In 1993, husband and wife team Rich and Jayne Morell of Mountain Lakes NJ were in New Hampshire scouting properties in the hopes of making their dream a reality. With their young family in tow, the husband and wife team were in search of a place where they could share their love of and enthusiasm for education, recreation, and athletics. After graduating from Lock Haven University with degrees in Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Rich and Jayne set out into the world to gain real life experience working with children of all ages. In 1991, after Rich had earned his Masters in Physical Education Administration, they decided to spend a summer working at a traditional sleep away camp in Maine, as they had both done while in college. That summer, working as the Athletic Director and Head of the Gymnastics Program, with their young children by their side, Rich and Jayne came to the realization that there was nothing better or more rewarding to do in the world. Rich and Jayne began to explore the possibility of opening their own sleepaway camp and, on a tip from Rich’s brother, traveled to New Durham, New Hampshire to visit a potential location. Within five minute of pulling into 333C Birch Hill Rd, Rich knew that this would be the home of his own summer camp.
1840’s – 1930’s
The Fletcher family is the first we know of to make their home on this site. The Fletcher’s farmed the area (known even then as Birch Hill) and, while many members of the family had moved from the area by the 1880’s, brothers Tristram and James maintained a special place in their hearts for their childhood home and continued to visit. For several years between 1897-1901, a group of as many as 200 former residents gathered at Birch Hill for an annual reunion and picnic. There were songs, speeches and poems delivered to reminisce about times past and long-lost friends.
Recollections of Birch Hill by James A. Fletcher T’was in eighteen hundred and forty-three, the year of the advent jubilee, We lived with our father and mother dear, out yonder field in that far back year, We roamed these fields and woodland fair, with spirits free as the mountain air, We were young kids then our cares were few, so we romped and played the whole day through, As years passed on and we older grew, we soon found plenty of work to do, Father then worked at the blacksmith’s trade, and many an ox and horseshoe made, We blew the bellows – we remember it yet – while he made the nails the shoes to set, We helped plant the potatoes and spread the hay, and need to stow the loads away, Our first lessons in labor we took right here, on this Birch Hill Farm we love so dear.
The property at Birch Hill remained a farm through 1929, when it was acquired by Guy Wilson, a professor at Boston University. After meeting a young married couple from Needham, MA, Philip and Lorraine Claxton (both educators) Approximately fifty acres were cleared and two, two-story houses, a large storage shed and an outhouse on the property were dedicated for camp use. While there was no electricity, plumbing or any sort of running water, three additional cabins were built for the boys. Even in its first summer, Birch Hill Camp offered many activities, including horseback riding, taught by a Native American said to have been hired from out west. The original Birch Hill Camp was operational for only three summers. In 1933, lightning struck the main house and caused a fire, resulting in the loss of all the Claxton’s equipment. While financial constraints caused by the Great Depression made it impossible for the Claxtons to reinvigorate their camp, the groundwork had been laid to facilitate the future growth of what would later become Camp Birch Hill.
A Letter Home [A combination of two letters from Camper Marshall Birkett to his parents Postmarked August 4, 1930] Dear Folks at Home, I hope you are having as good a time as Ken and I are. I received your packages of bathrobes and all the things you sent with it are highly received. I went swimming this morning for the first time and had a great time but we have to wear tights because there are some girls on the lake. I got the pictures that I took at Mt. Washington, and they came out perfect. I am going to take a picture of the dog, Loddie, he is a big dog who is half Collie and half St. Bernard. I have gotten a little sunburn but it is going away now. Tuesday night we went up to “Devil’s Den” , where we slept overnight. Most of the guys got up at 2 o’clock and made a fire to keep warm. Devil’s Den used to be one of natures constructions that was widely known and visited, but now nobody knows about it, and is way in the woods. A few days ago, Dick, Garrett, and I went to New Durham on the horses with Larry the horse instructor for a ride. My seat was so sore the next day. I would like to know if you gave Mr Claxton any money for us to use, if so, how much? I want to know because each night they have a store open in the back of the dining house and we can buy candy by charging it to an account. We’re all well and happy. Will write again soon. Lovingly, Marshall
1940’s – 1990’s
Throughout the 1940s, 50s and the early part of the 60s, Dr. Maurice Berlin was able to pick up where the Claxtons had left off when he opened Birch Hill Camp for Girls. The camp was run by Dr. Berlin’s daughter, Shirley Berlin Goldbarg, along with Ed “Pop” Rosenthal and “Aunt” Sarah Rosenthal. It was during this time that most of Birch Hill’s current infrastructure was constructed, including many of the buildings and tree lined paths that are present today. The Camp ran for eight weeks and enrolled up to 150 girls (most from New England’s metropolitan areas) and boasted a wide variety of activities. When Paul and Iona Boroff bought the camp in the mid 60s, Birch Hill was transitioned to a co-ed camp. There are many pictures and memories that former campers have shared with us from this period. Two or three times a summer we are honored with visits from former campers and counselors interested to see what has become of Birch Hill. We are lucky to have the opportunity to share in the love they still have for their childhood summer camp through their stories of color wars, camp songs, and tennis matches. Overall, what stands out the most are the stories of the lasting relationships that were forged at Birch Hill.
1990’s – Present
After several years of disuse, the property at Camp Birch Hill had fallen into disrepair but the Morells had the vision and determination to bring the Camp back to its former glory. In addition to repairs to the existing infrastructure, Rich and Jayne set in motion a number of upgrades and improvements that make Camp Birch Hill a premier destination for kids in search of friendship, adventure, and independence. Under the Morell’s direction, Camp Birch Hill is thriving and paving the way for the classic New England summer camp experience to remain relevant in the 21st Century. Camp Birch Hill is rooted in the traditions and ideals that have captured the hearts of generations of campers, and is always looking to the future to ensure a lifetime of Friendships and Memories. Each summer, 180-200 Boys and Girls ages 6-16 find their Home Away From Home. Camp Birch Hill’s elective program allows campers choose from more than 50 different activities to create a unique experience during their 2, 4 or 6 week stay. Nightly programs, campfires, socials, overnight campouts, exciting off-camp excursions and more, provide our campers with a fun filled, productive and memorable summer!