Young Ruth McIntyre stood out in the middle of frozen Lake Chateaugay on snowshoes, took in the panoramic mountain view around her and, smiling, turned to her mother and said, “This is it. This is where I want my camp to be.”
It was the winter of 1922, and it had taken Ruth and her mother three days to travel to the snow-covered Adirondacks from their home in Philadelphia.
Ruth dreamed of running her own camp ever since she, as a young Girl Scout leader, had traveled to France at the beginning of World War I. Her work there brought Ruth in contact with many young French girls and she thought they had much in common with the Polish and Italian girls she had worked with in Philadelphia.
In 1922 Joan of Arc was a popular topic of conversation, since the French had recently mounted a campaign to have her canonized. Ruth greatly admired the qualities of faith, endurance, courage, and confidence exemplified by the young 15th-century girl, and decided that Joan would be a wonderful inspiration for young women. From the very beginnings of Camp Jeanne d’Arc, Ruth wanted to bring girls together from all over the world. She felt that if children could get to know each other and realize that all human beings are the same regardless of their differences, more global understanding and greater world peace would result.
Camp Jeanne d’Arc’s first season brought together about 20 girls, ages 15-17. They didn’t feel comfortable calling their young camp director by her first name. A popular book series, The Little Colonel, was in vogue at the time, so Ruth was affectionately tagged “Colonel” by her campers – and the name stuck.
“Colonel” met Captain Charles Joseph McIntyre in 1924. They married in August 1925 on the steps of Woodsheart, one of camp’s original buildings. Captain “Mac” was a teacher and soon started Camp Lafayette for boys. He returned to military service when World War II began and eventually, Mr. and Mrs. McIntyre came to be known as “Colonel” and “Colonel Mac”.
The senior McIntyres ran camp for fifty years. In the early 1970’s Colonel’s eldest son, Joe, and his wife, Fran, took over operation of the camp. For ten years Joe’s eldest daughter, Jehanne, and her husband, Michael Edwards, took over as owners, re-establishing Camp Lafayette for boys in 2013. When it came time to sell, the McIntyres knew it was important to find a family eager to continue on in the well-established traditions of Camp Jeanne d’Arc, and the original vision of “Colonel.” They found just the family. Today, Sandy and Randy Abbott (along with their 4 children) own and operate the camp with the assistance of valued alumni, some going back four generations. As Jeanne d’Arc nears the full century mark, the values and traditions begun so long ago continue to inspire new generations of campers each summer.