History of Camp Eastman


One hundred and four years ago (1840), Adolphus Allen, a sturdy pioneer and ex-soldier, secured from the government, a tract of land lying south of Larry's Creek on the Mississippi River, in what is now known as Hancock County, Illinois.

No white man before had ever held title to this land.  In previous years, the Sac and Fox Indians had roamed and made their camps, and for countless years they had portaged their canoes around the long rapids that lay in the river front.

This hunting ground of the Sac and Fox Indians, this homestead of a sturdy pioneer has come down through the years, through a succession of owners, diving it into small irregular lots, numbered for convenience of record, until now they are held by a Camp Corporation, forming a Boy Scout camp known as Camp Eastman.

The following is a summary.  To view full details of the history of Camp Eastman, contact the Burlington Field office.

Chapter 1

The Boy Scouts in Burlington, Iowa, were organized and sponsored by the Burlington Rotary Club in 1917.

The first Council was formed that year, and it was a local, or Burlington organization.  Later, in 1928, the movement was expanded to include the surrounding territory, comprising Des Moines, Lee, Henry, and Louisa Counties in Iowa, and a part of Henderson County in Illinois, and named it the Southeast Iowa Council.  The Scout camps were held in several places during the firs few years as follows:

Near Oquawka, in 1918, some land and a shelter house were purchased in "East Burlington", now known as Gulfport, near the east end of the wagon bridge, where, in 1919 and 1920, camps were held.

Wishing to be farther away from Burlington, the camp authorities located a spot not far from Augusta, on the Skunk River, and named the camp, "Nawakwa".  There they held the summer camp for four years, namely, 1921, 1922, 1923, and 1924.  From there they moved to another spot not far away, and called it "Snake Den", where the 1925 camp was held.

The Rotary Club, wanting a permanent camp site, appointed a camp site committee, charged with the duty of finding a suitable location.  Continuing their diligent search, a party of eleven Rotarians on May 21, 1926, while traveling south along the Mississippi River, in Illinois, came upon a spot at the mouth of Larry's Creek, seven and one-half miles south of Nauvoo, which impressed everyone of the committee so favorably that they unanimously decided to acquire rights to camp there either by leasing some of the land or by purchase.

A lease was finally secured, giving the right to camp on, and roam over a tract of 80 acres belonging to Mr. George R. Peak.  A Mr. R. A. Pancake of Hamilton, Illinois, had built a summer shelter there which the Rotarians purchased for $450.  In 1926, later on, they built an addition costing $200.  This building was used by the campers for their mess hall.  They set up tents to sleep in.  Mr. Pancake secured a lease from Mr. Peak on several acres nearby for a term of seven years and built a summer cottage there.  Wanting more free room for the camp, the Rotary Club finally negotiated the purchase of this cottage and the relinquishment of the lease for which the paid $586.  Then, on February 13, 1930, Mr. Peak sold to the Rotary Club, 12 1/2 acres of his land for one thousand dollars, which made the Scouts and Scouters feel more secure than to have only a lease on the land, and this established permanently, the location of the Boy Scout Camp. The land lying around this nucleus is divided into a number of irregular lots.

The camp at that time was known as"Camp Burro", the reason for naming it so, was this:  By taking the first three letters from the name, Burlington, and the first two letters from Rotary, we have the word Burro, meaning Burlington Rotary.  The camp was operated under this name for the years 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930.

Chapter 2

Mrs. E. P. Eastman, about this time became interested in Scouting, and this interest grew with each succeeding year.  Loving the outdoors, she took kindly to the Boy Scout camp, and in July of 1930, she purchased for the camp, an additional 15 1/2 acres from Mr. Roy W. Pilkington. 

All the other tracts of land composing the camp site have been conveyed by straight warranty deeds and carry no burden.  A holding company composed of nine directors was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, on the 25th day of May, 1931, as a non-profit corporation for the purpose of holding the lands and properties of the camp.  Said company to be known as the Boy Scout Camp Corporation with its Illinois headquarters located at Hamilton, Illinois. 

From this time on, Mrs. E. P. Eastman became a frequent contributor to this very worthy enterprise, for which the Scouts and Scouters have shown and expressed their very great appreciation.

The Rotary Club, up to this time, had invested the total sum of $3,223.80 in land, buildings and equipment.  All of this they transferred to the Boy Scout Camp Corporation by a final deed dated December 21, 1931.  The name of the camp was changed to "Camp Eastman" on July 24, 1930; in a ceremony where a marble stone was set to mark the place and date, bearing the new name of the camp.

Mrs. Eastman continued to purchase and add additional tracts, including on December 3, 1936 a tract that gave the camp an unbroken shore line of 7,250 feet and a total of 137 1/2 acres of land for the camp.

In June of 1933, a serpentine road was surveyed and graded leading up the bluff from the concrete highway below, to the level land above the river. 

During the summer of 1935, Mrs. Eastman caused to build, in memory of her husband, a stone lodge which is known as "Eastman Lodge", and equipped it with heavy oak tables and benches, dishes, refrigerator, copper pipe water system, and other things necessary, at a cost of well over $10,000.  Mrs. Eastman spread the cement, and helped in placing the corner stone for this building on the 3rd day of June, 1935, with an appropriate corner stone ceremony, attended by many Rotarians, friends, and interested Scouts, Scouters, and neighbors.

1942, witnessed the construction of a home for the caretaker, contributed again by Mrs. Eastman.  In 1943, she provided a concrete block building; half to be used for recreation and a canteen and the other half for storage, nicknamed the "Bee Hive". 

The Order of Eagles contributed $800.00 to build four sleeping cabins and later on in 1943, they gave an additional sum to re-roof and refit these buildings.  The group of buildings was known as the "Eagles' Nest".  The V.F.W. of Mt. Pleasant gave funds for a Troop cabin which was used to house the summer Camp Staff.

Chapter 3

Late in 1957 the Council's Executive Board appointed a long range planning committee.  November 19, 1958 a long range plan calling for improvements and expenditures amounting to $213,000 was adopted by the Council and on February 24, 1960 the decision was made to engage in a major capital campaign which eventually raised in excess of $160,000.

The summer of 1961 saw the completion of a major camp improvement with the building of Burg Hall, funds for which were given by Homer Burg of Dallas City, Illinois.

On September 28th, 1960 the Council purchased approximately 5 acres of land, bringing our camp property to a total of 142 1/2 acres.

Through the generosity of Labor Trades of Southeast Iowa, a new three bedroom ranger's home was completed in March of 1964.  The W. O. Peterson Council Ring was also completed in 1964.  This amphitheater type Council Ring was made possible by a memorial gift dedicated to the memory of W. O. Peterson, an outstanding Burlington civic leader of his time.  Also in 1964 the first phase of the swimming pool project was completed with the building of the shower house.  This year also saw two more land purchases, bringing Camp Eastman to 200 acres.

With the completion of the pool in 1965, it was no longer necessary to swim in the river.  The health, safety and convenience that the pool offered were many.   Pawnee campsite was also developed and named this year.

The Spring of 2000 saw the camp connected to Rural water and June 10, 2000 the new Shower house was dedicated.

more information to come...