona” on the Girl’s Side and “Devil’s Den” on the Boy’s side were supplemented by the Rosebud and Columbine Cabins.  In the early 1950s, concrete pads were poured for additional summer cabins.  Frame tents were used on these pads for much of the 1950s with frame cabins finally built in the late 1950s. Twice the dining hall was destroyed by snow slides or snow weight before the present dining facility was built.  

In 1964, Bob Smith and Gay Hasselblad who were the staff for the Associated Baptist Convention of Idaho and Utah (the present Intermountain Area) had a dream and believed we had too big an investment to use it only three months of the year.  In 1966 electricity was brought into the camp, a well dug, and a shower house built.  Then the dining hall was insulated and the interior finished.  The first winter camping involved breaking trail with snow shoes and dragging all supplies into the camp by toboggan.  The next step was insulating three of the girl’s cabins and installing propane heaters.  Then, WOW, we got a snowmobile and sleds to break trail and haul supplies. Now the roads and parking area are cleared with a snowblower.

The initial risk of winter camping seemed great but it soon became so popular that Leona Lodge was remodeled and insulated by Dale Gray in the summer of 1978.  It included sleeping areas, a kitchen and a meeting room.  This facility was used for retreats by small groups and often ran simultaneously with other groups in the main facility.  In the early 1980s, the camp became staffed year-round with a manager living at Easley Plunge and grounds keeper living at the camp.

As time went on more cabins were insulated and heated, an addition was built to the dining hall with modern rest room facilities and an upstairs meeting room.  New buildings include the beautiful chapel/multi-purpose building, a new manager’s cabin, and the new garage building.  In the early1990s, Leona Lodge was condemned and had to be pulled down, but plans are in place for its eventual replacement with a multi-use, retreat structure.

In the summer of 2021 we'll celebrate the centennial of our camping at the present location.

- By Lois & Earl Allen and Rev. Bob Smith (1994)

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