Monday, May 6, 2019

History of Bates County: Kamp Keirsey

Cabins at Kamp Keirsey today
The plot of land was a little too hilly for farming, trees would need to be cleared and other work done to make it productive farm land. A better idea? Donate it for the purpose of what has become one of the most popular Christian camps in the region.

And that is exactly what the Ephland family did. In 1965, not too far away, Camp Everett needed a replacement and a new location was sought. John Ephland realized his 22 acres just north of the Miami school would be the perfect setting- a nice hillside, creek, place for a pond, and even a cemetery just to make it interesting. 

The Ephland Family 1973
In its humble beginnings the new camp drew lots of support, including its number one supporter Marvin Keirsey who was then pastor of the Immanuel Baptist Church in Butler. The early vision included a 1.25 acre pond, toilet and shower buildings, kitchen/dining building, a cistern, shelter house, administration building, cabins, and of course a chapel.

However, when the new camp officially opened in July of 1968, it appeared expectations were going to be exceeded even though construction wasn't complete. The lake was a little bigger than planned, there were two baseball diamonds and an archery range. Cabins had not yet been built and campers got to 'rough it' by staying in tents, but that wasn't a problem. After all, there was indoor plumbing and the dining hall was open for business.

Merely a year later in 1969, there were now seven cabins and the place was really beginning to take shape. Good thing, there were more campers each year and being able to take everyone in was at the top of the priority list.

Attending Kamp Keirsey brought the spiritual element that was desired, but the entire experience was truly enhanced by the full on dedication of Marvin Keirsey- a man who was very knowledgeable of nature. Those who attended, including the writer of this article, remember it for a lifetime. We learned what types of insects would hurt you or not; what poison ivy looked like; catching frogs in the creek and then gently releasing them back to their habitat; how to make camper's stew; fellowship and making new friends; and how to not freak out when a fish bumped your leg while swimming in the lake.

As time has progressed, so has the popularity of Kamp Keirsey. It may have been thought the camp would be regionally popular, however over the years it has been attended by many from all over the United States. With that, there has been additional construction including a swimming pool, upgrades to cabins to include air conditioning, more shelter houses, many upgrades to the chapel, nature trails, outdoor play areas such as volleyball, basketball and tennis courts. 

And just for fun, available are primitive camp sites, just like the tents in 1968 if you dare...
Darlene Ephland

Sadly gone is John Ephland, a few of the Ephland family members, and Marvin Keirsey. But the vision lives on in the eyes of Darlene Ephland, shown here in a photo checking the view from the top of a new slide that was recently installed.

Kamp Keirsey seems to get better every year, according to Bill Perkins, director. Right now the facility is gearing up for the Summer season which will include the usual offerings of boys, girls, youth and day camps along with something new, sports camp.

Quite possibly you've driven by Kamp Keirsey not knowing exactly what lies behind the gates at J highway and county road 8002. The Osage River Baptist Association, who oversees Kamp Keirsey invites you stop by if you like, take a walk around and visit with Bill Perkins or any of the number of volunteers who are there on a regular basis.

Want to learn more? Visit the Kamp Keirsey web site here

The Chapel as it looks today

A view from the air

Inside the cabins
Many things collected by Marvin Keirsey over the years including a large tortoise shell, hummingbird nest, arrowheads, rocks and more all from the 22 acres of Kamp Keirsey near Amsterdam Mo.

-by Doug Mager with many thanks to an old family friend and dear person, Darlene Ephland

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