History of the Camp Grounds

Some of the oldest buildings on camp. Top Left: Modern day nurses station. Top Right: modern day Camp Office. These buildings have served many functions over the years.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, assigning Native American Tribes living in the East to new lands in Indian Territory, located in what is now Oklahoma. Although the act was signed in 1830, actual removal did not begin until 1838 under President James Monroe. During the winter of 1838-39 approximately 14,000 Cherokees and other tribes were removed from their homes and marched across Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas into Indian Territory. The trek became known as the “Trail of Tears.” 

After reaching Indian Territory, the Cherokees settled in northeastern Oklahoma. The capitol of the Cherokee Nation is located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma near Camp Heart O’ Hills.

Camp lore says that an area called the “Council Ring”, near the bend in the Baron Fork Creek is one of the ending points of the Trail of Tears. While there is no actual specific spot of the end of the trail, this bit of folklore has stuck over the years. Other known facts are the existence of a “Mission to the Indians” at the Elm Spring in the mid 19th century. This is the site of the Rock Cottage today.

History of Camp Heart O’ Hills

The original 100 acres of the now 188 acre camp was a gift to The Salvation Army in 1929 from Waite Phillips, brother of Frank Phillips, founder of the Phillips Petroleum Company. 

The early Heart O' Hills camps were very primitive compared to today's standards. With few facilities, it wasn't until 1938 that electricity arrived. Girls stayed in four small cabins, while boys pitched tents on the adjacent property. A small dining hall served the needs of the entire camp. Meetings and activities, including sports, games, and singing, were held in the open air where campers could enjoy the majestic setting. During these early years, campers found arrowheads and artifacts; subtle reminders of the rich ancestry of the land.

Heart O’ Hills has grown tremendously since its early days, but what remains unchanged is the opportunity to explore the wonders and beauty of God’s magnificent creations and to allow God to speak to children and adults through the camping experience. Over 1000 children and adults enjoy the camping experience at Camp Heart O’ Hills each year.  

Original Camp Pool

Campers through the years