Old Kia Kima

 City: Cherokee Village, County: Sharp
 Location: 26 Kolo Drive

1916 former Boy Scout camp.
Listed in Arkansas Register of Historic Places on 4/01/15

SUMMARY

Old Kia Kima is a former Boy Scouts of America summer camp that operated from 1916 to 1964. During that time, the camp played a significant role in increasing the tourist economy of Hardy, Arkansas, and the surrounding region by bringing large amounts of boys and adults from Memphis, Tennessee, into the hills of northern Arkansas. The camp also played an important part in the creation of the nearby town of Cherokee Village. The Old Kia Kima campground and related structures are being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, with local significance, for its association with the history of the Boy Scouts in the surrounding region and under Criterion C for its use of Rustic Style architecture with local significance.

HISTORY OF THE PROPERTY

The Scouting movement was founded in England in 1907 as Robert Baden-Powell held a camp on Brownsea Island to test ideas for his upcoming book Scouting for Boys. The movement launched from there and spread to the United States in 1910 when W. D. Boyce was inspired by an unknown scout he met in England. The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated upon his return to the States and it quickly spread, with the first camp opening in 1911. The Boy Scouts of America received a Congressional Charter signed by President Wilson in 1916 reading “That the purpose of this corporation shall be to promote, through organization and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods which are now in common use by Boy Scouts.” The Chickasaw Council in Memphis, Tennessee, was formed in 1916 to oversee several Boy Scout troops already present in the area. Interest in the Boy Scout organization had grown quickly across the United States and the Chickasaw Council was organized in Memphis due to the large number of new scouts in the city. The Council was noted early in Scouting’s history as having outstanding growth and participation in the program and leadership of the Council was taken up by several prominent Memphis businessmen.

With the establishment of the new local Boy Scout Council, local leaders began to search for land that would allow for the creation of a summer recreational camp for the scouts of Memphis. On April 11, 1916, Bolton Smith, an investment banker in Memphis, purchased 206.28 acres from Victor and Cora Mayberry in Sharp County along the South Fork of the Spring River for $2000 cash in hand.[1] Bolton Smith was the first President of the Chickasaw Council and donated the land for use as a Boy Scout summer camp. This land became the site of Kamp Kia Kima, which opened for use in 1916.[2] The camp’s name, "Kia Kima", was interpreted by the local scouts from the Chickasaw language as "Nest of the Eagles." A second camp was established by the Chickasaw Council near Eudora, Mississippi, in 1925 however it was not originally operated as a full summer camp. Over the next few decades, both camps flourished and served as important summer destinations for the Memphis area’s many Boy Scout troops.

Although the original deed of Smith donating the land that would eventually become camp Kia Kima has not been recovered, Sharp County tax files show that a Mr. Edward Everett paid the taxes for the land in 1916.[3] Everett was the first Scout Executive (CEO) of the Chickasaw Council and the first Camp Director for Kia Kima. His wife also served as the Camp Director for Camp Miramichee, a girls camp (future YWCA camp) down the river. Several Kia Kima camp related documents from the 1920s refer to 1916 being the first season the camp was used by the Boy Scouts. The first few seasons of the camp would have seen scouts in tents and temporary frame buildings. In 1918, wooden lodges were constructed using wood donated by lumber men in Memphis.[4] These first lodges housed campers while other wooden lodges on the property housed directors and staff members. The original all wood lodges were later replaced by fifteen stone and wood lodges. The new, more substantial lodges were completed in 1928 and form the main central square of the camp, known as the quadrangle.

The new stone lodges were made out of native Arkansas fieldstone forming the walls. These walls were topped with screened in window openings and wooden gable roofs. A sixteenth stone lodge was donated in 1928.[5] All of the sixteen lodges are still standing and have been restored with modern wood, repaired masonry and metal roofs. In 1928, a two story headquarters building was constructed of local fieldstone and wood and was named the Edward M. Salomon Lodge after a Vice President of the Chickasaw Council who donated $1500 for its construction.[6] This building is now known as the Thunderbird Lodge and has undergone extensive repair and restoration work. A fieldstone stairwell and buttressing tower was added to the north façade in order to structurally stabilize the building, changing the original exterior appearance on the northern façade. In 1929, a stone hospital building was built directly to the south of the Salomon (Thunderbird) Lodge to serve as a small health clinic for the camp when campers were present. This structure has also been restored and now serves as a leader and staff cabin.

By 1930, there were 22 permanent building on the property including 19 that were made of native stone. Other stone structures included the pump-house and the “Rat’s Nest.” The “Rat’s Nest” was a staff cabin that overlooked the Spring River to the north of the camp’s main quadrangle. The Waterfront Staff, who were assigned to this cabin, were known as the “River Rats” due to their responsibility to row campers and staff members across the River when needed, day or night. This cabin is located down a slope and across a new covered bridge from the main quadrangle of the camp. The “Rat’s Nest” is similar in style to the other cabins, only larger and consisting of two rooms, with two exterior doors, rather than a single open room. This cabin also has a front porch and connecting wooden deck.

Kia Kima camp was forced to close in 1940 for several years during the course of World War II. This was mostly due to the rise in transportation costs and lack of fuel for the drive from Memphis to the camp. During this time the Chickasaw Council operated a summer camp program at Camp Currier in Eudora, Mississippi. For a few years, the Chickasaw Council still employed a Camp Director to live at the camp, maintain the property and facilitate any Boy Scout troops that may try to use the camp on their own; however, in 1940 it was reported that a total of six boys and two leaders visited the camp. [7] Therefore, in 1941 the camp was leased to the Eastern Arkansas Council to use as a dedicated summer camp. Following the successful season, the Chickasaw Council offered to sell the property to the Eastern Arkansas Council for $7500, but “it was of unanimous opinion” to decline to purchase the property, citing the financial burden it would place on their own council’s funds.[8] In 1947, a group of ex-Boy Scouts formed the Kia Kima Klub in order to raise funds to reopen the camp in 1948. Their campaign was successful, and the camp reopened. The camp continued to be utilized by the Chickasaw Council until 1964, when a land swap agreement was reached with local developer John A. Cooper.

One of the biggest impacts the camp had on the surrounding area (besides bringing large tourist traffic every summer) was introducing John A. Cooper, a developer from West Memphis, Arkansas, to the area. John Cooper had visited the Kia Kima campground and surrounding area prior to 1946 when he brought his sons to the camp.[9] In 1946, Cooper bought 400 acres in the area near Kia Kima for a vacation home, known as “Otter Creek Ranch”, for his family.[10] Cooper went on to form the Cherokee Village Development Company in 1953 and began buying large tracts of land in the area.[11] He eventually opened the retirement community of Cherokee Village in June of 1955, with Governor Orval Faubus declaring the site as “the coming Mecca of the Ozarks.”[12]

By 1961, Cherokee Village had become a popular and successful retirement center prompting Cooper’s development company to open other retirement communities at Bella Vista in Benton County and Hot Springs Village in Garland County during the next few years.[13] Less than ten years after the opening of Cherokee Village, the town had already outgrown the area that Cooper had originally purchased. With a large demand for houses still existing, Cooper approached the Chickasaw Council to propose a land swap for the now adjacent land of Kia Kima.[14] In return, he would give a much larger tract of land upriver to the Council for a brand new camp. He would also construct roads, a lake and well, a dining hall, an administrative office and several other buildings. The Chickasaw Council accepting this offer and a new camp was constructed upriver from the old Kia Kima site.[15] This camp became the new Kia Kima Scout Reservation. Old Kia Kima was set aside for future development by Mr. Cooper.

After the final transfer of land, and the opening of the new Kia Kima Scout Reservation, Mr. Cooper developed only a few outer areas of the old camp, leaving the original quadrangle and main stone building untouched. The camp was left unused and fell into disrepair after many years. The structures were left to slowly disintegrate and the surrounding area turning into a local dumping ground. In 1993, four former Boy Scouts returned to the old camp and were inspired to restore and preserve what was left of the old Kia Kima campground. George and Boyce Billingsly purchased the 43 acres that make up the main core of the camp and donated it to the new non-profit group formed by the former Boy Scouts.[16] This group became the Old Kia Kima Preservation Association (OKKPA), which currently runs and maintains the campground and lodges.

After 1993, The OKKPA began restoring the different buildings on the property with the goal of opening the camp for group use. In 2000, the stone lodges were restored using the original stones still found on site. The Thunderbird Lodge was restored and renovated in 2002. During its restoration, engineers advised that the front wall of the Thunderbird Lodge would collapse if an outside support system was not installed. The decision was made to add a stone, semi-circular stairwell and internal balcony to the north (front) façade of the building. This addition still used the native Arkansas fieldstone as the basic building material, but was different in masonry style. The new stone addition is clearly delineated from the original walls of the structure. Other recent additions to the campground include a new cooking pavilion, bathhouse and a campfire ring. Although most of the structures have been modernized on the interior, they still retain their rustic characteristics. Old Kia Kima has been open for use by youth groups since 2002.

The previously mentioned native stone architecture of Old Kia Kima was characteristic of the area and is different than other National Register of Historic Places architectural examples present in the area. Most modern architecture utilizes the flat faces of the stones in order to minimize the amount of stones used and keep costs down. The architecture at Old Kia Kima instead stacked the stone and it served as the actual wall itself. This made the walls more durable which accounts for why they still stood years later without any upkeep. This stone style was also present at the other three summer camps in the Hardy/Cherokee Village area: Kamp Kiwani (Girl Scouts), Camp Miramichee (YWCA), and Camp Cedar Valley (Boy Scouts, East Arkansas Area Council). A few Camp Miramichee structures remain as privately owned rental properties. Camp Cedar Valley and Kamp Kiwani no longer exist. Kia Kima is the only early campsite that remains with all of the original stone structures restored.

Kia Kima had a large impact on the development of the local economy. Hardy grew to prominence as a tourist town and Kia Kima helped introduce thousands of Memphians to the area. It, along with Camp Miramichee, attracted the other two camps (Kamp Kiwani and Camp Cedar Valley) to the area. In the Hardy Downtown Historic District (NRHP #95001121), there is a Hardy History Fence which has a mural depicting the visual history of the area. On it Kia Kima is represented by a Boy Scout in a canoe.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PROPERTY

As a former Boy Scouts of America summer camp that operated from 1916 to 1964, Old Kia Kima played a significant role in increasing the tourist economy of Hardy, AR and the surrounding region by bringing large amounts of boys and adults from Memphis, Tennessee, into the hills of northern Arkansas. The camp also played an important part in the creation of the nearby town of Cherokee Village. The Old Kia Kima campground and related structures are being nominated to the Arkansas Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, with local significance, for its association with the history of the Boy Scouts in the surrounding region and under Criterion C for its use of Rustic Style architecture with local significance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“CAMP KIAKIMA (sic),” Chickasaw Council, Boy Scouts of America, (pamphlet), 1918.

Chickasaw Council. The Dedication and Official Opening of the New Kamp Kia Kima (pamphlet). 1964.

Chickasaw Council. Kamp Kia Kima (pamphlet). 1930. Edwin Dalstrom Papers. McWherter Library Special Collections. The University of Memphis. Memphis, TN.

Chickasaw Council. Report of Committees. 1928.

Chickasaw Council. Report of Committees. 1929, 1938, 1939, 1940. Edwin Dalstrom Papers. McWherter Library Special Collections. The University of Memphis. Memphis, TN.

Deed of Sale from Victor A. Mayberry and wife to Bolton Smith, 11 April 1916, Sharp County, Arkansas. County Clerk’s Office, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

Dowdy, Wayne G. “Cherokee Village (Sharp and Fulton County).” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies: Central Arkansas Library System. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=995.

Kamp Kia Kima (pamphlet), Chickasaw Council, 1930, Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

Morris, Gordon W. Letter to Edwin Dalstrom with Attachment, September 23, 1941, Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

Real Estate Tax for Section 9 Township 19 Range 5, 1916. Sharp County, Arkansas. County Clerk’s Office, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

“Scouts to Fold Tents and Come Home Saturday.” Memphis Press-Scimitar 1927. Clipping: Edwin Dalstrom Papers. McWherter Library Special Collections. The University of Memphis. Memphis, TN.



[1] Deed of Sale from Victor A. Mayberry and wife to Bolton Smith, 11 April 1916, Sharp County, Arkansas, County Clerk’s Office, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

[2] Kamp Kia Kima (pamphlet), Chickasaw Council, 1930, Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN. “Scouts to Fold Tents and Come Home Saturday,” Memphis Press-Scimitar,1927, Clipping: Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

[3] Real Estate Tax for Section 9 Township 19 Range 5, 1916, Sharp County, Arkansas, County Clerk’s Office, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

[4] “CAMP KIAKIMA (sic),” Chickasaw Council, Boy Scouts of America, (pamphlet), 1918.

[5] Chickasaw Council, Report of Committees, 1928, Personal Collection.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Chickasaw Council, Report of Committees, 1940, Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

[8] Gordon W. Morris, Letter to Edwin Dalstrom with Attachment, September 23, 1941, Edwin Dalstrom Papers, McWherter Library Special Collections, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.

[9] Chickasaw Council, The Dedication and Official Opening of the New Kamp Kia Kima (pamphlet), 1964, Personal Collection.

[10] G. Wayne Dowdy, “Cherokee Village (Sharp and Fulton County),” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] George Billingsly was a former staff member and his wife Boyce is the daughter of John Cooper.


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