History of Sparrow Lake Camp

Pictures Through Time - 1951

Sparrow Lake Camp is situated on the southern-most tip of the majestic Canadian Shield.  The site is known to have been a camp ground for bands of the Huron people prior to the European intrusion.  It is considered highly probable that Samuel de Champlain, the first European to explore Huronia, spent a night on this site in the 17th Century.

Here’s a timeline of the people and associations that have roots at our camp:

1892-- Toronto's renowned Massey family selected this property as the location for their family resort. The property was purchased in 1892 from pioneer Captain Thomas Stanton. It was about 85 acres and was used by various branches of the Massey Family. There was a main lodge, dining room, and cottages. Vincent Massey, a former Governor-General refers to it in his autobiography. From their earliest trips to the property by train and steamer (for that was the only way to get here), the Masseys used the site as a retreat for the Young Men's Bible League of the Central Methodist Church.  The Camp's link with Central Methodist would prove to be an enduring one.  Succumbing to growing fears of isolation in the event of a fire or tragedy the Massey family abandoned their luxurious estate in 1905 and allowed the Methodist ministers to use the site for family vacations. 

1912-- After a series of proposed business ventures failed to get off the ground, the Masseys decided to donate the property to the Church for use as a camp site for disadvantaged boys from Toronto.  Sparrow Lake Camp had come into existence.

1916 – Girls were included in the summer program. Boys attended in July and the girl’s camps were in August.

1925-- The camp, together with its sister camp, Camp Scugog, became United Church camps at the time of the church union (1925). 

1926-- The Langmuir's Point property was adjacent to Sparrow Lake Camp and was purchased by the Toronto Home Missions Council. This enlarged the Camp from 85 acres to about 130 acres, making it one of the largest of the United Church. The present camp buildings were constructed. The camp was led by Reverend Neal of the Toronto Home Mission Council for the first twenty-eight years of its operation.

1940-- A dedicated United Church lay person, Morgan Crockford, organized a joint Sparrow Lake-Scugog Management Committee.  In the same year, Dr. Clifford Torrance succeeded Rev. Neal as President of the Toronto Home Mission Council and thus assumed leadership of the camp which he maintained until his retirement in 1968. 

1968-- Following Dr. Torrance's retirement from camping, the present system of a ‘camp director’ with a paid staff was instituted.  Prior to this point all staff at Sparrow Lake had worked on a strictly volunteer basis.

1977-- The Scugog and Sparrow Lake boards separated forming a new Management Committee for each camp.  Sparrow Lake has continued to grow since then, increasing its facil¬ities and programs each year to meet the needs of each successive generation of campers. 

1982-- A 'Pee-Wee' camp was introduced for children aged 5-7.  After over 80 years, Sparrow Lake Camp continues each summer to provide camping opportunities for the 576 youth to whom the camp is dedicated.

2002 – Due to changes in United Church Policy the camp becomes an Incorporated Ministry of the church and is now managed by a Board of Directors The camp’s official name becomes Sparrow Lake United Church Camp Inc.

2006 – The camps introduces a Family Camp Weekend on the mid summer weekend.  The four day Peewee camp becomes integrated into the regular camp and a 1 week sessions are offered

2008 – A 2 year leadership program is created.  The LIT (15 year olds) program offers hard skill training in areas of swimming, canoeing, sailing and leadership.  The CIT (16 year olds) offers an introduction to couselling skills.

2010 - Sparrow Lake Camp becomes part of South West Presbytery of the Toronto Conference.  Thanks to a generous gift from the former St. Luke's United Church, the Dining Hall is refurbished.

2011 - Sparrow Lke beomes accredited as a Private School and can now offer High School Credits for the LIT and CIT programs.

2012-- Celebrating 100 years camping excellence! Sparrow Lake Camp is still a thriving camp program!

2016 - Executive Director Rob Crew retired from Sparrow Lake Camp.

2017 - Celebrates105 years of camping and introduces new Executive Director, Barb Weeden