A Brief History Of Camp Kearney
In 1945 a woman named Margaret Kearney approached South Side Mission Board about creating a place where city youth could go to experience camping in a rural setting. The board was receptive to the idea but at the time there were not sufficient funds to pursue the idea.
A few years later, the Director of the Peoria Park District heard the Mission wanted to start a camp ministry and he allowed Miss Kearney to use the property off of Mossville Road (Robinson Park) to begin the first camps for South Side Mission. While this was a good beginning, Miss Kearney continued to seek a larger area so that more children could experience camping.
In 1952, one of the South Side Mission Board members, Mr. Scheidel, told Miss Kearney about land that a relative owned near Glasford. Miss Kearney and South Side Mission Founder Helen Haien went to visit the site and Miss Kearney fell in love the location immediately. Miss Kearney approached local philanthropist, Murray Baker for the monies need to buy the land. He agreed and also provided an additional $1000 to prepare the land for the new camp.
Miss Kearney spent several months preparing the camp for the first group of campers. Caterpillar donated two buildings that they set up together that became the lodge. This building still exists today and serves as the camp dinning hall. The first cabin at the camp came about as the result of a donation from a family wishing to honor their lost nephew. That same year, a man donated his time to build seven other cabins. The Mission provided all the materials at a cost of $750 per cabin. In 1996 the last cabin (Cabin 9) was built.
It wasn't long before South Side Mission's board began to discuss a name for the new camp. Upon hearing this, the campers responded by saying, "It already has a name. It s Camp Kearney." The camp has held that name ever since.
The neighbors on either side of Camp Kearney were very generous with their time and money during the early years. Those two families were instrumental in creating one of Camp Kearney's longest lasting features, the nature chapel and the cross at the top of the hill. Miss Kearney referred to the cross as "the center of Camp Kearney".
Miss Kearney's cabin was built shortly after the camper cabins. Miss Kearney drew up the plans and the men and boys at the Mission built it for her. She lived there each summer and often welcomed campers into her home to mentor and disciple them following chapel services held at the camp fire just down the hill.
Over the years Camp Kearney has seen many improvements:
Camp Kearney will continue to improve its facilities in the coming years, and is now in the process of remodeling each of the nine original camper cabins.