My Forty Years Scribblin's
Historical Accounts
Camp Paxson Has Experienced Ups, Down

This story was written in 1965 and published as a feature article in The Missoulian newspaper. The CCC was the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the WPA was the Work Project Administration, both jobs programs administered by the federal government.


SEELEY LAKE - Four decades ago the U.S. Forest Service granted the Western Montana Council of Boy Scouts special use privileges of four acres of forested land on the west shore of Seeley Lake as a summer training ground.

The site was called Camp Paxson in honor of the Montana artist Edgar S. Paxson.

Beginning in 1924 as a tent camp, it has grown from six initial 12 by l4 foot clapboard cabins, constructed that year, to twenty-two log buildings with a main lodge/dining/recreation hall, beach and boating facilities, campfire pit, and parking space.

In the summer of 1931 a violent windstorm laid low a startling amount of timber, necessitating a thinning and topping project that lasted most of the winter of 1931-32. Over-ripe trees judged likely to fall, were removed.

Residents like to recall a Bohemian named Roy Janart, more often called "Fuzzy" or "Leather Britches," due to his aversion to haircuts and the kind of clothing he wore. A typical old time lumberjack, he climbed and cut the tops out of the tall tamaracks, dangerous though not yet to the falling stage.

More frame buildings were added through the early years, but by the late 1930s these too were outgrown. Scout camp funds were exhausted and the Forest Service had no funds allocated to construction or maintenance, so application was made for aid from the Works Progress Administration, then in effect.

The Boy Scouts played a major part in obtaining CCC and WPA help. However, the administration insisted on the camp's being made accessible to all organizations and control was transferred to the Forest Service.

The WPA grant for new construction to accommodate ninety-six scouts and staff fell short of the $31,000 needed in addition to the main lodge completed in 1939 under a previous grant. Part of the shortage was raised by public subscription under direction of William G. Tremper, then treasurer of the Western Montana Council, assisted by local council members.

The old road led through the middle of the camp hindering plans for the new additions and made necessary the building of a new road and the present "Scout Bridge" completed in 1938.

In accordance with plans drawn with the cooperation of the Lolo National Forest, construction began in October 1939 by CCC and WPA crews who camped in the old frame buildings, working through the winter months. The new facilities were ready for the summer season of 1940, but a year or so later the Boy Scouts moved their summer camp to Melita Island on Flathead lake.

Campfire Girls, Girl Reserves, Girl Scouts, 4-H, and religious organizations then began to use the camp. And due to the Forest Service policy of providing low-cost vacations, many were able to enjoy camp life, including underprivileged children who were sponsored by civic-minded citizens of Missoula and vicinity.

The camp has had its incidents. A local milk delivery service making its early rounds of the summer homes caught a glimpse of a Scoutmaster waving his towel urging his reluctant charges into the water for their morning dip.

At sight of the approaching Model T pick-up, the boys forgot the chill in their dive for cover. One "milkman" was a lady, (now Mrs. Herb Townsend) and the little scouts all stood aligned on the old bridge, each one in his birthday best.

Pack rats were uninvited guests—and there were sessions with bats in the shower rooms. At one time the huge water storage tank fell, in the night luckily, washing a deep hole in the ground and sending several thousand gallons gushing away to the swamp.

In later years Forest Service personnel, answering a call for help, were at a loss to know why the camp was being invaded by bear. Investigation disclosed that tender-hearted little girl campers were placing food offerings out among the bushes.

The camp is now operated by the Jaycees, under a cooperative agreement with the Forest Service.

Constant maintenance is required, the latest being extensive repairs to the main lodge this winter and spring. This consisted of new A braces under the eves, secured by eight inch lag screws, and restoration of all six corners where tapered logs had extended beyond the overhang of the roof, inviting seepage and decay.

The damaged corners were sawed out and in one or two instances a new length of log inserted. A large new log, peeled and corner-sawed to fit into the opening, was bored and fastened upright at the log ends with twenty inch drift pins, making what is known as a Queen Anne's corner. The drift pins were countersunk, the holes plugged with doweling and the log stained, making the corner "good as new." One cabin was repaired likewise and the program will continue each year until restoration of the entire camp is complete.

Equal funds for this year's project were provided by the Forest Service and Jaycees.

In rustic harmony with its beautiful surroundings, Camp Paxson continues to be operated under the policy of the greatest good for the largest number.

A $45,000-project at the time of its construction, it is worth much more today although its benefits can never be estimated in dollars and cents.

Built in leaner days by CCC and WPA hands, it stands fortified and ready for fresh surges of their grandchildren.