Maine is all about the outdoors. And that means Maine is all about camping.
During COVID-19, we’re especially about camping. It’s one of the safer activities for families right now. There’s plenty of fresh air, and we can travel in campers or pickups more safely than we can fly to Florida or go to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios.
At Good Will-Hinckley, we’d probably be camping anyway, regardless of the pandemic. We have a love of the outdoors that, at least in part, dates to the late 1800s, when our founder and namesake, George Walter Hinckley, became involved with the Boy Scouts of America.
Through his work with the scouts, George Walter met Ernest Thompson Seton, the writer, outdoorsman and one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts of America.
Seton, whose books include “The Birch Bark Roll” and the “Boy Scout Handbook,” first came to Good Will in 1911 to talk with the boys and establish a campus fireplace area. In 1912, before Seton returned for a visit with the boys, George Walter Hinckley had a fieldstone chair, the Black Wolf Seat, built at the fireplace as a monument to Seton.
Though there are no known financial contributions from Seton, he contributed his knowledge and expertise in outdoor education to George Walter Hinckley. Seton’s chair is still there, and prior to the pandemic, everyone involved with Good Will-Hinckley would meet at Seton fireplace for a cookout at the start of the school year. It’s a special place for anyone associated with our organization.
The First Boys Camp
The history of camping and Good Will-Hinckley dates back to before Seton’s early visits to Maine.
According to the Chronicles of Good Will Home, George Walter Hinckley was a disciple of Guilford, Connecticut native William Henry Harrison Murray, a clergyman and author who’d later be known as the father of the Outdoor Movement.
While Murray disappeared from public life in the 1870s after failed business ventures, he remained a strong influence on George Walter Hinckley.
At age 17, George Walter told his parents he was planning a camping trip following in the footsteps of Adirondack Murray—another of Murray’s many nicknames. In respect to his parents, George Walter waited until he was 21 in 1875 to leave Connecticut with a small group for his first forage into the world of camping.
A few years later, George Walter founded the first boys’ camp in America, and books on camping published as late as the 1940s recognized Hinckley’s achievement.
Exploring the Outdoors
One of the main reasons George Walter started the GWH home was to give youth a chance to explore the natural sciences in a rural setting. He also wanted children to spend as much time as possible learning outdoors.
Fast forward to today, where the same holds true for students on campus at MeANS, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, the Glenn Stratton Learning Center on the GWH campus and all of our residential programs that have full access to our naturally beautiful campus.
We’re so lucky to have walking trails, a bird sanctuary, a river and streams, facilities for maple syrup production, vegetable gardens, honey harvesting and hundreds of acres of land to explore.
Everyone here at GWH can’t wait for the chance to get back to the outdoors and to camping with our friends and families later this year.