History

History

Riverside Bible Camp began through the efforts and vision of many people. This page holds memories of how the camp was formed, as told in the voices of those who built it.

The quotes, photos, and history on this page are taken from the book Riverside Remembrances: A History of Riverside Gospel Fellowship 1983, written by the History Book Committee, edited by Cheryl Montgomery.

Thank you to the many people involved in this project that preserved a precious part of our past, and to everyone whose lives interwove with the history of Riverside Bible Camp. Your hard work, dedication, and vision have led to where we are today.
"If you see an opportunity to do good, try it; later you'll wish you had. Trust the Lord for great things and try them."
- Walter McNaughton

1934-1937

In the summer of 1934 Brother Sidney Keeble and I rode with horse and cart into the Battle River area (north of Grimshaw) to set up and conduct meetings. While they were in the area we were met by a car load of young women from Vancouver who encouraged us to set up a Bible School in the Grande Prairie area. The following spring four other Evangelistic Band ladies arrived from the coast and asked if they could work in the area through the summer with us holding a children's camp somewhere south west of Beaverlodge...

We stopped at Red Willow River after leaving Grande Prairie and thought we had found an excellent location. We found a small cabin located on the spot where we hoped we could hold a camp. We went up to the cabin and asked about the location and the owner offered us the use of his land. This was the first location of our Bible camp. We had fourteen campers and seventeen workers.
It had always been a privilege holding the camp on the north side of the Peace but we were looking for locations that would serve to needs in a more central location. In 1936 we followed the Baptist church of Grande Prairie to their camp that was located on Bear Lake and later on to Taylor Flats. In 1937 a camp was held south of Manning and later west of Clear Hills. At this camp Brother Arnold Erickson, Oscar Gustafson and Walter McNaughton gathered a few items and travelled along the Whitemud River for many miles.

Finally we found this Riverside Camp a plot of land cut off from the rest of the quarter by the river and right alongside of the highway. The adjacent quarter's owner, who had the first right of purchase, was kindly willing to relinquish this right to us. How marvellously the Lord supplies and leads.

Walter McNaughton

1938

1938, Pre-Riverside Camp at Lac Cardinal
"It would be wonderful to trace what God had done through those who have been at Riverside. The Lord has the records."
- Arnold Erickson

1939

The PRBI* tent and other equipment was brought to the Grimshaw after the the camp closed at Gospel Point. A stove was brought out to the camp from Peace River where Mr. Murray Downey was placed in charge of the camp. There was a log building and some thirty to forty campers in attendance. Some of the campers had memorized Scripture verses to attend the camp for free.

Notikewin

Leaving Gospel Point with a truck loaded down and pulling a home made cabin trailer we were soon broken down outside of Valleyview. A few of the men left us ladies to fend for ourselves as they headed for Grande Prairie for repairs.  On their return we headed off to camp arriving a day late.

*Peace River Bible Institute

Mrs. Beth McNaughton

Dinner outdoors
At the camp there were no buildings, just tents and a couple of trailers. The kitchen proved to be of no problem since it was constructed mostly out of rough shelves and poplar boughs. We moved the outside dining area into the big meeting tent one chilly morning. One interesting item I remember finding was some rotted logs glowing with phosphorous in the dark.

1940-1944

No camp was held in the Peace area due to the lack of men to help with the camp duties. There was also a shortage of monies and supplies again due to the war.
"It was during this camp or about this time that Mr. McNaughton, Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Erickson travelled along the course of the Whitemud River until they found the present campsite. It was 15.46 acres of land. Several different churches in the area gave the money for the total price of one hundred dollars."
- Don Masterson
1945 Camp workers photo

1945

July 25 - We drove off for Clear Hills Camp had supper with the Nelsons in Grimshaw, arrived at the camp about 10:00 pm. Lots of mosquitoes. Camp site is nice but far out in the wilderness.

July 30 - Seeing us finish jobs. Made a back stop for baseball and repairs to the road. First campers started arriving and soon it was supper time and we had almost sixty campers we were greatly encouraged. Held a get acquainted service that night. Heavy shower of rain with no roofs over our heads except in the tents.
July 31 - The first days were hard with so much pressure from so many sides, but we organized classes and held our first Bible study. A good spirit in camp, but there is the need for a deep working of the Holy Spirit.

August 5 - Was a grand closing day. Had a baptismal class to show the meaning baptism, a communion service and a number dedicated their lives to the Lord. Dave Enarson spoke at the final meeting and a number came forward in response to the altar call.

Don E. Masterson

3rd Pre-Riverside Camp in Clear Hills
The third Pre-Riverside Camp in Clear Hills. 1945
"Some of our crew had gone on ahead with the Ruarks, but Beth McNaughton and  Eileen Ruarks tried to sleep on a straw tick beside the road. All would have been well except for the mosquitoes."
- Not attributed

1946

Though the first slab buildings were not constructed yet the first camp at Riverside property went ahead with the use of tents to sleep and have meetings in, a shack for the kitchen (old craft corner) and a make shift dining area.

The most interesting place was when I went down to the river and what did I see -- a hole in the bank of the river, that men of the camp had made. They put shelves to put my milk, butter, cream and meat. Believe it or not they put a very nice door on it to keep the mice out too, but I had to ask the Lord to keep everything safe so no camper would get sick. There was no trouble at all; everything stayed sweet and nice, as it was that cool.

No one got sick, but many campers were homesick that year, so I tried to mother them, play nurse and comfort them -- give them small jobs to do. Kitchens should never be out of bounds for children -- for many souls are saved there. The kitchen was full all the time.
Our dining room had a dirt floor, tables and benches made from rough lumber, and a roof of branches and leaves to keep the sun off the food and faces of the campers.

On August 3, 1946 another camp planning meeting was held. The camp board meeting records begin at this time and we find that it was then that the camp was named the Riverside Gospel Fellowship, and other articles of the constitution adopted. At the meeting officers were elected and a building and ground committee appointed with a representative from each of the participating area: Notikewin, North Star, Clear Hills, Warrensville, Grimshaw, Peace River and Sexsmith.

-Not Attributed

Riverside Bible Camp group photo
"As indicated previously, the only means of access to the camp was through Mr. Dodd's barnyard and pigpen. This camp was a real old fashioned camp, the kitchen was a frame work of 2X4's, then the top covered by popular branches and a tent to store the food."
- George Stewart
"In the early years, camp sometimes ran for two full weeks with registration on Saturday and running till the third Monday with camp break up. This gave everyone three glorious camp Sundays together."
- Nana Aspin

1947-1949

During these years the camp board continued to develop the Riverside camp grounds, acquiring slab lumber and tarps to make cabins, digging a well, and so on. In 1948 Mr. Aspin's garage was moved from Warrensville to be used as a tabernacle - dinning room. A kitchen was added to one end and a wing sections along the sides for extra room.

In those days the camp fee was a meager $3.75. The ladies of the area continued to can fruit and vegetables for camp and helped supply chickens and so on.

It must have been a bad year for weather for it was in 1949 that the camp itself broke up mid-week because of the rain and leaking roofs. 
1st building - dining hall, kitchen, and staff residence
"The dining hall was poles with branches on top for shade, fortunately not much rain to bother. We took a cow for milk and it was tethered out. Rosella Heppner milked."
- Nana Aspin
 "Bible camp was always a highlight of our summer and we would be there each year (1946- 1960). We would meet new friends and have many a good softball game. Our cabins were quite cosy when everyone got settled in. My days at camp have been a real strengthening in my Christian life today."
- Joyce Sklapsky

1950-1953

During these years the camp progressed in several significant ways. A charter membership was formed, utensils for the camp were sought; one source was surplus supplies from the Alaska Highway camp south of Fort St. John. The camp also held its first young people's camp the summer of 1951. Camp fee at this time was $5.00. and expansion at the grounds involved procuring lumber and cement to put up a 32 X 66 tabernacle for meetings.

1954

1954 - Phyllis McLean & class in front of slab cabin
 "When I first arrived at the Riverside Gospel Camp bringing with me a group of children from Nampa, it was the first time in my life that I had ever attended any kind of camp. It was certainly not because of experience or Bible knowledge that I was made a cabin leader. I was a young Christian and had rarely attended church as a child. I think it was because I was Ron McLean's sister and because teachers are supposed to know something.  Whatever the reason it gave me the privilege of attending the worker's prayer meeting."
- Phyllis McLean
"On Saturday, July 6, 1954 I arrived at Riverside Bible Camp after a two-day drive from Edmonton. On the way I had some problems with my 1928 model A Ford, so I slept in the car and fixed it the next day.  Bible camp at Riverside was an important part of what God was doing in the north peace area. Many of the young people attended camp, there was many salvation decisions and lots of spiritual growth in that ideal environment."
- Leslie Grove
Kitchen/Dining Hall/Chapel
"Everybody pitched in and soon we had three slab cabins for boys three for girls and a cooks cabin. The kitchen and tabernacle were one building which was brought from Warrensville Gospel Mission."
- Nana Aspin

1957-1960

1957
A new cabin was built by Herman Wiebe and Walter Simpson and added to the camp facilities which now consisted of the arch-roofed tabernacle, the kitchen, slab cabins, two outhouses, speaker's cabin and four new lumber cabins. Materials were ordered and new tick were sewn up.

1959
A  fifth new cabin was built to help out the 105 campers that attended this year. Over half the camper were new this year.

1960

Another new cabin was built in Mr. Wiebe's yard and transported to the camp site. Two camps were held this year one being a children's camp and the other a teen camp.
"The camp day started with morning push-ups and a run around the camp before breakfast. There was Bible study in the morning and cabin clean-up in the slab buildings with the straw mattress. In the afternoon there was sleep time for a hour and craft time. There were ball games and swimming in the river. Then there was suppertime (the meals were good) and then evening service."
- Judy Boldtford
"The significance and lasting, long-reaching effect of Riverside Bible Camp on my own life and countless other campers can not be adequately measured. We just desire with our efforts and prayers to make camp that type of joyful and wholesome experience for so many other precious and deserving campers."
- Donna Nickel

1961

1961 Teen Camp

1964-1965

Swimming pool, used from 1964-1975
1964
This summer during teen camp the swimming pool was started. The concrete was mixed and hauled by hand to form the walls. The pool bottom was plastic covered with sand. The floor was added in 1966.

1965
Later that summer, after camp time, the group from Deadwood Gospel Fellowship went to the camp site. Mr. Metro Goodzeck remembers, "we came up for a picnic and it started to rain so we moved into the chapel and moved everything to the side to play games. The Lord was saving the things from being destroyed in the snow." This relocation later saved the furniture when the roof collapsed after a very heavy snow fall.
"Whenever we would see a cloud in the sky we would ask the Lord to let it rain on the farmer, but please not on us."
- Rosella Heppner
Group around the campfire, 1970s
Dining Hall
"Nature is especially fitted for teaching us of God. Jesus never spoke without using visual aides that were divinely created. The beauty of creation is a testimony to the spirit of life."
- Joyce Brownlee

1967-1968

1967
The year the new kitchen was built it went up quickly. Mr. Goodzeck remembers that the plywood and rafters lumber was delivered to the campsite about three days before the camp started. The next day a bunch of men and young fellows worked on the kitchen and got it up. That afternoon after work, Mr. Deller went back to Manning to get shingles. The man working at the lumber yard said, "I just delivered the materials yesterday and you need shingles already?" "Yes," said Mr. Deller. "Well, I'll believe it when I see it, " was the reply. "I was just there," answered Mr. Deller, "and it is up already."

1968
A list of camp assets at this time read: 15.46 acres of land, cookhouse, five cabins, one registration cabin, one speaker's cabin, one cabin, swimming pool, chapel and two washrooms. A large stove was donated to the camp by a gentlemen in Grimshaw which was moved to the camp by Mr. Owen Bayne.
 "From the time I can remember, I looked forward to the summer when I would be old enough to attend Bible camp, and after my first experience, my enthusiasm continued for many years."
- Jodi Schroeder

1969-1972

1969
The Whitemud River was dredged which unfortunately affected the bank next to the swimming pool.

1972

Once again improvements were done to the camp facilities, thirty new foam mattresses and a propane refrigerator were purchased.  An assortment of plates, cups and bowls were added to the collection and a wash house was built and moved to the camp. The Whitemud River continued to erode the bank by the swimming pool, concern was felt by the board members and many possible solutions were discussed. Mr. McLaren reported on the swimming pool and the slide behind it coming to no practical solution.
"There are those whom we know went into the ministry or to foreign fields as missionaries. Many I have met, then and now, again say, 'I remember you from camp.'"
- Phyllis Stuart
"Riverside Bible Camp's request for a teen counselor in 1973 fulfilled a need for me and I was eager to share a week with the campers. The next summer I returned for two weeks and the thrill of seeing young lives turn to Jesus was tremendous."
- Jodi Schroeder

1973

Canoes were borrowed, as well as the water tank and truck from Metro Screpnek, double sinks from Novaks, cutlery from the Reno Baptist church and the power plant from the Dellers. From this year on Metro Screpnek has lent his water tank and big truck to the camp for us to use for the duration of the camp. Some more upgrading was done to the pool and new sports equipment was added to the growing list of equipment. Twenty more foam mattresses were purchased as well as a new chimney for the kitchen. Gone were the days of stuffing ticks with straw.

1975

The new chapel was built this summer with the old kitchen-chapel being torn down in three days and the new chapel built on the same location the next day. Both men and women worked together, pounding nails, sawing or whatever. Added to the camp regulations were requirements for the counselors and, with the changing styles, a dress code for the campers and workers.
"Being one of the third generation attendees of Riverside Bible Camp, from the Aspen clan, it is likely that most of my experiences at the camp have been experienced by other members of the family. For some reason they seem to recall me wildly brandishing a broom whenever disciplinary action was essential. Actually it was for my own self-preservation and self confidence."
- Troy Collett

1976

First Family Camp, 1976
This year brought many first-time workers to camp as directors, counselors and nurse. This was also the year the first official family Bible camp was held with Mr. and Mrs. Bill Liner speaking. Ruby Tunke came on as nurse and insisted all the girls take a bath. So a tent was set up and a shower was made behind cabin number five complete with a ladder so that the "ketchup can sprinkler" could be refilled easily after each use.
"A week at Riverside Camp holds many memories for me. As a child and teenager my annual vacation to camp was the highlight of the summer. The resort on the River Whitemud! Since vacations were rare at the time, and particularly to our family, this was indeed the ultimate vacation."
- Faye Collett

1977-1978

1977
Many improvements were added to camp this year. In May a young people's group from Peace River Baptist Church along with their sponsors painted the outside of the six cabins. The Goodzeck men upgraded the road going into the camp, working in June with heavy equipment. A power plant was purchased and set on wheels ready to be moved.

1978
The camp grounds were used the May-long weekend by the young people from the Peace River Baptist Church for hosting a retreat for the young people from the area. The weekend proved to be very wet, but was also spiritually reviving as the Lord was sought. 

1979

Family camp started June 30th and ran a full week. Leslie Grove of Japan Evangelical Mission in Brazil brought the missionary emphasis to the camp. The camp was also enriched by the musical ministry of the Grove family and their string instruments. Phyllis McLean from UFM International in Brazil joined us mid-week and added to the challenge for missions. Camp this year was broken into two groups of one week each due to the number of campers the previous year. The first camp held forty-nine campers and the second camp of twenty-seven. Teen camp was then held with twenty-six campers attending.
"We first visited the camp in 1980. We settled into our camp quarters knowing that we did not have to get up and pack to move on. Having lived in Karachi for twenty years we found living in the Peace River country colder than our coldest winter weather, and this was July."
- Bob and Ruth Montgomery, Camp Directors

1980

A bunkhouse trailer had been purchased before camp time from Estabrook Construction and rebuilt into a staff housing and shower unit trailer. A storage trailer was also constructed which housed the deep freezers, refrigerators, water pump and some groceries during camp time. A cistern was installed for water storage and new canoes were purchased.

Faces from Our Past




1982

1982
The Homecoming Celebration Year
Since 1946, thirty-six consecutive years of Christian camping have been held at this present site of Riverside Bible Camp. The Lord has blessed every year, bringing campers and workers together for a little while, to spend extra time in the Word of God, to find purpose and satisfaction for each person. Under the directorship of Roy Montgomery, the Homecoming Family camp commenced June 30th, with Walter McNaughton, one of the camp founders, speaking at the evening service. Many families stayed at the camp while others came frequently to visit, sharing during the reminiscing times, to play horseshoes or baseball, and attend chapel services. A total of some 72 families were represented with 158 signing the guest book.
Current Dining Hall, Kitchen, and Main Building
Our current Main Building, which houses the Dining Room and Kitchen.
"As we draw to a close this time period, I wish to thank the people of the first generations of the Riverside Bible Camp. Without your dedication to the camp and cherished words of wisdom, this section of the site could not have been completed. For all your struggles and all your hours of dedication let us not forget, and hopefully continue with this and allow the next generation to experience the joys that you have come to cherish, and remember that all is for the glory of God."
- Not attributed
Share by: