Camp Hudgens 1959 to 2007

Bob Banks Legacy

Bob was the state RA director when the Royal Ambassadors met at Falls Creek.  They had a sincere desire to have a camp of their own.  They had an R.A. congress at First Baptist McAlester and Bro. Paul McCullough says it was icey and snowing.  Bro. Joe D. Ray took Bob and Paul out to see the Rainbow Girls camp.  Mrs. James Hudgens was wanting to give funds to help buy the camp.  The Order of the Rainbow Girls came up with a price of $1500 for the original 45 acres.  Mrs. Hudgens final estate settlement allowed her to donate that amount.​

1930 WPA Map of the area around Rainbow Gardens

1930 property rainbow girls hudgens.PNG

   What did Hudgens look like in 1960?

Well, here's your answer for the most part.  Although this was a conceptual plan for Hudgens, and it did not go to complete plan, this is the #4 shape of the original land.  They had bought an additional parcel from O.T. Gibson but did not own any further land north or west.  The two people are standing on the northeast side of the property looking south.  You see the layout of the cabin area which is right.  You see the original layout of the cabins which is about where the ballfield is now.  What you don't see is a service road going behind the new dinninghall.  You can see the old Pickle Ranch road.  The old Primitive Unit was at the end of that road.  It was a horrible place to camp because it was next to a literal swamp.  You woke up to re-apply Off.  You didn't sleep a lot because of all of the buggies.  But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

How did the land deeds change hands?

The transfer of ownership did not happen as some people had envisioned.  The way it was discussed, the deed was obtained by First Baptist McAlester and then transferred to the BGCO.  That is not what happened.  The U.S. Government gave what is Southeast Oklahoma to the Choctaw Indians in the relocation act.   Much of the land around camp was alloted by the tribe to tribal members.  A Choctaw Indian by the name of Jack Fulton owned the land north and east of camp as they had 250 acres.  It was absorbed by the lake.  The original 35 acre deed started out as Choctaw tribal land.   The tribe legally sold the land to the Order of the Rainbow Girls.  They built the camp and then when it fell into low use, they sold it to the BGCO.  That's all that appears on the original deed.  There is some correspondence where Bob contacted Mrs. Hudgens and FBC McAlester about the need to send the check to cover the cost of the land.  Seems that the funds were not sent until several months after the BGCO wrote the check to the Rainbow Girls.  There are five total deeds to the whole property.  The original top of the hill,  the parcel north of the creek, the 110 acres on the north side near the lake, and the final 40 acres of the ropes course and multipurpose building. I remember the original plat map showed the 45 acres much in the shape of a "4". 



I-1993-017740 (about 4 acres) - Earl Weeks exchanged this apendage so his cattle farm would level out square near the old primitive unit.  (a land fill is near this piece of land).  This was an even swap, no money changed hands.

I-1994-001729 (110 acres at Unit III facing lake) - City of McAlester sold camp this land because they were divesting all lake property at the time.  This was $110 per acre.  The current executive director of the BGCO said this would be the last property purchased.  But 40 acres were next.

I-1994-013329 (40 acres)- O.T. Gibson family trust sold this land to camp.  The parking lot had a fence up to that time and it ran south down the hill above the ballfield.  The R.V. pads, ropes course, and multi-purpose building are on this plot.  This was $500 per acre and paid for by John Henson of Norman, Ok.  This was the last parcel purchased.  We were in the dinninghall having supper and Mr. Gibson walked in.  He said, "I believe you have a check for me."  Jerry said, "Yes sir, I do, do you have the deed?"  Mr. Gibson replied, "Sir, I always sell land on a handshake." Jerry replied, "We need more than that for Kerry Russel.  So, Mr. Gibson left without the check and the next day returned with a completed quit claim deed for the land.  He got his check and the transfer was recorded at the county land office.

??????? - Original 73 acres by Rainbow Girls-  Compromises the road up the hill, main camp, Unit I, sewer lagoon area.

??????? - Additional roughly 50 acres for Unit II tent lodge, the road to the old primitive unit and bridge over creek.

???????-  Additional 300 acres that compromise the land north of waterfront, the new road to Unit III, Unit III land.  If memory serves me right

              this parcel of land was purchased for $12,000.

Deed descriptions

This is the original dinninghall which later became the crafts center.  This is looking east toward the opening of the old crafts center.  Notice  that the concessions stand is not there at this time.  So the original kitchen was inside this building.  Then as Rainbow Gardens grew, they build the new kitchen and cooks quarters.  I have no idea where the cooks stayed but I bet since Rainbow Gardens was mostly a day camp, the cooks just came from town.

First camp vehicle

The first camp vehicle was a 1965 Jeep CJ.  It afforded quick transport of injured campers from remote places such as the nature train, primitive unit, and the tents.  It stayed at Hudgens until the mid 70's when it was sent to Falls Creek as a work Jeep.  They got rid of it because it frequently tipped over.  Probably from overly zealous new staffers driving it.

1965 red cj.jpg

Second vehicle

Second camp vehicle

The second camp vehicle was a 1965 Dodge van.  It was primarily used for hauling gear around the facility.  Back then, the campers had to walk their luggage and stuff from the parking lot all the way down to the cabins and tents.  It was not until later that we started providing transportation to and from the cabins and tents.  About the only group who got transport was the primitive unit.  It was located in the old swamp at the old north property line.

I am seriously thinking of making a separate page for the history of McAlester.  I'm finding so much cool stuff out there I never knew about the town.  Its a treasure trove of info.  I guess because it was the biggest city of Indian Territory.


To create this map, I walked the trail system while carrying an early generation GPS receiver.  No, it was not Tom Tom of today.  It had no mapping in it.  It simply displayed NSEW coordinates.  So I took a note pad and walked about 50 feet and took a reading.  But this was very early and the system was affraid an emeny may use it against the USA. So I found some of the readings erroneous. To defeat that, I had to stop and stay perfectly still for a minute to take each reading.  I then used good, old fashioned mapping techniques to create the lines on the topo map.  So like the map says if you could read it, its just a general guide to the trails.

Camp Trail System

INTL order of the Rainbow Girls 1964

How it looks today. A majestic building.

1930 First Baptist McAlester.

Trinity Baptist Oklahoma City

Pastor Joe Dee Ray brokered the land transaction that bought Camp Hudgens from the Rainbow Girls.  The 1960 Royal Ambassador  congress was held here.  It was icy conditions.  A group including Bob Banks, Joe D. Ray, Paul McCullogh, and O.J. Findley made the trip out to newly acquired camp site previosly owned by Rainbow Girls.  Camp was dedicated at that time.

Bob Banks attended Trinity and set up one of the largest Royal Ambassador chapters in the U.S.A.  IT easily exceeded 200 members in his days.  We loaded up two buses of kids and headed to McAlester to take over the camp.  Pastor Robert S. Scales headed up many of the committees of the BGCO through his days with many stints on the Executive Board.  He had a passion for Hudgens.  One of Trinity's earliest pastors was J.B. Rounds, the co-founder of Falls Creek.  He and W.D. Moorer were avid fishermen who liked the creeks near Davis, Oklahoma.  He suggested to his buddy that they buy the land and make it into a youth retreat.

A conceptual design for Trinity.

Closer to true, another conceptual design.

1141 N. Robinson.  The 3rd Baptist Building and to the right, First Baptist Church of OKC.

The "ivory tower" was a five story office complex that also housed the Baptist Book Store until they moved out to 23rd and Drexel.  Brotherhood was on the third floor.  This was a fully art deco building complete with green furniture in the lobby.   That set was located in Pennington for a while until we finally got rid of it.  I remember whenever I visited the building you walked up slowly to the elevator button and quickly pressed the button.  No matter what you did, you got a powerful shock.  You rode the car up to 4 (which was 3) to get to Bro. Paul or Laddie's office.  There was a ham shack in Laddie's office for a time until they moved it out to the barn at Boy's Ranch Town.  Through the years I visited from 1978 and on, they kept adding modern office technology.  One time, I saw Joanne Lindsay operating a very large IBM word processing system.  It was a magcard based system.  But it made it easy to do form letters, which they did a lot back then.  I also was privy to the day that Don Stephens, Mary's husband, was installing the very first IBM PC in the office.  I was still using the TRS-80 at the time.  Mary reported that many of the first PC's installed in the building failed because of the static.  It had to be resolved first before they added more.  Prior to moving to 1141 N. Robinson, The BGCO, Foundation, and Messenger were at 223 W. First in down town.  It would be just west of the Britlin Cafeteria.  According to old plat maps of the day,  this address is where leadership Square meets Park Harvey.  Of course Park Ave was once called 1st st.  Before that, June in the Brotherhood office told me the BGCO had offices in the Colcord Building.  The earliest address for the BGCO is at 205 N. Robinson.  It is in the 1913 Baptist Messenger.  That would put it where Leadership Square is today.   The 1915 Messenger puts the address at 30 N. Robinson.  That would put it across the street from the Colcord building.  I found an address listed for the BGCO as 126 West Main Street in the 1920 annual report.  Today's numbering system would put that at the present day Century Center.  First used to go north of the Colcord.  I pulled a plat map of the day and the Colcord's address was in fact a Robinson address.. Charles F. Colcord finished it in 1910 and hoped it would be a hotel.  But he only finished the center piece and East tower.  It did not become a hotel until renovations in 2006.  I can see the BGCO officing out of the upper floors of the Empire Building.

First Baptist Church of OKC.

First Baptist had a significant impact on Camp Hudens through the years.  Not only from sending a lot of campers, but staff and support.  One of camp's most strongest supporters through the years was David Pritchard.  Dave ran the recreation program at First Baptist as the first paid rec minister in the USA.  Dave was usually assigned to Unit II director.  You could pretty much just leave him alone and Unit II ran like clockwork.  His wife Phyllis helped out in the kitchen and was dearly appreciated.  Dave always kept camp in his heart and also was very involved in the R.A. Congress by running the basketball tournament for many years.

April 6, 1922,  The Scottish Rite lodge of McAlester created The Internatinal order of the Rainbow Girls.  It would be a service organization like the Demolay.  The building above is a national treasure with an immaculate grandfather and grandmother clock.

South Lindsay Baptist Church

Mr. Dave Pritchard

223 1/2 W. First (1924)

126 W. Main (1920)

  15 N. Robinson

Actually the building on the far left.

Charles Colcord ran out of money to put up both towers.  So it now stands as the weird building with the center piece and just the East tower on Robinson and old Grand Ave.

Here the Messenger Article above the photo shows they are now at 205 N. Robinson.  This is where Leadership Suare is now.  Most of the old Baptist Building locations seem to have fallen prey to the Pei Plan where they were demolished in the name of urban renewal.

The Baptists sure seem to move around a lot if you look at their address as listed in the Baptist Messenger.  Here on the right is the magestic Baum building.  The Sheraton Center is there now.  This was the BGCO home in 1915.  20 N. Robinson,

They moved from the Baum to where the Myriad is now ( image left).  Then in 1924 they moved to the building just west of the Britling Cafeteria (image right).

1928 FBC McAlester

Rev. O.J. Finley

O.J.                                     Mary

James E. Hudgens

Back in the archives of the Baptist General Convention of Okllahoma anuals, there is a man listed many times through the years.  O.J. Finley was pastor of McAlestter Trinity Baptist Church.  Trinity started out as a mission of First Baptist Church.  It served the east side of McAlester.  O.J. was a staunch supporter of Camp Hudgens and as you can see below, it was on the 1963 Camp Hudgens Committee.  He often teamed up with First Baptist pastor Rev. Joe Dee Ray to support all things Hudgens.  O.J. and Joe convinced then John Pennington to adopt the plan for Hudgens as the state Royal Ambassador camp.  The 1959 Royal Ambassador congress at First Baptst McAlester sealed the plan and the camp stayed in operation continually until 2007.  It almost made 50 years.

Whether you worked at Hudgens or Falls Creek you always knew when South Lindsay was there.  They made big impact with their large group.  We deeply appreciated the efforts of Rev. Paul Salyer and Mr. Clyde Hughes through the years.  They impacted thousands of lives with their outreach work.  I also never forget Philo Gravitz.  I often hear of him with my volunteer work with OCFD.  They refer to the Philo Gravitz way.  He was one of the most admired majors in the department.

Rev. Paul Salyer

The 1958 Camp Committee.  Not yet named Hudgens and still meeting at Falls Creek.  Rev. Joe Dee Ray helped guide the purchase of the Rainbow Girl camp.





1959, Hudgens was named.  The committee name was chaned to Camp Hudgens.  Joe Dee Ray is at the top since he was such as supporter.  HIll Hodges is listed.  He was a state DPS commissioner for many years.

Dr. Robert Scales was my pastor at Trinity OKC.  He was on the 1963 committee.  They voted on all operations of the summer camp.  O.J Finley was one of the McAlester pastors responsible for Camp  Hudgens existing. 

On October 1, 1896, James Elishia Hudgens was born in Elizabeth, Arkansas. J.E. Hudgens, the son of a Baptist preacher, James Fred Hudgens, and the grandson of doctor, James H. Hudgens, moved to Oklahoma with his parents in 1900.
J.E. Hudgens married Zettie Edith Copeland on February 10, 1918. Mr. and Mrs. Hudgens had three sons. After returning from a nine-month service with the Quartermaster Corps in France during World War I, J.E. Hudgens started a construction business, building homes and commercial buildings. He also constructed schools and churches in McAlester, as well in other Oklahoma Towns.
He built the five-story addition to First Baptist McAlester and also the renovation of the sanctuary.
The dedication of these facilities was on July 14th, 1957, before a heart attack caused his death on December 3, 1957.

The James E. Hudgens Lumber Company

Located at Main (69B) and Miami, Mr. Hudgens' lumber company served the McAlester community for more than 40 years.  According to invoices I have seen, Camp Hudgens bought lumber from them for building projects such as the new caretaker's home.  Mr. Hudgens death had occured prior to Camp Hudgens coming into existence on paper.  But his yard was the biggest in town until the T.H. Rogers company opened up a few blocks down the street.  Much has changed at the location as the old lumber yeard shelving was finally delmolished a couple years ago.  All that is left is the cement floor where the shelves used to be. You can see from the image below that the old lumber yard is long gone.  The right side of the image was the end cap.  This stretch of land seved the city well through Mr. Hudgens' great service to the community and the members of First Baptist Mcalester.

This photo facinates me.  Its Henry Bellmon in a coal mine below McAlester.  Look how low the clearance is on the shaft.  The tracks going down the middle was for the cars to ride.  At this time, they used hand tools to drive holes in the sides and the put sticks of dynamite.  they lit a very long fuse and then covered their heads and ducked.  Theywent back down and started loading up the loose coal where the cars took it to the surface above.  They stayed down in the hole for 12 hours.  They ate lunch down there.  At the end of the shift, they hopped in an empty car and rode their way back up. These coal seams are dotted all over McAlester, Krebs Hartshorn and Southeast Oklahoma.  There were numerous disasters that buried men alive.  Just south of the downtown area is a memorial with names of those killed through the years.  People in McAletster often say that there is a huge deposit of coal still waiting there to be had.  But this kind of mining is no where as cheap as the strip mining in Wyoming.  So several times per day,  trains go through McAletser loaded with that Wyoming coal headed to Texas.  The empty cars make the return trip north.

This large mine was located in what is now the main part of McAlester to the south, probably near the George Nigh Parkway which is now US69.  There was one as close as the prison area to the east.  Every once in a while, a seam gives way and you get a sink hole.  Not quite as bad as the town of now abandoned Pitcher  The McAlester Youth Rodeo arena did have a rather bad collapse under their parking lot.  It sunk down more than 40 feet as a seam gave way.  The mine bureau was able to fix it.

Modern day underground coal mine.  Spiro, Ok.

South McAlester - 1895

1857 Map Indian Territory - red dot is where Hudgens is

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