History

The first private owner of the Camp Grace property was Robert Shaw Fletcher (1878- 1952). Born in Utah to Mormon parents, Samuel Fletcher and Elizabeth Shaw, he served for two years as a Mormon missionary in Rock Spring, Wyoming beginning in 1900.

At the end of his mission, Fletcher married and settled in Sweet Water, Wyoming. Both Fletcher and his wife Elizabeth may have filed for, and patented, 160 acres of land through the Homestead Act of 1862. Their combined land eventually became the site of Camp Grace and the Fletchers’ original stone cabin, now called the Lion Cabin, survived for over a hundred years to become the oldest usable structure on the mountain.

In 1915, just three years after receiving their patents, the Fletchers and their six children opened a guest lodge with a Fourth of July celebration. The guest lodge briefly brought prosperity to the Fletchers and their six young children but in 1919 the United States enacted the Prohibition. Furthermore, in 1926 Wyoming Highway 26 became the main thoroughfare between Wheatland and Laramie, the two largest towns near the Fletcher property. Although Highway 26 benefited motorists, it was detrimental to the business of the Lodge because the new road bypassed it. 

To compensate for the loss of business, the Fletchers turned it into a speakeasy, an establishment that illegally sold alcohol. The Fletchers’ also permitted gambling and prostitution on their property. To evade detection by the sheriff, the lodge stationed a man at the top of the mountain who could see dust from unknown vehicles and warn the lodge. The sheriff was never able to prove the Fletchers’ involvement in illegal activities.

At the end of the Prohibition, when the Lodge no longer served a purpose the Fletcher’s decided to temporarily close it. Fletcher took odd jobs ranging from store clerk to janitor, in hopes of reopening it. However, the Great Depression added to Fletchers’ financial struggle, and in 1940 it closed for good and the Fletchers sold the property. 

In 1940, the Lodge was sold to Irvin C. Noyce, who had come to Wyoming as a member of the American Sunday School Union (ASSU) a mission to isolated areas of the United States that could not independently support a gospel ministry. Noyce held Sunday schools one day a week and expanded his ministry to hold Bible conferences and finally in August 1936, began a children’s camp he called “Camp Grace.”

Camp Grace was initially held at an abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) site until 1938, when that place became unavailable.  The camp then moved to an abandoned dance hall called Kelley Kamp, which lacked a dining hall and was unable to accommodate many campers. Furthermore, a flood had destroyed the washhouse.

During the summer of 1940, Noyce learned of the Fletcher Park property, which now belonged to a certain Wiley Brown. Noyce rented the property at the rate of fifty cents per camper, 110 of whom attended in 1940. Noyce and his co-laborers fell in love with the property, and Noyce bought 800 acres of the Fletcher property for $4,000. When the ASSU told Noyce that he could not conduct a permanent camp while remaining an employee of the ASSU, Noyce resigned and took a job delivering the mail. Meanwhile, he worked to make the property more suitable for a camp by eliminating traces of the old speakeasy, by re-shingling the lodge roof, and by harnessing a large spring on the property to provide indoor plumbing.

After ten years Noyce transferred the property to the Fletcher Park Baptist Youth Foundation Inc. (FPBYF), an organization founded by area churches in 1950 to provide a Christian camp for their young people. Each church bought a share of the organization and chose a member of the board of directors. In 1951 the FPBYF held its first youth camp at the place they called Camp Grace. The organization continued to make improvements on the old Fletcher property by adding cabins such as Bear Cabin in the 1960.

Because so many churches controlled FPBYF there was a lack of decisive leadership. During its first forty years, there was no director at all, though a caretaker lived on the mountain during the camping season and maintained the property. Each church alternately sent pastors, called “Deans”, to run camping programs.  What happened during camp weeks depended upon the Deans in charge and varied greatly. Finally, during the 1990s, the camp replaced the Deans with a single director. The camp remained small but it was successful in the sense that for decade’s campers made professions of faith each summer.  

In June 2012, lightning started a wildfire in Albany County that burned well into July. Camp Grace staff monitored its progress through fire department reports and from their vantage point on Laramie Peak. On June 28, camp staff and a crew of high school volunteers who were making improvements on the property and went to bed assured by the fire department that they were safe. But during the night, the Arapaho fire broke the fire line, and at 1:30 in the morning, the staff and volunteers were alerted and evacuated the mountain. By the evening of June 29, the camp had been burnt to ashes. Only the Lion and Bear cabins survived along with the stone chimney of the old lodge.

Not only was there great material loss but Camp Grace also experienced the loss of their director, Paul Dickman, who resigned after the fire.  During this time Marlin Driskell, then just a caretaker at Camp Grace, was instrumental in guiding the camp through its difficult time. He would go on to become the director of Camp Grace.

In 2009, Camp Ironwood, a Christian camp in California, realized it had grown to maximum capacity but wanted to continue expanding its ministry. Therefore, Ironwood chose to design a family of camps allowing it to partner with small and struggling camps in order to help them establish themselves more successfully. In 2013, Ironwood added Camp Grace to this family. Because of a recommendation from a pastor connected with Ironwood, Scott Schulman was hired as program director of Camp Grace in January 2013.

During the four years following the 2012 fire, the camp began reconstruction. Large canvas tents temporarily replaced cabins and a large tent served as an assembly space and dining hall. Nevertheless, there were many fewer campers, and no more than three weeks of camp per summer.

 During the rest of the summer, the camp held “work weeks,” when volunteers – from teenagers to retirees –assisted it’s rebuilding. Of these groups the Nehemiah Corps contributed significantly. Nehemiah Corps had been founded to assist the family of camps associated with Ironwood, took its mission from Nehemiah 2:18 “Let us rise up and build.” The team devoted itself to serving Christian camps by “eliminating temporal distractions,” such as a need for cabins and indoor plumbing. In four summers, Camp Grace built for new cabins, a meeting hall called the Grand Hall, a large washhouse a kitchen and a dining hall.In the summers immediately following the fire, there was not enough room enough to house even twenty campers at a time. By 2019, the camp could accommodate 54 campers and planned to expand that number to 72 by the summer of 2020. Fifty churches partnered with Camp Grace in 2019 as it served 150 campers. Camp Grace considered the 100 spiritual decisions made each summer to be its greatest success.