Old Camp Billy Gibbons
The first summer camp to be held on the Billy Gibbons ranch was in the summer of 1931. The camp fee was $5.50 per person. The Scouts had permission to hike and explore over the some 50,000 acre ranch. The camp was a tent camp with no permanent buildings of any kind. There was a brush arbor put up for the cooks to use in preparing meals, and there was a tent to eat in. Some 100 Scouts and leaders attended this camp. An old "Popping Johnny" gasoline engine and pump supplied water for the camp from Brady Creek.
This first camp was under the leadership of O. E. Winebrenner, merit badge counselor; Bob Rankin, camp chairman; Cub Ragsdale, J. K. Wilkes, C. A. Meier, Tom Kellum, Roscoe Halliam, Henry Wilson, Hurch Stewatt, Cliff Pouncey, Dan Gill and Gaitha Browning of Brownwood; I. W. Phillips, Homer Tudor, Reece Jones, J. W. Heaton of Stephenville, Roy K. McCall, camp chaplain; Elvis Brown, Luster Morrison, Ed Fagg of San Saba; Rev. H. H. Dare, Bob Mayfield, R. L. Steen from Goldthwaite; Warren Taliaferro, Eric Matthews, Henry Ensters, W. A. Smith, Floyd Asher of Lampasas; J. E. Hansford, I. F. Harris, Joe Ashley from Blanket; Scout Executive H. B. Palmer of Uvalde, Chief Jim Red Eagle and Princes Inez from the Ruidoso Reservation. Two “professional cooks” were brought in from the Southwest Texas Council, probably the two cooks who had worked at Camp Fawcett that summer.
This is a photo of the first Camp Billy Gibbons felt patch. It was used in the early to mid 1930's This patch, shown here, is now located in the South Plains Council museum, Lubbock, TX, on the merit badge sash of the father of OA Lodge 150. It belonged to Frank A. "Chief" Runkles, an adult who was formerly a Scoutmaster in the Comanche Trail Council, BSA, in Troop 22 of Dublin.
Runkles served as Scoutmaster of the troop, which was sponsored by the Dublin Baptist Church, in 1936 and 1937, at the age of 26 and 27. The charter for Troop 22 later was moved to Early, is still active, and sponsored by the Brownwood Kiwanis Club.
John P. Kilgore, Brownwood, remembers serving on the so called Bull Gang that first year. The Bull Gang went down several days before camp opened to help set things up. One evening several of them were invited to Billy Gibbons’ home. It came a really hard rain. The San Saba River got up and they couldn't get back to camp. However, Kilgore remembers diving into the water and swimming across the river to get back to camp. The river was down the next morning and the other Scouts returned to camp.
Archery at camp in 1934 with homemade bows.They had campfires each night of camp, and Kilgore remembers winning the liar's contest one night. He also remembers the camp being a little bit unorganized. The Scouts themselves put on the program.
Uncle Billy Gibbons, as he was affectionately known to the Scouts, visited the camp several times while they were in session. Later, he said that he would give a free 99 year lease for this spot for a summer camp area to the then Pecan Valley Council.
The camp used an old truck to drive into town each day to get bread and ice. It took two hours to drive the some twelve miles to town. According to J. Arthur Thomason, the staff members that went into town with the truck found it was easier to walk along side the truck than in it because the ride was so rough.
A dining hall was added to the camp. The Council decided that the dining hall that belonged to the old Oil Belt Council, located on the Llano River at then Camp Martin, could be moved to the new camp site on Brady Creek. It was quite an ordeal. They took drawing pens and marked all the boards on the south side of the building with an "S," on the east with an "E," etc., until all four sides were marked. Moving trucks were loaded with the timber, and when they arrived at the Brady Creek site they unloaded the lumber and rebuilt the building easily. This first dining hall was a wooden structure with a tin roof and a screen band around the middle of the wall. Gravel was used for the floor.
The Bugle Call newspaper
was published for the first time. Guy Quirl, who was now the Scout
Executive of the newly organized Comanche Trail Council, brought the idea
of the daily camp newspaper with him from Camp Martin. In fact, the
first issue used “Volume V,” the first four volumes having been published
at Camp Martin. Wayne C. Sellers was the Editor and Homer Tudor was
the Art Editor. The sponsor was E. E. Lennon.
The old swimming hole in 1934.... ......The camp ran from July 19 to the 26. They had 224 Scouts and 33 leaders from twenty troops participate in the second year at Camp Billy Gibbons. Two trained nurses were provided to the camp courtesy of the Central Texas Hospital of Brownwood and were located in a First Aid tent by the site of the Headquarter's tent. Troops 17 and 18 were in camp with their band and provided music during the week.
Everyone was requested to get a rock and deposit it in a stack by the flag pole for the purpose of building a memorial to “Uncle Billy Gibbons,” who had passed away earlier that spring. Sunday was visitor’s day and a special memorial service was held at 2:30 p.m. for Billy Gibbons. During the service, each leader and scout in camp filed by a spot on the camp grounds and placed a native stone taken from the ranch. While the scout band played “Onward Christian Soldiers” three Eagle Scouts, Lloyd Smith, Louis Winebrenner and Herman Britt, placed a floral wreath on the rocks. Judge Baker of San Saba and a friend of Billy Gibbons, made the principle talk. The service was closed with everyone facing west, Scouts at attention, while “Taps” was played.
Eagle Scouts later built a memorial to Gibbons. The memorial was a flag pole with a nice rock base. When the camp was moved to the current Camp Billy Gibbons, the same kind of flag pole and base was built there.
This picture was taken of the "Canteen" at Camp Billy Gibbons in July of 1937. The canteen was nothing more that a tent but as you can see it was very popular.
During the summer camp of 1938 a big flood hit the camp. It was just at the end of the first week of camp, with another week to follow, when a head rise of several feet of water came down Brady Creek. It all started when one of the Scouts told Guy Quirl, the Camp Director, and said the creek is rising. He knew some of the Scouts were on the other side of the creek, so he sent a runner to tell them that he wanted them to come to camp in a hurry so they wouldn't get caught on the other side. They arrived and he had the camp bugler blow assembly in the mess hall. He told them that they were to stay on high ground on the upper bank. It wasn't long until a four foot wall of water came down. The it just kept rising. He had a feeling that it might get to the mess hall so he ahd the cooks start cooking up all the flour they had into biscuits. Stanley, the head cook, was putting them in the pans and Tom, the assistant cook, was putting them in the oven and taking them out. Stanley was singing "River Stay Away From My Back Door"; but Tom was so nervous he could hardly handle the pans.
When it seemed that the water was going to get to the mess hall we moved all the cooking equipment and tents to higher ground. We were using Army supply field ranges for cooking stoves. The second day a Coast Guard plane flew over and dropped a message by a little parachute stating that we were to move to higher ground as a flood was coming.
They had sixty-four Scouts, one Scoutmaster, one truck driver, two cooks, and the camp director in camp. They inventoried their food supply and decided they were in trouble. The second morning at breakfast the Camp Director took a vote for them to sleep late and have breakfast and lunch at the same time to conserve their food supply. It rained for five days and nights.
They kept in touch with the outside world with the telephone. The Coast Guard would fly over each day and they would get out in a clearing and form "O.K." with white camp T-shirts on. They would report it to the radio station in Brady and the station would broadcast that the camp signaled "O.K." and they could see our fires burning.
The Camp Director got Mr. Roundtree to take a pack horse and go across ranch country to Brady and get bacon, flour, and eggs, etc. He made two trips for the camp of about 12 miles.
Much of the equipment and buildings at camp were destroyed or damaged to a degree including the old dining hall. A new one was built with a concrete floor, rock walls and a shingle roof.
The camp was destroyed in 1945 by the new land owners after Billy Gibbons died. They did not want the camp there so bulldozed all the trees off the twenty-five acre plot. They were taken to court and settled for $12,500.
A story in the Brownwood Bulletin, February 24, 1947, stated:
"DENUDED CAMP BILLY GIBBONS - The aerial photo above shows Camp Billy Gibbons, summer wilderness Boy Scout camp of the Comanche Trail Council on the banks of Brady Creek in San Saba County, after the campsite was stripped of most of its trees. Jake L. Hamon, Dallas oil man, is the owner of the property. The Council holds a 25-year lease on the campsite. The Council executive committee has asked $25,000 from Hamon to build a camp on another site. Hamon is to give his answer here on Sunday, March 2. Shown in the picture are: (1) Mess Hall; (2) canteen and pavilion; (3) First Aid Building; (4) Uncle Billy Gibbons Memorial Flag base and pole; (5) Council ring; (6) Ku-Ni-Eh Draw and wooded section. Before the mass destruction of the trees, the entire area from the air resembled the wooded section of Ku-Ni-Eh Draw. Most of the trees left standing have been dug around at the roots so that they will die. Brady Creek is shown in the foreground with the slough between the main bed of the creek and the camping area. - (Bulletin Staff Photo from Willis Aviation Plane)."
A settlement was then made with Jake Hamon for the council to surrender the remainder of the 25-year lease in exchange for Hamon paying the council $12,500. The council kept the right to salvage material from the old Camp Billy Gibbons for use in building the new camp.
Jim White, Brownwood High School Class of 1947, was able in 1999 to get a group of his classmates to write their memories of Camp Billy Gibbons. These memories were edited by White and printed in The Roar of '47, the Brownwood High School Class of 1947 newsletter. He noted "White there may be (and certainly are) inaccuracies/inconsistencies in each and every story, they are published as written. After all, one cannot expect memory of over 50 years to be 'chiseled in stone.' The main feature through all of these stories, however, is the clear picture that is painted of the fondness of that place and time. Thanks guys for contributing your memories - Jim White. We present them below. Photos were added to enhance those memories.
Click below for some more memories of Old Camp Billy Gibbons
| Troop Photos |
Information for this page taken from The Camp Billy Gibbons Story by Guy N. Quirl and Eldon Sehnert, 1989, and Ninety Years of Service - A History of Comanche Trail Council 1910 - 1999, by Frank T. Hilton, 1999. Photos from the archives of the Comanche Trail Council, BSA.