A long, long time ago…
The history of Dickson Valley Camp & Retreat Center begins in 1971 as Homer and Alice Dickson of Yorkville, Illinois wanted to use 105 acres of their farm property near Newark, Illinois as a Christian camp. As a Christian Camp Wisconsin and Illinois, this camp would be for the surrounding area, which includes Sandwich, Plano, Newark, Yorkville and the greater Northern Illinois and Wisconsin area. At the same time, Ed Oulund, director of Christian Camping International (CCI), was looking to move their international headquarters from a small home office in Wisconsin to a larger facility that would allow them room to grow. Through one of God’s many miracles, these two paths were brought together in 1971 and the Dickson’s property on the Lower Fox River was deeded over to CCI.
CCI ran a day camp during the summer months and a small retreat business on weekends. In 1979 as CCI continued to grow, they needed better facilities closer to Chicago and therefore moved to Wheaton, Illinois. At this time they leased the property to Metro Chicago Youth for Christ (YFC). YFC ran their own programs at this location and promoted the camp to their Chicago area groups and Wisconsin church retreats. As CCI grew they decided that reorganization of their operation would be in order. It was decided that the international portion of the organization would relocate out of this country and become a separate entity. CCI/USA (currently Christian Camp and Conference Association, CCCA) was given the original California not-for-profit corporation by the trustees. Dickson Valley Ministries was formed to hold the deed to the Newark property and continue to run Dickson Valley Camp & Retreat Center. In 1989 YFC left DVC. With this opportunity the decision was made not to look for another outside organization but to hire a director, who along with the management board would continue to run the operation of the Camp.
The Lord has blessed the Newark property ever since the first day it was donated. Homer Dickson spent many weeks crushing gravel and developing the first roads while Ed Oulund and his band of volunteers built the CCI offices now called the Oulund Chalet Lodge. Harve Chrouser of Wheaton Illinois, being on the original board of CCI, also worked tirelessly throughout Dickson Valley’s history to provide countless resources. In the 70’s a small restroom structure was built for the day camps and an activities shelter was also constructed for general use. In the 80’s as YFC started running camp and retreat ministries full time, the CCI trustees started fund raising and developing the facilities for bigger and better uses. A meeting room and dorm rooms were added onto the bathhouse to become the Silver Fox Lodge. After many changes of use, the activities shelter turned into dorm rooms and became Dickson Dorm(no bathrooms). In Homer Dickson’s gravel pit, an auto shop was constructed. An 8,000 sq.ft. Sports Center was built to provide groups with activity opportunities any time of year in any weather. In 1988, the Yokefellow organization based in Indiana donated the Acorn Lodge and its 42 acres of woods(also formerly a Dickson family property) to Dickson Valley Ministries.
In the 90’s the development boom did not cease and more youth camps and church retreats were filling the lodges, making it sought after as a prime site among Christian Camp Wisconsin and Illinois. With a design for a large pool complex in mind the restroom addition was added on to the Dickson Dorm, now the Dickson Lodge. With the large increases in group usage, the development had to also address operational needs. The director’s lodge was built with a large office in the lower level(first permanent office for the camp). Several years later, another staff lodge was undertaken that has 7 apartments for various long term, short term and seasonal staff. When the plans for the pool complex did not seem to match the feeling of the camp, a major earth moving task was undertaken when the digging was done to make the “Lake of the Woods”. Through out all this, other projects have been undertaken to expand program opportunities such as acquiring a 4.5 acre sports field and upgrading lodges to better accommodate large groups. Much thanksgiving is at hand for what God has done for Dickson Valley and much rejoicing goes up when thinking about all the wonderful things He still has in store.