These reminiscences about Camp Tekakwitha come from Cathie Corrigan who was a camper there. The Catholic Women’s League out of Ottawa organized this small camp for girls aged 9 to 15 years. The buildings were situated on the shores of Lake Kamaniskeg looking out on Mask Island and were accessed from Siberia Road. Above, the camp chapel. Photo submitted.
Cathie said, “It was a small camp, nothing fancy but, in the eyes of a city girl from Ottawa, it was Heaven. Just to be in the country on a beautiful lake, swimming, hiking, rowing, ball games, camp fires and sing-songs, etc., it was wonderful. Many new friendships were made, along with enough memories to last a lifetime.”
“In fact, I loved Barry’s Bay so much that I actually met and married a lad from the Bay and have lived here ever since.”
You can see roughly where the camp was located if you visit the cemetery of the former Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Camp Tekakwitha was tucked in behind Kartuzy Road at the intersection with Siberia.
It would be great if our readers can provide other pictures and stories about Camp Tekakwitha.
Editor’s Note: The local lad Cathie refers to above is the author and local historian Bob Corrigan. If you are interested in having a picture and story featured in The Madawaska Valley Current, please submit the information to Bob Corrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject Heritage Photos) or mail your photo to Bob c/o The Current at PO Box 1097, Barry’s Bay K0J 1B0 (originals will be returned).
I went to this camp for 3 summers 10-13 yrs old and loved it! Some of the best summers in my life. I remember June who was so nice and Anne who I stayed friends with for awhile after camp ended. It was a godsend for sure and I have gone to Barry’s Bay trying to find it over the years.
I was a camper for 5 summers at Camp Tekakwitha. I think from 1969- 1974. My Aunt June Gillespie was leader for some of those years. My cousins Anne Gillespie was my cabin mate and my cousin Brenda (Gillespie) Mulvihill was on staff.
It was a glorious time for me. I loved camp, and cried on the bus in the way back home to Ottawa. We had archery, waterfront, swimming lessons, aqua day, haunted house, campfires every night, songs always, the ablution hut, lots if chores, tuck shop, daily inspection of cabins, arts and crafts and so much more. Looking back they were some of the best days of my childhood. I made so many friends and learned so much. We had mass and learned about Kateri Tekakwitha who was yet in the process towards sainthood recognition. I remember a beautiful carved wooden statue near the chapel. Would love to in touch with Kathie Corrigan. I have lived in Alberta the past 40 years.
Monica (Whalley) Kryska
I was also in Girl Guides and then became a leader out here in Edmonton for many years. We had many themed camps. I named one of our 2 night camps Camp Tekawitha. We slept in tipis had indigenous leader leads us in activities and ceremonies and I told the girls the story of Kateri and of my childhood summers at Camp Tekakwitha at Barry’s Bay.
I’ve been talking about Camp Tekakwitha to my husband since our first visit to sunnyhill, Barry’s Bay 1984. I am now 61 but remember so much, Camp Tekakwitha must of had a big impact on my life. I’m not sure the exact year, around 1968 I believe. We boarded voyager buses at Landsdowne Park and sang “100 bottles of beer on the wall” driving up (probably not appropriate today). I remember learning to swim, hiking into town one day, camp fires, crafts, one craft was writing a letter backwards to be able to read in mirror. We sent home letters and anxiously awaited to receive one back.
We had “Tuck” every night, which was buying our treats, 10 cents a day. I even memorized our camp song… we are the Camp Tekakwitha girls, we wear our hair in curls, we wear the shortest skirts, we are the biggest flirts, and when we kiss the boys, we make the loudest noise, we are the Camp Tekakwitha girls, hip hip hooray.
Cindy Milks was my maiden name.
Many a mass I served for my great uncle Fr. W.C. Dwyer at the camp, after walking there from our family property on Greenan Lake.
You can find the remains of “Camp Tekakwitha”, such as old concrete footings, directly east of the site of the former church of “The Assumption”:-the church itself is long gone but the footing stones still mark its location on the ground just north of the cemetery.
The cemetery is also very interesting to visit and the “children’s corner” at the south end is especially touching:- child mortality in 1900 was about ~30% and it was still ~15% in 1930 declining to ~10% in 1940 and ~7% in 1950 and ~4% in 1960 so it might come as a shock to many modern visitors that so many children would die before their 16th birthday:- btw, many of the graves were originally marked with wooden crosses which have long since decayed so most of the graves are unmarked since most people hereabouts could not afford even the smallest stone marker.
The cemetery itself still looks a bit bleak and boreal:-perhaps they could “sweeten” the soil with some agricultural dololime and plant dwarf phlox or a wildflower mix on it to run rampant and cover it with a nice “carpet” of flowers.
The church of “The Assumption” itself has a fascinating history.
In the early 1890’s the Rev Dębski and his parishioners of the Kaszubian parish of St Stanislaus in Wilno decided to attract more Polish settlers to join them from the large Polish immigration then starting from southern Poland to “Ameryka” and he traveled to New York City and happened to meet a shipload of about ~200 Polish-Galician immigrants who had just arrived via Trieste and persuaded them to travel with him to “Kanada” and specifically to settle in west Renfrew County with its Polish-Kaszubian residents.
They took up Crown lots in the wilderness west of the northwest quadrant of Kamaniskeg Lake just west of “Barry’s Bay” which was actually originally only the name of the water since no village of “Barry’s Bay” yet existed and would not exist until the railway arrived ca 1900.
These settlers were apparently quite disappointed with their new home since it was so harsh and boreal and unlike their native west Galicia and some, who actually came from Russian Galicia and had actually involuntarily “visited” Siberia, compared it to that place and named it “Siberia” with typical dark and sardonic peasant humour.
However they persevered in their new settlement of “Siberia” at what is now is now the intersection of Siberia Rd and Kartuzy Rd and built a new mission parish church named the “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary”:-it was very much a frontier church built of timber and clap-boards set on foundation stones set right on the ground with no real footings.
When the railway arrived a few years later it allowed a number of new sawmills to be built at the north end of “Barry’s Bay” where saw logs floated in on Kamaniskeg Lake could be converted into saw-lumber to be shipped out on railway cars and an associated settlement soon grew to the north with all the local people flooding in to the new mill jobs and this “upstart” settlement became the village of Barry’s Bay which soon overshadowed much older nearby villages such as Killaloe and Combermere.
I actually remember being taken on a tour of the old “Omanique Mill” on a Saturday afternoon in early August of 1962 or 1963:- I still vividly remember the big logs floating in the water and the shiny greasy metal of the old steam engine.
Many of the original Galician settlers in “Siberia” also moved to Barry’s Bay to get work in the new sawmills and with their newfound prosperity they built a new church, St Hedwig, in 1916.
“Siberia” soon rapidly declined and the old church of “The Assumption” was vacated and stood empty for many years until it mysteriously burned down in 1944:- possibly someone was camping out there or having a little “drinking party” and started a fire inside to stay warm which set the old building alight.
However the Diocese still retained the property and would have leased it to the Catholic Women’s League in Ottawa to start a children’s summer camp, namely “Camp Tekakwitha”.