Brantwood Camp opened for the first time in the summer of 1904, as a rural retreat for boys from the Episcopal parishes in and around Boston. It was the dream child of one man, the Reverend Donald Browne, an Episcopal clergyman from Massachusetts. Browne had first visited the mountainside between Greenfield and Peterborough, New Hampshire in 1900, and he had named it "Brantwood" because its magnificent view was reminiscent of the one from John Ruskin's famous hillside home of that name, located in England's Lake District. Under Browne's direction the Camp flourished and grew, due in no small part to the generous support of Mrs. Mary Lyon Cheney, a wealthy resident of Peterborough.
In 1917, however, Brantwood was forced to close its doors. The entry of the United States into the Great War was the reason for this. The demands of both industry and the military made it almost impossible to find men to work at the Camp as counselors. It looked as though the history of the Brantwood experiment would be short-lived indeed.
Mary Lyon Cheney's only son, William H. Cheney had been killed in the skies over Italy while serving as a Lieutenant in the World War 1. His mother, by 1919 Mrs. Mary Cheney Schofield, was determined to raise an appropriate memorial to her son, and she found his old headmaster at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, the Rev. William G. Thayer, quite receptive to her idea. St. Mark's was seeking a regular community service opportunity for its students, and Mrs. Schofield proposed that the school take over Brantwood and re-open the Camp in memory of her son.
In the winter of 1920, Dr. Thayer, Mr. Maurice Blake of the St. Mark's faculty, and St. Mark's alumnus and seminarian Gardner Monks, traveled to Peterborough, where they met Hugh and Bertha Murphy, caretakers of the original Brantwood. It was decided that the Brantwood experiment would be revived and continued under the auspices of St. Mark's School.
St. Mark's directors such as John Harris, Walden Pell, Wing Pepper, Brinley Hall, and others followed in the footsteps of Messrs. Blake and Monks, guiding Brantwood during the 1920s and keeping it vibrant and alive throughout the challenges of the Great Depression.
With the advent of the Second World War, concern was again raised as to the future of Brantwood Camp at a time when, due to the military and industrial needs of the war effort, qualified male counselors might be difficult to find. Warren Winslow, Skip Ervin, Ned Hall, and Bill Parsons, all young St. Mark's graduates and Brantwood leaders, had gone into the armed forces, and Brantwood's prospects were at best uncertain. Into the breach stepped Charles T. Cook, a 1936 graduate of St. Mark's School, who had served under Hall as Assistant Director. A childhood brush with polio made him ineligible for military service, so Brantwood became Charlie Cook's "moral equivalent for war" and ran Brantwood for many years. After the war, Mr. Hall joined Mr. Cook as co-Director, and together they brought Brantwood into the century's second half. It was on their watch that former campers came on to the Brantwood staff regularly as counselors. It was under their guidance that Brantwood was integrated. It was part of their charge that Brantwood adapt to and change with the times.
After twenty years at the Brantwood helm, Charlie Cook retired in the early 1960s, and for the first time a former camper, George Topka, assumed the directorship. He was followed by another Brantwood alumnus, Mike Razza, and together they helped guide the Camp through the turbulent '60s. Mr. Razza's Assistant Director, St. Marker Stephen G. DiCicco, then became the next Director of Brantwood Camp.
In the autumn of 1972 Mr. DiCicco appointed a Brantwood Program Evaluation Committee to study what Brantwood could do for girls. St. Mark's School had recently become coeducational. A Brantwood Trustee Committee was appointed in 1978 to further explore the possibility of "Brantwood for Girls." The Committee's report was heard by the Board during the summer of 1980, and the following January, Brantwood's trustees voted that the Director should "plan all necessary steps to implement a single girls' term during the summer of 1982."
And so it came to be. The first term of Brantwood for Girls was held during the 1982 summer, and since that time girls have been an integral part of the Brantwood family, sharing the same Brantwood experience that meant so much to their brothers and fathers. After several years at a variety of sites (including the Brantwood Hill, Camp Holiday in Milford NH, and Camp Quinapoxit in Rindge), Brantwood for Girls returned home to a new campus constructed just off the Brantwood Road on the Greenfield side of Sand Hill. For more about the history of Brantwood over the last quarter century, a sequel to the Brantwood History, written by Camp Historian Nick Noble, is being prepared. TO HONOR THE TRUST is currently available for purchase.