OUR RICH HISTORY

“The history of Trout Creek Bible Camp is kids!”
Bill Wecks, son of founder, Charles Wecks

During World War II, Portland Electric Power Company (PEPC) owned thousands of acres of land in the Corbett area, with the intent of building a dam to generate power. That idea was soon abandoned and PEPC found itself in a financial crunch in need of some cash. PEPC decided to sell the acreage off, but wanted to maintain the mineral rights to the land thinking there was a mine somewhere on the property. At that time, a realtor was hired to sell the property, however he considered keeping the land for himself assuming there was a wealth of minerals and/or timber. In order to determine the value of the property, the realtor checked into hiring a woodsman by the name of Mr. Gertula. A woodsman was someone who could walk the property and tell the owner how much board feet of lumber the property contained, and therefore the potential value of the land. Mr. Gertula wanted $25 for a full-days work. The realtor decided that $25 was way too much to spend for someone to just walk around all day, so he decided he would walk the property himself. He and a friend had their wives drop them off at the top of the property and told the women to pick them up later in the day at the bottom. When the women came to pick them up, the men were nowhere to be seen. The wives waited and waited for hours before the men finally came stumbling out of the woods, clothes torn, blood running from numerous cuts, and totally exhausted. The men told their wives that after they had been dropped off, they headed for the creek and began to walk the creek bed. There was almost no timber to be seen and the creek bed was covered with many thorny plants including something called Devils Walking Stick. By the time the men reached the end of the property line, they were completely disgusted, not to mention injured, and had not seen any redeemable value to the property. When he returned to the office, the realtor called his friend Charles Wecks, a lumber mill owner, to ask him if he might be interested in buying some property – mostly worthless from the perspective of the realtor. Mr. Wecks said he would like to look at the land first and hired a woodsman – Mr. Gertula! – to walk the property and assess the value. For $25.00 Mr. Gertula walked the property, staying away from the creek bed since he knew large timber does not usually grow close to a creek. Instead, he walked the animal trails up higher where the animals knew there were no thorny bushes, such as Devils Bush. As it turns out, Mr. Gertula found thousands of board feet of timber on the land, recommending to Mr. Wecks that he would benefit from purchasing the valuable property. Wanting to make sure, Mr. Wecks hired Mr. Gertula for one more day (again spending the $25.00) and asked one of his sons to accompany him as he assessed the land. Once again, Mr. Gertula determined that the property was indeed very valuable and would make a good investment – a claim backed up by Mr. Wecks’ son. So, in 1944, Charles Wecks purchased 1,700 acres of land for $10.00 an acre!

Although his original desire was to log the property, God placed in his heart a different use for the land. When Mr. Wecks would sit around the dinner table with his wife and six sons, the topic of conversation would often turn to the youth of the world and the horrible path they were going. “We talk about it, but no one ever does anything about it.” So gradually the Lord began planting the idea of creating a place where children could come and hear the Gospel. A close family friend, Dr. John G. Mitchell, a renowned theologian and Bible teacher, suggested to Mr. Wecks that the property could be used for a conference center much like the places where he had spoken at. Mr. Wecks had a slightly different vision – he wanted to create a camp for children, not for adults. So Mr. Wecks and Dr. Mitchell went out to see the property. They walked into the woods for a distance and determined that right there a camp would be dedicated to the Lord for the children of the Portland area to hear about His saving grace. Mr. Wecks and Dr. Mitchell got on bended knee and committed the land to the Lord’s use. In future years, Mr. Wecks used some of the additional acreage for timber, however, he did not receive one dime until the camp was fully established and running smoothly.

So, Trout Creek Bible Camp was begun. Trees were felled and much timber was sold to provide the funds needed to build the camp. One of Mr. Wecks’ sons tells of the felling of the trees where the present field is located. They took down a large tree in the winter only to find out it was a beautiful dogwood tree that would have been lovely in the spring. “Dad was fairly disgusted with us for that one!” The first large building to be erected was the Dining Hall. Because of the war, things like timber were scarce and not readily available for the construction of the building. However, the Lord continued to further His plan, allowing Mr. Wecks to use lumber from his own mill for the construction. Plumbing supplies were also scarce due to the war, so Mr. Wecks had to scrounge to find enough materials to complete the project. Mr. Wecks hired mill crews to do the construction and used the lumber from his mill to build the dining hall which is still the place where campers and staff eat their meals! The original dining hall was one story tall, with the second story (staff housing) added later. Although the kitchen has been remodeled over the years, it still features the same basic layout and location as the original kitchen.

The first camp was held in the spring of 1945 with no electricity, no lights, and no phones. Electricity was later established, however very unreliable, making generators a must for many of the first years. At the beginning of the first summer, campers stayed in cabins which had floors, but no roofs – the roofs were added during that summer so that by the end of the season, all the cabins had roofs. The boys and girls were kept completely separate, with the boys staying in a cabin circle on the other side of the creek, and the girls staying in the cabin circle that is still used today. A well was drilled to provide plenty of good water for the camp, unfortunately it tasted terrible! The gravity fed water system was used for a few years, until another well was drilled that was just as plentiful, but better tasting. The original well was located where the small shed currently sits on the Northwest corner of the gym.

During the fall and spring months, the camp was used by guest groups for retreats and ministry renewal times. Although the Wecks family facilitated the guest groups, the guests were responsible to provide their own supplies. The cleaning and preparation of the camp was done by the Wecks family. Mr. Wecks’ wife, Laura, spent many hours scrubbing toilets and cleaning linens to provide a clean facility for the guest groups to use.

The next large building to be erected was the Chapel (circa 1948). The Chapel was built by Mr. Gruber, an 80 year old man who continued to do construction into his old age. The Wecks boys tell of watching Mr. Gruber walk the rafters, high above the cement floor as construction was going on. Since the plan for the building was for the floor to be slanted like a theater, the building was located next to the dining hall on a slope. The Chapel had a rounded roof and was constructed using 1×12 lumber with the joists and rafters placed on top of the 1x12s. Again the Lord provided and Mr. Wecks was able to purchase theater-style seats from the old Portland Civic Auditorium for a great price by buying all the seats they wanted to sell. During the winter of 1948, there was a large snowstorm that caused the roof of the Chapel to sag. To prevent the roof from collapsing, many volunteers drove to the camp and attached cables to the beams inside the building from wall to wall, in order to hold the building together. The roof survived and the building was used for many years as a place of worship and fun. I personally remember using the chapel as a young camper for a night of skits and entertainment. I can still see the counselors acting out a skit on stage and the campers laughing so hard. I also remember some of the counselors teaching campers how to repel using the outside of the building. However, the reinforced roof was not able to last forever. Eventually the Chapel was torn down, and the new chapel was built in the present location by the field in 1971. You can still see the cement floor of the original chapel on the east side of the dining hall.

Mr. Wecks decided that a gym was needed for the children to use when the weather was bad. Some of his sons questioned the logic of building a closed gym with a roof since the camp was used primarily in the dryer summer months, when an open building would be much cheaper. Since the camp is located in the foothills of Mt. Hood, the rain does not completely disappear during the summer, so Mr. Wecks went ahead with his plan – now seen as divinely ordained. The gym was built around the year 1949 and again Mr. Gruber was hired to do the work and was seen walking the rafters as it was constructed. The original plan was to have windows on the slanted roof line at the top of the walls, but the windows leaked so they were straightened out to where they are currently. The gym still stands today in almost the exact, original form as built, and is the center of many of the camp’s activities as well as being used by guest groups throughout the year.

Many of the guest groups were in need of smaller, more intimate meeting rooms, so around the year 1951 the quarter house was built. The quarter house was a building with four rooms centered around a large stone fireplace. Each room was attached to the others and the building was located in the center of the large field area. A man by the name of Mr. Wiebe was the builder of this building. The quarter house is still very much in use today as the staff lounge, current craft room, and rocket room, all located on the back side of the newer, main chapel.

Originally, there were two homes built on the property. One was the caretakers home located next to the gym, and the other was a small cabin located where the current fireside is. Mr. Weck’s son and daughter-in-law, Earl and Fern, were the first ones to occupy the cabin. Earl and Fern would live in the cabin during the summers to help take care of the camp. However, one winter, the cabin burned to the ground. Although the local fire department was aware of the burn, they neglected to inform Mr. Wecks, so the burned out home was not discovered until the camp opened once again the following summer. Mr. Wecks was very disappointed in the local fire department for never saying anything to him about the cabin.

Over the history of the camp, ownership has changed twice. In 1965 the Wecks family deeded over all the assets, property, and camp equipment to Central Bible Church of Portland, Oregon. Trout Creek became a ministry of Central Bible Church which owned and operated the camp for the following 22 years. It was during those years that a second story was added to the dining hall (lodge) for staff housing, a new, 300-seat Chapel built, additional cabins erected, and many more improvements made. 65 additional acres were deeded to the camp, by the Wecks family, making the total acreage owned by the church for the camp property at 92 acres. The church continued the ministry of Trout Creek and ministered to thousands of children throughout its ownership of the camp.

In 1986, a study was undertaken concerning the future growth and best usage of Trout Creek. In 1987, the board felt that in order to better utilize the facilities and broaden the ministry base of the camp, it should become independent of Central Bible Church. 1998 Trout Creek became incorporated, and now operates as a non-profit Christian organization. Central Bible Church has continued a supportive relationship with the camp in many ways.

Over the years, literally thousands of children and youth have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The camp’s mission to reach children and change lives has been honored and blessed by the Lord, and His continued grace has sustained the camp through the times of rich blessing as well as times of trials. The impact that the Lord has had on lives at Trout Creek reaches through generations and generations. Bill Wecks, son of Charles Wecks, and Board Chairman for many years, tells of a time just recently when he was introduced to an older man who had attended Trout Creek in 1946 (the second summer of ministry) and accepted Christ that summer at camp. He told how he had lived his entire life for the Lord. Upon retirement he went on to become a missionary in Russia, able to lead countless Russians to the Lord. This is just one of the many stories showing how God has used Trout Creek Bible Camp for His glory and honor, furthering His message of salvation for all mankind.

This information was gathered from Bill, Ralph, and Jim Wecks, sons of Charles Wecks, and put into story form by Nancy Johnson, granddaughter of Charles Wecks.