History of Luccock Park
In the 1920’s the young people, youth leaders and pastors of the Montana Area Methodist Church felt the need to have permanent locations to host the growing Epworth League movement (today we would call these Youth Camps) and purchased several properties, including Luccock Park, as a permanent place to host these annual events.
In the beginning there was an old circus tent for the kitchen and a mountain stream for both water and to keep the milk cold. Over the years lots were leased to individuals and individual churches to build permanent cabins. Some of the descendants of these original families are still involved with the ministry that has grown to include much more than just Youth Camp. Although most have been given back to The Park they all still hold the memories and love of their original builders. The following is first hand account of the beginings of Luccock Park taken from “Bicentennial Tapestry of the Yellowstone Conference” published in 1984
Luccock Park History
By Louis L. and Gladys Ortmayer, 1963
On the tenth of March, 1923, a district missionary conference was held in Livingston. One of the items of business was the responsibility of locating a site near Yellowstone Park for the Epworth League Institute. As I recall, Cecil L. Clifford was present, representing the state Epworth League. On the second day the conference members were invited to the Pine Creek church for a noon luncheon, following which, all who would, were asked to go up to Grinnell Park, which had been suggested as a possible location for the institute. Saddle horses and a three-seated buckboard, driven by Albert Allen, were the means of transportation. It was a memorable trip going up a logging trail following somewhat the route of the present Ponath Trail, but the return trip took the party north of the moraine to the Allen ranch.
Although the ground was covered with two or three feet snow, the conference unanimously authorized the District Superintendent, Robert C. Edgington, and a committee to proceed with all the necessary arrangements to make Grinnell Park the locati0on for the Yellowstone Park Epworth Institute.
With this authorization, Mr. Edgington went to work. His dream was about to be realized. He entered into an agreement with Mr. Allen to purchase 25 acres, the southeast corner, or a section, bounded by the national forest on the east. The tract is 1250 feet north and south by 750 feet east and west, or 25 acres, “more or less.” The purchase price was $2500.00, but all Mr. Edgington had was his faith in the young people of the district. Grinnell Park was a beautiful spot; but how to get to it? Otto G. Ponath, pastor of the Pine Creek church undertook to build a road up the hill which the highway department said was a $6000 job. The Pine Creek and Livingston people rallied to the task with a mind to work and before July first we were able to drive, push, and pull a Model T Ford up the hill and onto the camp grounds.
Arriving on the grounds, we looked around a bit anxiously for the lowering clouds to the south were threatening wind and rain. Towering trees, row on row marching up the mountainside, were beautiful; but they provided only a little shelter from the coming storm. Wait! What is that under the big tree? A great pile of canvas, poles and rope. Those resourceful men Bob Edgington, Charles D. Crouch, and Rev. Harry Chappell had learned that Ringling circus showing in Billings had replaced their big three-ring tent and had left the old one in Billings. These men contacted the right person and got this great “Big Top” with the condition that they take it away, poles, rope and everything. A man with a truck was found who agreed to haul it to the camp grounds for $90.00. Well, there was the tent, but where Edgington found the $90.00 will ever remain a mystery.
Portions of this tent provided shelter for the first camp kitchen, dining room, and institute meetings. Lodgepole pine trees, large and small, provided floor joists and frame work for tent houses. A strip of the canvas 14 by 24 feet covered the frame while the gables were filled in with remnants. Eight of these tent houses were the accommodations provided for faculty and guests. These were replaced about 1938 by the present faculty cabins.
At the first Institute members of the state convention meeting the afternoons, made some important decisions. Sunday morning, when about 250 people were present, the grounds were dedicated “To the glory of God, the proclaiming of the gospel, for Christian fellowship, recreation, worship, inspiration, dedication and commitment to Christ and His kingdom.”
A part of this inspiring service was the naming of the grounds Luccock Park. This was done in honor and memory of Napthali Luccock, the first resident Bishop of the Helena area, who died while serving this great territory. Standing at Luccock Park and looking to the east, one is inspired to remove his hat and recall the words of the Psalmist:
“I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains,
From whence shall my help come?
My help cometh from the Lord
Who made the heavens and the earth.”
The three mountains were christened that Sunday; Faith, the mountain to the left or north; Hope, the central mountain, and Charity, the one to the right or south. These are not the official names found on the map. The road up the hill was named Ponath Trail on honor of Rev. Ponath, then pastor of the Pine Creek Church.