The information below includes highlights from Jennifer Richardson's book entitled Holy Dirt, a history of Camp Glisson from 1925 to 2000.
Author Jennifer Richardson has begun work on revisions to Holy Dirt which will include Glisson history and stories from the years 2000 and beyond. The year 2015 represents Glisson's 90th anniversary.
To share your camper, counselor and staff stories and photographs, please do one of the following:
"Camp Glisson - Then and Now"
(an excerpt from Jennifer Richardson's book entitled Holy Dirt, published in 2000)
Camp Glisson is located around beautiful Cane Creek Falls near Dahlonega, Ga. Many hundreds of years ago, the falls were home to two different tribes of Native Americans—first the Etowahs, and later the Cherokees. Artifacts from their time there, such as pottery fragments and arrowheads, can be found in the area to this day.
Our founder, Rev. Fred Glisson was what some people call a “character.” He told his family that he was called to preach when he was five years old. He paid his way through college and seminary by raising bees and selling their honey. Bee keeping became a life-long hobby. His first appointment was in Arizona, before Arizona even became a state—it was still a territory. He served several backwoods churches and, like a circuit rider, rode on horseback among them. In 1925, Rev. Glisson returned to Georgia and discovered Cane Creek Falls on a trip to the mountains to scout out a place for a youth camp. He fell in love with the spot and arranged to lease the land around the falls. The first camp was held in the summer of 1925, with campers living in rough wooden cabins without windows, and sleeping on straw-filled mattresses. The cooking was done on wood stoves, and water had to be hauled from a nearby spring.
Rev. Glisson and other leaders raised money to begin to buy the land around the falls, and construct a permanent camp. At first, everything was very rough and crude. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, an architect named Wallace G. Neal, from Inman Park Methodist, donated his services to design some new buildings. Mr. Neal designed all the original cabins, the dining hall, old rec hall, and the chapel.
Camp Glisson was growing, and buildings and land were being added, but Cane Creek Falls did not belong to the Camp. The falls belonged to the Georgia Power Company, who had purchased them because of the potential for hydroelectric power. In fact, since the 1920s, there had been a giant water wheel at the falls, which generated power, and provided the first electricity to the city of Dahlonega. The Camp had approached Georgia Power many times about purchasing the falls from them, but they said they would never sell. In 1946, Fred Glisson and Dr. E.G. Mackay finally persuaded Georgia Power President Preston Arkwright to sell Cane Creek Falls to the camp. The falls were purchased for $1500. Their value today cannot be estimated.
Today, Camp Glisson has computers and e-mail and the Internet, but in the 1950s, it did not even have a telephone. If you wanted to reach Camp Glisson, you had to call the Methodist parsonage in Dahlonega, and the pastor would drive out to camp and deliver a message.
Today, most roads through camp are paved roads, but in the 1950s, the roads were dirt. After heavy rains, the roads would turn to mud, and cars would get stuck. As a result, during rains, campers would be let out about one mile from camp up at the paved highway, and would have to walk into camp along the muddy road.
In 1962, an inter-racial conference was held at Camp Glisson, and the camp became one of the first places in Georgia to voluntarily integrate, despite threats from the Ku Klux Klan to storm the camp and disrupt the conference.
In the early days, camp was only used in the summer. In the mid-1960s, a decision was made to utilize the camp year round. Windows and heaters were added to the buildings and today, Camp Glisson can be used in any season.
Throughout its 80+ year history, Camp Glisson has had impressive leaders and speakers. As a result, the camp has also been the place where many persons heard the call to ministry. Glisson has also been a place of many romances. Many, many couples met their prospective spouse at Camp Glisson. One such couple is retired Bishop Bevel Jones and his wife Tuck, who met one summer over 50 years ago at Camp Glisson.
As times change, Camp Glisson has changed as well. In the late 1990s, the camp began an ambitious program of renovating and repairing its old buildings, and replacing the old concrete block cabins. Our first new building is Ivie Lodge and it is located right next to the swimming pool. It has lodge rooms, a kitchen and meeting areas. It has a wide front porch that overlooks Cane Creek. We have now completed 19 new cabins for summer camp and retreat groups. In the past, 9 boys’ cabins shared one bathhouse, as did the 9 girls’ cabins. Our new cabins each have their own large, modern bathroom. The cabins have a unique design. They are patterned after the buildings that were part of Dahlonega’s gold mining past—each one looks like a rustic mine shaft building.
Work is underway to restore the banks along Cane Creek, under Trout Unlimited’s supervision. One new project is the construction of a wetlands area north of camp along the creek nearest Outpost camp. The stream banks are being restored, new wetlands plants added, and the creek will be stocked with trout. When compete, this area will be an excellent wildlife viewing program area and wetlands study area.
The Bob Cagle Program Center is located near the top of Cane Creek Falls. Bob Cagle was a nationally known camping expert who was director at Camp Glisson when he died in 1997. The program center is named in his memory. The design is patterned after a stamp mill, a large mining building that contains a row of huge metal crushers that pulverize rock in order to extract the gold. Our building looks like a stamp mill and it has meeting rooms, a kitchen, a library, and a meditation terrace with a sweeping view of the falls. It serves as a program center for summer camp, spiritual life retreats, and other groups and is open year round. Even though it is on three levels, it is fully handicapped accessible because it has an elevator that serve each floor.
When my grandfather was a cadet at North Georgia Military School in 1915, the Cane Creek Falls area was famous for having both a dance hall and being the place to purchase moonshine liquor from local distillers. My grandfather told me that “nice people didn’t go out to Cane Creek” and we always wondered how he knew about it! Today, Cane Creek Falls is known as the heart of our wonderful North Georgia Conference Camp and Retreat Center. It is the place where children, youth and adults laugh and sing, play in the water, hike and camp, participate in low elements and alpine tower challenge courses, learn about the Bible and Jesus Christ, compete in games, learn crafts, and develop deep faith and deep friendships that last a lifetime. When you invest at Glisson, you are investing in the future of the youth of our Conference and the future of the church. Camp Glisson will return your investment by giving you youth whose faith is enriched, whose lives are enhanced by a camping experience in God’s great outdoors, who are good citizens with fine values. There is no greater place to invest than in the future of Camp Glisson.
"Our son looks forward to camp all year long. He is already asking when he will be going back. We are so appreciative of the amazing job you do with our special kids!"
Anne, parent of a 2013 Sparrowwood camper