Build memories

Thanks to diligent research and compilation efforts, a significant portion of Pendalouan’s history has been preserved. However, we invite suggestions, corrections and additions. The following is excerpted from a booklet published in 1982 by Fred Grienenberger, Walt Moessner, and Daryl Sieplinga.

*  *  *

The first Muskegon Young Men’s Christian Association Camp was conducted at Duck Lake in 1923 under the direction of General Secretary, Leland S. Westerman. The camp was supervised by James Waring and Ralph “Deac” Bennett. Borrowed equipment was used by 35 campers and adult leaders. The next year, 1924, camp was moved to a site on Big Blue Lake, now known as Hiawatha Beach. Here 36 campers and 4 leaders ate and slept in tents for a two-week period.

In 1925, the camp occupied a portion of the old Muskegon Hunting and Fishing Club property, located on Big Blue Lake, which had been deeded to the Muskegon Humane Society. At this time, a dining hall and kitchen were constructed on a spot immediately in front of the present NIKANA lodge.

The camp had adopted the name of “Camp Williams” in honor of Sir George Williams the founder of the Young Men’s Christian Association in London, England in 1843.

Howard Townsley was director of Camp Williams from 1925 to 1928. During this time, six permanent sleeping lodges were built in a semi-circle, facing the lake. Service clubs provided the funding for four lodges—Exchange (Iroquois), Kiwanis, Lions (Great Star) and Rotary (Hopi). The Y’s Men’s Club and the Foreman’s Club (Ottawa) assumed the indebtedness on two lodges (the Foreman’s Club was renamed International Management Council).

Single cots and straw-filled mattresses were used. Enrollment was about 120 campers a 8 leaders for the season. Cooking was done on a wood-burning stove and kerosene lanterns were used for lighting. One 16 foot point well provided drinking water. Toilet facilities were privy-type outhouses. A washbasin with pail was provided for each cabin.

In 1928 Francis W. Beedon served Camp Williams as interim director for six weeks of camping for a total of 140 campers and 8 leaders.

In 1929 Walter F. Moessner became Camp Director. Many significant changes took place during the following years.

1929-1934: Camp motto officially adopted: “I’m Third,” meaning God First, the other fellow Second, and myself third.

The first fleet of four wooden rowboats was purchased and a 31-foot sloop was contributed by a friend of camp. Brush, nearly obscuring the lake, was cut from along the shoreline. A beach area with a dock and a raft for swimming was established. Wildwood chapel was begun and a council ring area improved.

Upon recommendation of the Camp Committee, the YMCA board of directors officially changed the name of the camp to Camp Pendalouan, honoring an Ottawa Indian Chief whose tribe inhabited the area surrounding Big Blue Lake.