Laura Mattoon

Laura I. Mattoon started Camp Kehonka in 1902, one of the first two summer camps for girls in the country. Kehonka was to become the oldest and finest girls camp in the United States.

Laura Mattoon and her dog Major on Knight's Pond, circa 1934

Laura Mattoon and her dog Major on Knight's Pond, circa 1934

Miss Mattoon was head of Science at New York City’s Veltin School and known as an exceptional teacher. She wished to show her students a kind of growth and adventure that only the outdoors could offer.  The campers – there were eight of them – slept in tents, built their own furniture, and swam and hiked in New Hampshire’s pristine lakes and mountains.

They lived close to nature and close to the rest of the group.  This was Miss Mattoon’s vision.  It was she who insisted that the dining room encompass a pine tree and that corners of porches be reserved for spiders.  Meals were served family style, and campers joined in planning trips, activities and plays.

Laura Mattoon was a pioneer in the field of camping and in 1924 was elected as the first salaried executive of the Camp Directors’ Association of America (now the American Camping Association). Miss Mattoon served as secretary of the American Camping Association for 15 years.

Miss Mattoon believed that camping is an important means of building character. She taught her campers the pleasures, values, and skills of outdoor life. She shared in the publication of the Camper’s Guidance Manual which emphasized character development and skills in outdoor activities, canoeing, swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, music, drama, and nature studies.

Miss Mattoon’s ideals remained Kehonka’s ideals throughout the decades and benefited thousands of girls from all parts of the world. On its 80th season in 1981, Camp Kehonka hosted 175 campers from 16 nations.  In addition, there were 60 counselors, something not heard of in the early years when everyone was a camper.



  1. […] Laura Mattoon […]

  2. My mother, Ilse Knauth, was a camper at Camp Kehonka, about 1913, or perhaps earlier. She was also a student of Laura Mattoon’s at the Veltin school. My Aunt Ruth Dunbar helped Laura for a while at the camp before she went to MIT to study public health. I’ve never known how those two became connected for this camp project. Ruth’s brother, Henry Dunbar (my father) was there as a counselor for a while. When he met Ilse he wrote in his diary a wonderful description of appreciation for her – she would be willing to go up to her neck in mud to see something of interest, and also, that she was wonderful company for identifying birds and plants. He has some interesting inclusions in his diaries about being a counselor at Camp Kehonka.

    • Althea gave me copies of some very early Goose Quills. I just pulled out a pile and the July 1911 edition lists your mom, Ilse and your dad, Henry as members of the “Paper Committee”.

  3. […] from George Williams College of Aurora University several years ago, and our Laura Mattoon was featured in her research classes for over 23 years….as students would need to research a […]

  4. Hi Susanne Barrymore,
    Kindly tell me how I can email you!
    Bonnie Ballentine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: