The Camp Summerlane documents

When Jon Elliston’s investigative series, Cruel Summer: The Attack on Camp Summerlane, was published in 2008, Xpress posted 14 key documents from the camp, the N.C. governor’s office and law-enforcement agencies, which are posted below. Our July 2010 followup story, Back to Summerlane, added new records to the collection, which are interspersed below and marked in red.

1) Early Camp Summerlane brochure
This promotional brochure explains the unique educational philosophy behind Summerlane: “All decisions affecting the community are made by the community. Each child, each adult, has an equal voice. Summerlane is a working democracy. … There is no censorship of any kind. There are no rules for purely private behavior.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

2) Camp Summerlane pamphlet and staff list
This lengthy pamphlet provides an in-depth statement of the mission and methods of the camp. It ends with a detailed list of Summerlane’s staff members, including science instructor Leo Koch, who was fired by the University of Illinois after penning a letter to the student newspaper that advocated premarital sex. Note that only some of the people on this provisional list actually became involved with Summerlane, while others did not.

Click here

3) Newly added: Camp Summerlane application form, spring 1963
The original application for would-be campers at Summerlane, listing dates, prices and other information about the camp’s opening in July of 1963.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

4) Tocsin article, “‘Free-Love Prof’ Carolina Bound,” April 10, 1963
This article, from a right-wing newsletter based in California, caused a stir when copies were sent to Rosman. The article sharply criticized Summerlane’s science instructor — Leo Koch, the controversial former University of Illinois biology professor who’d been fired for suggesting that premarital sex could be of some benefit to the school’s undergrads — and asserted that the camp would be an “integrationist project” that “permits children complete freedom.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

5) Summerlane statement to Rosman Chamber of Commerce, circa June 1963
The Rosman Chamber of Commerce formed a committee of local leaders to investigate Summerlane. Meanwhile, the camp’s staff issued this carefully worded statement to the Chamber, emphasizing the enterprise’s upstanding character and positive goals. “We are here because we like this area the way it is,” statement said.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

6) Newly added:  Summerlane dean/science instructor Leo Koch’s letter to his daughter, Toni, circa June 20, 1963
In a letter written shortly before the camp opened, Koch updated one of his daughters on various family and personal matters and noted a foreboding turn of events: “A gang of local yokels has told us that if we bring any ‘niggers’ here they will kill them. So we brought a six-shooter, a rifle and a shotgun and now we sleep with them at our sides.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

7) Summerlane staffer George Hall’s letter to the governor’s office, June 28, 1963
Hall wrote the governor’s office to alert state officials to the mounting threats against Camp Summerlane and request protection. At a Rosman Town Council meeting, Hall wrote, “We were told quite strongly by the County Clerk and Austin Hogsed, the Mayor of Rosman, that it was strongly against local custom for Negroes to even be in the area and that it would be an extremely dangerous situation for both us and the children” if the plan to open an integrated camp went forward.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

8) Governor’s aid Ray Farris’ letter to Summerlane, July 3, 1963
Farris, an aid to the governor, replied to Summerlane staffer George Hall. “Needless to say, local authorities will provide whatever protection is possible so long as no illegal activities are taking place,” he wrote — and state authorities would assist if needed. Given that Summerlane had recently changed its plans and would be held “on a one time non-integrated basis,” no trouble was anticipated.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

9) Camper’s father Houston Wade’s letter to Gov. Terry Sandford, July 5, 1963
Houston Wade of San Marcos, Texas, the father of 8-year-old camper Susan Wade, wrote to Gov. Sanford requesting that the camp be afforded extra protection. He had heard of threats of racial violence against the camp, and “needless to say, I have been a bit uneasy this week.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

10) Gov. Terry Sandford’s letter to Houston Wade, July 12, 1963
Sanford replied to Wade, telling him that the governor’s investigators determined “that the people of the Rosman community were concerned not only that the camp would be integrated in a community which has had no Negro for sixty years, but also that the camp would be staffed and directed by individuals, who in their opinion, had questionable character.” Still, his office would provide security for the camp if need be.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

11) The Herald of Freedom, special issue on Summerlane, July 3, 1963
Published by Frank Capell of Staten Island, N.Y., the right-wing newsletter The Herald of Freedom devoted an entire special issue to Summerlane’s supposed sins. The truth about Summerlane, he wrote, “would shock and disgust decent people, white or colored.” Hundreds of copies were disseminated by the Rosman Chamber of Commerce, incensing locals.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

12) State Highway Patrol, “Disturbance in Rosman,” report to Gov. Terry Sanford, July 12, 1963
The morning after the attack on Camp Summerlane, State Highway Patrol Commander Col. David Lambert sent a report to Gov. Sanford. The report passed on the findings of Lt. E.C. Guy, who stayed up all night protecting the camp. It detailed shootings, beatings and fires at Summerlane.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

13) Houston Wade (father of camper Susan Wade), telegram to Gov. Terry Sanford, July 13, 1963
Wade, who had earlier written to Sandford urging extra protection for Camp Summerlane, upbraided the governor in a telegram sent shortly after the attack: “[Y]ou must assume personal responsibility for the outrage at Rosman … . Apparently you chose to offer little protection to the children at the camp.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

14) Gov. Terry Sanford, letter to Houston Wade (father of camper Susan Wade), July 15, 1963
Sanford’s reply to Wade’s telegram (document 11). The governor noted that he had sent the North Carolina Highway Patrol “into the Rosman area to offer assistance and to make certain law and order were maintained,” adding that “I do not know what further action you think I should have taken.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

15) State Highway Patrol, “Disturbance in Rosman … ,” report to Gov. Terry Sanford, July 12, 1963
The second of two Highway Patrol reports to the governor in the aftermath of the attack on Camp Summerlane. The report passed on the findings and opinions of Capt. H.C. Johnson, who arrived the morning after and assisted with the camp’s evacuation. “It is his understanding that this camp is operated on the theory that the campers establish their own type of recreation,” the report said. “If they want to play, they play. If they want to swim, they swim. If they like to play volley ball, they do so. It is basically a free-love operation. In Johnson’s opinion, if they want to love, they love. He stated that he had never seen such a group of filthy people, dirty people. … He thinks it would be best if this entire affair is terminated.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

16) Joseph L. Kissiah, Special Agent in Charge, Charlotte FBI field office, letter to Gov. Terry Sanford on Summerlane investigation, Aug. 7, 1963
In this memo, the Charlotte FBI office informed Gov. Sanford that Burke Marshall, the assistant attorney general who headed up the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, had asked the FBI to investigate “the alleged lack of police protection afforded those persons in attendance at Camp Summerlane.” The results of that investigation are unknown; Xpress has filed Freedom of Information Act requests in an effort to obtain documents from the FBI’s inquiry.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

17) Newly added:  Memo from the FBI’s Newark, N.J., office to Director J. Edgar Hoover regarding Summerlane’s relocation, early August, 1963
As Summerlane relocated to Camp Midvale in New Jersey, the FBI filed secret reports on the camp. In this, the first page of one detailed memo, the bureau summarized press coverage of Summerlane’s move.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

18) Newly added:  Summerlane dean/science instructor Leo Koch’s narrative of the attack, circa September 1963
Some time shortly after Summerlane was run out of North Carolina, Koch drafted a detailed account of the attack which he tried (unsuccessfully) to have published in a magazine. This excerpt from that document describes the most harrowing moments of the incident.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

19) Newly added:  Map of Camp Summerlane and key parts of the attack
This hand-drawn map of Summerlane details the 100-acre camp’s facilities. After the attack, Summerlane staffer Leo Koch made notes on it showing the location of the arsons, assaults and gunfire that took place.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

25 thoughts on “The Camp Summerlane documents

  1. Linda Casey

    My God!!!!
    I have lived in Transylvania County all my life and never heard this story!!!!!!!

  2. Sherry Rosso

    I understand the Camp Summerlane folks migrated up to Camp Midvale in Ringwood, NJ. Does anyone have any information on this? thanks.

  3. rosman

    Interesting link: Maybe Rosman is not as stupid as some folks think.

    Valley of Horrors
    Monday, Aug. 05, 1974,9171,879422,00.html

    The Rev. George von Hilsheimer, 39, a self-styled minister in the Free Religious Association, is fascinated by psychiatry. Though he has no degrees in the subject, he likes to talk about such “therapies” as electrosleep, vivid confrontation, megavitamins and hypode-sensitization. What is noteworthy about Von Hilsheimer, however, is that he has been able to try out these techniques, and others as well, during his nine years as superintendent of the Green Valley School for emotionally disturbed and delinquent children in Orange City, Fla.

  4. Miriam Pickett

    I just came across this site. I don’t know if you are still doing any research on Summerlane. I was a camper. I was with the group during the attack, our exodus out of North Carolina and the south and then onto Midvale and then eventually to a new camp site in NY State (I think that’s where it was). I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the events of those few weeks we were there.

    • Veronica Hartman

      The camp moved to North Branch, NY. I just found the camp brochure: “happiness is a camp called Summerlane.” I was a camper there at age 9–summer of ’66 I think.

  5. My spanish project over the Winter break was to make a travel brochure on the country Honduras. I have to include pictures, air flights, hotels, sights to see and stuff like that. If anyone wants to give me any advice that would be great.

  6. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else! Costa Rica Real Estate

  7. Eve Online Guide

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer! I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. Thumbs up!Eve Online Guide

  8. Miriam Pickett

    Hi Mary – I was with the first group of campers who went to North Carolina in the summer of ’63. Were you there?

  9. Mary Bromley

    yes. I was 12 years old then and my name was Mary Burnstein! How old were you? You can email me at MBromley2@verizon,net We probably have some interesting memories!

  10. MitoAntinge

    I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

  11. alexf341

    Very nice site! [url=]is it yours too[/url]

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.