March 17, 1912: The Camp Fire Girls, a national organization now known as Camp Fire USA, is incorporated. The organization traces its origin to 1910, when co-founders Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Vetter Gulick, set up a program for girls at their camping complex on Sebago Lake in Raymond.

The Gulicks want to provide outdoor opportunities for girls, just as the Boy Scouts of America set out to do when it was founded in 1910.

Dr. Gulick convened a meeting in 1911 at the Horace Mann Teachers College to discuss ways to do that. The organization came into formal existence the next year.

Chapters quickly blossomed nationwide. By the summer of 1914, 7,000 to 8,000 girls were participating. Five years later, the number had grown to 220,000 girls meeting in 9,000 local groups.

This photograph, entitled Camp Fire “Hiking,” probably was taken between 1915 and 1920 at or near Wohelo, the summer camp complex owned by Camp Fire Girls founders Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Vetter Gulick. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress 

The organization’s name was changed to Camp Fire Boys and Girls in the 1970s, when boys were invited to participate; and to Camp Fire USA in 2001.

The Gulicks’ summer camps, called Wohelo – short for “work, health and love” – have remained in family ownership and still are operated by the Gulicks’ descendants.

March 17, 2018: Fire breaks out about 1:30 a.m. at the historic Chesuncook Lake House hotel, burning it to the ground.

Officials inspect the wreckage of the Chesuncook Lake House after it burned to the ground in 2018.  Photo courtesy Maine Forest Rangers

It takes the owners about two hours to contact the Greenville Fire Department. When department members on snowmobiles arrive around daybreak at the remote site about 50 miles north of Moosehead Lake, the fire is out.

Nobody is injured. The hotel, erected in 1864 in Chesuncook Village to supply northern Maine’s logging camps, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, along with various outbuildings on the property.

Owners David and Luisa Surprenant vow to rebuild, and framing of the new structure is completed in November 2019.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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