Merrie-Woode is a sanctuary of rarest beauty which inspires a lasting awareness of God’s presence. The Mission of Camp Merrie-Woode is to use that setting to nurture the physical, intellectual and spiritual growth of girls and young women through traditional camp activities and outdoor adventures. In this friendly, non-competitive community of simplified living, each individual is valued for who she is and who she will become.
Merrie-Woode is a traditional wilderness summer camp devoted to nurturing the physical, intellectual and spiritual growth of girls and young women in a beautiful, natural setting. The values of simplified living, warm personal relationships and a love of nature bind our large community of campers, staff and alumnae.
Living in rustic quarters, campers explore their interests and build their skills in areas of their choice. Our programming focuses on self-discovery, offering an array of outdoor and indoor activities in a non- competitive setting. Campers are encouraged to set goals and may, over time, achieve a high level of competence, gaining self-confidence in the process.
We strive to attract campers, staff and camp families from varied backgrounds who value youthful time spent in nature. Merrie-Woode is a place where every girl is supported as an individual while acquiring a deepened awareness of God’s creation and an expanded awareness of the world around her. Merrie-Woode’s campers have gone on to contribute to their communities in meaningful ways throughout their lifetimes, in part because of the rich network of friendships and core values of fair play, sustained effort and respect for others that they gained while at Camp Merrie-Woode.
The History of Camp Merrie-Woode
Founded in 1919, Lake Fairfield Camp opened under the leadership of Marjorie Harrison, an English professor from Tazewell, VA.
Mabel Pye Day, a leader in the girls camping movement with the YWCA in New York, purchased the camp in 1922 with Lake Fairfield Camp’s Head Counselor, Mary Turk. It was Mrs. Day who changed the name of the camp to Camp Merrie-Woode. Dammie, as she was known by her campers, was born to British immigrants and established Merrie-Woode’s old English traditions. “I knew I wanted an imaginative and meaningful name,” Dammie wrote, “and one night the name came so clearly to me – Merrie-Woode…for it is a merry wood and campers will always make it so.” Dammie’s legacy of honor and appreciation of simple living and acquiring “eyes that see” the beauty of God’s world was emphasized in activities which taught the importance of a life of service. Dammie remained director for the next 30 summers, establishing Merrie-Woode as one of the premier girls camps in the South at the height of the girls camping movement in the country.
Following the 1951 season, the camp was sold to Fritz and Augusta Orr of Atlanta, who with their son Fritz, Jr. and his wife, Dottie, operated Merrie-Woode until 1978. The Orrs were great outdoor enthusiasts and were especially instrumental in building a strong canoeing and wilderness program.
Upon the Orrs’ retirement in 1978, Hugh Caldwell, a Sewanee, The University of the South, philosophy professor and Merrie-Woode staff member since 1952, led alumnae to form the Merrie-Woode Foundation, Inc., a non-profit corporation with the sole purpose of owning and operating Camp Merrie-Woode. Through the generous support of the Merrie-Woode family, the foundation purchased the camp in 1979. With the establishment of the Merrie-Woode Foundation, the camp is now in effect owned and operated by its former campers. Dr. Caldwell served as the first director under the new Foundation. He stayed through the summer of 1985 and was followed by Art and Carolyn Kramer. The Kramers directed the camp from 1985 – 1989.
From 1990 – 2002, Gordon and alumna, Laurie Turner Strayhorn, served as the directors. They succeeded to maintain the historic architecture during a period of extensive renovations to many of camp’s buildings and facilities.
In 2002, Denice and Jim Dunn began their tenure as directors of Camp Merrie-Woode. The Dunns strive to continue the rich traditions founded by their predecessors. They have worked to preserve the historic grounds and our surrounding land as well as Merrie-Woode’s history and unique story within the American camping movement.
"Thirty years is a beautiful long time to have built my life into Merrie-Woode, and I’m just thankful that it still means so much to those who love it.” -Dammie Day
Find more information about our archives on the CMW Centennial Archives page.
In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or
(3) email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
This institution is operated under special use permit by the Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests.