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In the mid 1950’s discussion began in the Maryville District of the Holston Conference concerning developing a youth camp. In 1958 leaders from the district approached D.H. (Doc) Tipton about 700 acres he and his brother owned in the Capshaw Valley.

The property is named for Colonel Capshaw who probably received the land for his service in the Revolutionary War. In the late 1800’s the property was extensively logged.  It was then acquired by the Tipton brothers, who were born in Cades Cove. They planned to develop the site into a resort.  Equipment from the Little River Lumber Company was used to dig a large pond, now known as the lagoon. They also constructed a dam and reservoir up the creek which eventually served as a water supply.  A house (the Red House) was built at the entrance for a caretaker. The resort never worked, however, and Doc Tipton gave the land to the church to create the camp.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ben St. Clair, the Maryville District Superintendent, the camp became a joint project of the Maryville, Knoxville and Morristown Districts. Dr. St. Clair named the camp Wesley Woods. A master plan for the new camp was developed in 1959. The camp’s first buildings including Tipton Lodge, three cabins and a bath house were constructed in 1959 and 1960. The first season of camp was held at Wesley Woods in 1961.

From 1961 to 1963 six more cabins and another bathhouse were built. The pavilion was added in 1963 and the swimming pool in 1964. Oak Ridge joined the other three districts as partners in the ministry at Wesley Woods in 1976. Further development of the camp occurred with the addition of a craft cabin in 1981, a retreat lodge (Nickle Lodge) in 1982, another retreat lodge (Sunset Lodge) in 1988 and numerous additions to Tipton Lodge

Rev. Jack Porter became the camp’s first full time director in 1969. He was followed by Rev. Bill Nickle who became director in 1980. Under Nickle’s leadership the camp started its environmental education program in 1984 and began adding a ropes course in 1985. In subsequent years Jan Thomas, David Leach, and John Erdman served as the camp’s director. Tony Lea, the current director, started in 2015. 

Adapted from Where the Rhododendrons Grow: A History of Camping and Leisure Ministries in the Holston Conference written by Rev. Charles Maynard.