Kehonka History and Lore

Following text was taken from Camp Kehonka marketing materials used in the 1960s-1970s [note: Kehonka’s last camping season was in 1985, lest any of you parents out there are thinking of sending your daughters here!]

The girls who formed Kehonka’s first small group embarked for New Hampshire in 1902. They sought an adventurous vacation — a change from city life and school routine. They sought exhilaration and inspiration gained from living together in the woods, close to lakes and mountains. In this era at the turn of the century, camping for young ladies was regarded as daring, if not “unbecoming.” In fact, before 1902 there had been no organized camping for girls.

Their leader, Laura I. Mattoon, pioneered in demonstrating the spiritual, educational and health-giving values not only for Kehonka girls, but for youth nationally.

Miss Mattoon also pioneered in the National Association of Directors of Girls Camps. She served as secretary of this and its successor organization, the American Camping Association, for more than fifteen years.

Many of the fundamental advantages of camping are the same today at Kehonka as there were in 1902. However, as camping’s unique opportunities have become more definitely established, increasing attention has been given to such objectives for the individual camper as:

  • Realization of potential for spiritual growth in everyday living relationships.
  • Development of essential character attributes like self-reliance, unwavering integrity and emotional stability.
  • Experiences in group living that confirm home training, and facilitate social adjustment.
  • Happiness through compatible companionship and constructive activity.
  • Informal extension of knowledge and skills, especially to stimulate intellectual curiosity, initiative and creativity.
  • Appreciation of democratic freedoms and privileges as interpreted through discussions, a voice in determining program, and acceptance of individual and group responsibilities.
  • Habit of searching into situations for possibilities of constructive innovations.
Camping at Kehonka is a joyous experience. The influences of the environment and the carefully chosen camp family are conducive to intelligent control of health, and to mature attitudes. The inviting facilities, close at hand, inspire the camper to discover and to use her own latent capacities and abilities. Her whole personality grows. Her physical reserves and her self-assuring resources are strengthened.
Campers of different temperaments, and from many localities, learn to adapt themselves to each other and to new conditions in this model community life. They learn how to play, how to work and how to live together with due consideration for the rights and happiness of their companions.
Parents, in choosing a camp, seek for their daughters the advantages of wholesome, stimulating associations with capable leaders and with campers who often become valued, life-long friends. Many of the pioneering campers of Kehonka’s first seasons came from the Veltin School, a private school for girls in New York City, where Miss Mattoon was head of the science department for twenty years.
Ever since those first seasons, new enrollments have come through the recommendations of the parents of former campers and through other friends who have been well acquainted with the purposes of Kehonka. This source helps to assure that the new camper will both contribute to and benefit from the experience.
An increasing number of former campers, now mothers enroll their daughters so that they likewise may share in the camping experiences which endure as happy memories enhanced by traditions their mothers helped to create……..

Further information about the history and lore of Camp Kehonka:

Laura Mattoon (founder)

A. Cooper “Bally” Ballentine

Kehonka’s Contribution to Camping

Kehonka Activities

History of the Cove Lodge

Kehonka Waterfront and Crafts

Origin of Kehonka Hill

The Saga of the Two Cows



  1. Kehonka, I was told by my mother, Ruth Dunbar Tolman is an Indian word meaning Wild Goose. Mother told me that the name was picked for the camp because she, my mother, was often seen tearing around the camp like a “wild goose” !! one of the great things that I saw there when I visited as a young boy was the Wild Goose statue which stood outside on the highway .

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