Sunday Snippet: WeHaKee’s Chickagami Heritage!
And we take time to cherish the history of the beautiful site that WeHaKee now inhabits along the shores of Hunter Lake in Hayward Lakes Region of northwest Wisconsin. The land that WeHaKee rests upon was initially the home to members of the Chippewa Indian Tribe. In the 1800’s a logging camp emerge at this site well before it became the summer training camp for Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame football team as well as a boys camp under Rockne’s name. Ruth and Rabbi Ferdinand Isserman eventually purchased the property and soon opened a girls camp along the pristine shores of Hunter Lake. Ruth decided on the name ‘Chickagami’, literally meaning “on the lake” in the Chippewa language.
Camp Chickagami opened for the summer of 1939 with 25 counselors and 60 campers.
“I remember my thoughts and prayers for camp
—the thrill I felt and always experienced
as I looked out across the water at the blue lake
—the trees on the other shore,
the sailboat at anchor, the brightly painted canoes,
the gleaming white docks and tall pine trees.
I pledged to myself to make Chickagami
a camp that would be interested in the welfare
and personal development of every girl entrusted to us”
Ruth Isserman, Camp Chicagami Director
Camp Chickagami continued for 23 summers and Ruth Isserman’s strategies to help girls and young women build their confidence & independence while learning a vast array of skills were considered exceptional by her camping peers along with the American Camping Association. During this time, Ruth expanded the camp from two lodges and a dozen cabins to a facility with electricity, running water, phone service, tennis courts and a riding ring.
When her husband became ill in 1962, Ruth sadly closed Chickagami and sold the camp to Ben Kerner, the owner of the St. Louis Hawks professional basketball team. Shortly thereafter, he sold the camp to the Dominicans of Sinsinawa who then moved Camp WeHaKee from their site in Marinette, Wisconsin to this gorgeous location within the Chippewa Flowage.
We honor the legacy of Camp Chickagami with the beautiful Chickagami Trail and we continue to have Chicagami alumni visit us each summer and the home the Ruth and Ferdinand lived in remains an integral part of the camp facility today. Fortunately, after Ruth’s passing in 2003 at the age of 100, her family in an effort to preserve the legacy of Chickagami, contacted the University of Indiana and the American Camp Association in Bradford Woods to archive a plethora of momentos, photos and records from Ruth’s camp. They have also created a website from which much of this information was obtained – Click HERE to learn more.
WeHaKee Camp for Girls is deeply indebted to all that Ruth and Rabbi Isserman did for not only the beautiful Chickagami Camp site, but for the advancement of the camp experience for girls. The women of WeHaKee stand firmly on the shoulders of the Chickagami campers and staff and all they brought to this slice of heaven along the Chippewa River. Thank you Camp Chickagami!