Camp Russell was opened in 1918 following the donation of 15 acres of land by Samuel Russell, a businessman and industrialist from Ilion, NY. The property was situated on White Lake, in the town of Woodgate in the southwestern Adirondack Mountains. In 1919, the camp’s dining hall was built following another donation by Samuel Russell. The camp initially served Boy Scouts from the Utica, Rome, and Ilion Scout Councils.
In 1920, the Utica Council took over camp operations, although Scouts from the other councils continued to attend Camp Russell. Three years later, follow another land donation from Samuel Russell, the camp grew to 25 acres. The camp’s footprint on White Lake continued to grow with donations of land from Russell’s children following his death in 1929 and again in 1957. It eventually encompassed nearly 400 acres.
From 1927 to 1939, the newly formed Herkimer County Council (which became the General Herkimer Council in 1934) and the Utica Council (which became the Upper Mohawk Council in 1938) jointly ran Camp Russell. In 1939, the Upper Mohawk Council announced that it would be leaving Camp Russell to start its own camp. From that time, until the merger of the General Herkimer and Land of the Oneidas Councils, which created the Revolutionary Trails Council in 2001, the General Herkimer council owned and operated Camp Russell.
Several of the camp’s original buildings, including the “Brown House,” also known as La Maison de DeVito, nicknamed for Frank DeVito, a member of the staff from 1927–1999, still remain. The contents of this collection were housed in the Brown House which operated as the Camp Russell Museum and housing for senior staff on the second floor.
With declining enrollments in Scouting nationwide and in Central New York in particular, the Revolutionary Trails Council executive board decided to sell the camp in 2014. Summer 2015 was Camp Russell’s last camping season, although the property remained accessible to Scouts until its sale in 2017.
Scope of Collection
The Camp Russell Boy Scout Collection contains items that were housed in the Camp Russell Museum, with some dating back to the camp’s earliest years. These include photographs, newsletters, administrative documents, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, patches, neckerchiefs, coffee mugs and other camp memorabilia, national jamboree flags and memorabilia, national flags and international Scout uniforms donated by international staff who worked at Camp Russell. Also within the collection are items donated by several lifelong Scouters.