Henry and Ruth Geiger moved from Pennsylvania to Overton County, Tenn., in 1922 and set up housekeeping and ministry in a century-old log cabin in the rural farming community of Oak Grove. They had two horses, which they rode to other communities in the area where Henry would preach and they would establish Sunday schools.
Henry had served in World War I as a Navy gunner, bombardier and radio operator; enjoyed a brief and successful experience in the business world; and then felt called to the ministry. He graduated from Philadelphia College of the Bible before he and his new bride moved south to Tennessee.
When their oldest children– twin sons – were born, the Geigers bought some land nearby and built the home where they would live for nearly 60 years. In the late 1920s, after about five years of ministry, local judges and doctors encouraged them to establish a home for needy children in the county, some of whom were in dire circumstances. They bought a 40-acre farm adjoining their property and opened the orphanage in 1931.
They had no organization behind them, the Great Depression had hit, and support from churches and friends in the East was unpredictable and limited. But God always provided and they never went into debt. With the help of a remarkably skilled and self-reliant neighbor – Elmer Ledford – Henry became a competent farmer, gardener, cattleman and handyman. And with lots of hard work from their own sons and those from the children’s home, everyone ate well.
By the early 1940s, most of the children in the orphanage were grown or had been placed with families, and the Geigers decided to begin a Bible camp on the property. By that time, Henry had become well-known in Overton County as Brother Geiger.
Realizing that they couldn’t have a camp without a place to swim, Henry decided to dam up the creek that flowed through the little valley between their home and the property that had been the children’s home. That pool – which has been significantly updated through the years – has served the camp since 1942. It stands as a monument to what can be accomplished with very limited manpower and resources by someone with a clear vision, relentless perseverance and incredibly hard work.
The first buildings at the camp were those that had served as housing for the orphanage. Hawkeye Lodge – still in use today — is one of those early buildings, although it has been updated and remodeled. Over the years, the camp added cabins, a bathhouse, a small canoe lake, and other facilities.
The Geigers were involved in the leadership of the camp until Henry’s death in 1983. At that time, Allen and Eileen Steele, who had been serving at the camp, assumed leadership. Cedar Lake continued to grow under their able stewardship, adding a canoeing camp, constructing a new dining hall after one of the other original buildings burned, and building a larger canoe lake. The Steeles served as camp directors through 2007.
Daniel Stewart joined the camp as director of ministries in 2008 and Ryan Higgins came on board as director of programs the following year. Under their leadership, the camp continued to grow. They added a backpacking camp, Fall Nature Camp and a WAM Camp – a camp held during spring break that helps children enhance their appreciation of worship, art and music.
Ryan now serves as executive director and was joined by Jared and Megan Marsh in 2013 as associate director and day camp director. Angela Scantland joined the team full-time in 2014 and serves as the camp adminstrator.
And we have an exciting future. Plans continue to develop that will enable us to better serve the needs of campers, families and groups year-round. Stay tuned!