SLUMBER FALLS CAMP HISTORY
Slumber Falls Camp is located a few miles from downtown New Braunfels on River Road alongside the shores of the Guadalupe River where the river makes a turn between two huge cypress trees.
In the 1890’s Joseph Landa purchased a large parcel of land. History notes the use of the land by locals as a popular swimming and picnicking site. During the 1930’s, Harry Landa (Joseph’s son) sold 20 acres in the Verarnendi survey to W. V. & Francis Schulz Lillie and it was developed into a tourist court with a panoramic view of the Guadalupe River.
Victor Silvas was hired as the gardener. He planted and maintained the crepe myrtle along the river by the bathhouse and several beautiful flowerbeds around the camp. During this period, retaining walls were built as well as steps to the river. A license plate dated 1935 is embedded in the riser of the top step as well as the names Herman, Francis, and Will (referring to the Lillies and her brother Herman Schrader) inscribed in the concrete step with a date of 1932.
It is reported that the name of Slumber Falls came from Mr. Lillie as he remarked that it was so peaceful by the river it would be a good place to sleep.
Mrs. Lillie and her brother, Herman Schrader a carpenter, built 11 cabins one at a time as they could afford it. The first one constructed was Whip-0-Will. Heigh Ho was known as the honeymoon cabin. The tourist court was advertised as “Paradise of the Hills.”
Rates for cottages with linens, cookware, dishes and silver provided were: Single cottage $2.00-2.25; Double cottage $3.00-3.50 and weekends were $1.00/per person/ per cabin/per day. The cottages were furnished with a dresser, icebox and hot plate.
In 1946, Mrs. Lillie, then a widow, sold the tourist court to her 2 nephews and a third party for $33,000.00. The war brought changes to the life styles of people and the tourist court suffered. In 1957 a terrible drought caused the Guadalupe River to virtually dry up. This was the final blow. The tourist court was closed and the nephews decided to sell.
At the 1956 annual meeting of the Texas Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, the delegates voted to obtain a permanent campsite to promote Christian education.
During September 1957 Alvin Blome and the Houston Brotherhood became aware of a property in Comal County for sale through the communication of Wilton Warnecke of New Braunfels. The present site was highly recommended by Fred Woelke. He and his wife Hilda spent their honeymoon in Rio Vista cabin on the Guadalupe River.
The asking price was $16,500.00. The only stipulation was that the contract and earnest money had to be given before the end of the year due to tax considerations.
The Rev. Herman and Martha Borne got the ball rolling with a loan from their own personal savings. By midnight on December 31, 1957 $5,000.00 in earnest money was delivered to seal the purchase of Slumber Falls. The amount consisted of the Borne money, funds from a Mr. Brown of Schulenburg, and the remainder in a check from the Weimar Church Brotherhood. The Rev Frank Horak was able to secure financing at 3% interest from the Hill Bank & Trust of Weimar to complete the purchase.
Unused for two years, the camp was in need of a variety of repairs. Volunteers from around the conference pitched in to make the site ready for the first camping season. Emil Dischinger was hired as the first caretaker in February and remained for 17 years. Dedication day was June 1, 1958. Junior, Junior High, and Senior camps were held during that first summer with an all-volunteer staff. By the winter of ‘58-’59, a three room caretaker’s house had been constructed. That facility is currently used as the camp office.
Slumber Falls Camp provided the bare minimum required for a successful outdoor ministry program. The dining hall was an open-air facility with tarps over a makeshift frame and a gravel floor with flies galore! Over the years many improvements have been added. Campers used to swim in the river before a pool was built in 1961. In 1964, the dining hall was finally enclosed and in 1969 the first two winterized cabins (Borne and Memorial Cottages) were constructed.
Following Mr. Dischinger’s retirement in the early 70’s, Harvey Isleib was hired to be the site manager for the next 12 years. A new house was constructed for the Isleib’s and dedicated as the Haver House in October 1975. Even after retirement from Slumber Falls, Ruby Lee “Skipper” Isleib has been a regular summer program volunteer and Harvey helped with a variety of projects. In 1993 a “Shelter of Memories” was constructed near the pool in honor of the Isleib’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Delicious camp food has always been a part of the Slumber Falls experience. One of the first cooks was Alice Sakowitz. Following her tenure, three cousins, Ruby Behrendt, Della Heimer, and Lillian Farr started cooking and continued as a mainstay in the kitchen for twenty years. They may best be remembered for their famous “coffee can bread.”
During the 1960’s and 70’s the camp was administered by volunteers such as Rev. Fred Woelke, Rev. Ray Buck Jr.,Rev. Barney Federwisch, and Rev. Al Hennig. In 1979 the first paid administrator, Rev. Ray Bizer was hired part-time to coordinate the activities of the camp. After Rev. Bizer left, Dwayne Wuneburger served as interim site manager for a year.1986 saw the hiring of the first full-time administrator, the Rev. Mark Sirnic. Soon afterward, Mrs. Charlene Nolte was hired as secretary. Following the service of Rev. Sirnic, the Rev. Frank Horak served as interim administrator from June 1992 till February 1993. In the spring of that year the Rev. Richard Carse took over the operation of the camp until November of 1994. Upon his leaving, the Camp Council undertook oversight of the operation with Site Manager Charles Moore, Program Coordinator Otis Naron, and Charlene Nolte running the office. A few years later it was deemed necessary to return to a full-time administrator with the hiring of the Rev. Charles Stark in the late spring of 1997.
During the 1980’s a new section of the camp was opened with the building of the Retreat Center which houses 32 campers and offers two meeting rooms and a small kitchen in the Koinonia Lodge. Another addition to the camp was the Bruce Triesch Pavilion dedicated June 8, 1980.
In the early 90’s, one of the older screen cabins, “Joy Within” was taken down to make way for a new facility built with funds from the Erwin and Emma Muehl estate. This beautifully constructed cabin can accommodate 20 campers. 1995 saw the construction of a beautiful new paved entrance road to the camp. “Vicki’s Haven,” completed in 1998, is a facility designed to house long-term volunteers and the SALT (Summer Adult Leadership Team) workers. This project was primarily funded by memorial contributions in memory of Vicki Kizer (Palm) Feyen, a long time supporter of the camping program. Kelsey Lodge, dedicated in 2002 in memory of Kelsey Oberrender, provides additional meeting space and kitchen facilities. The addition of Horak Court, a covered multi-use outdoor facility, was completed in May 2003 and dedicated at the 45th Anniversary in September of that year. The latest addition to the camp is Jeannette’s Wing. This extension of Woelke Lodge, dedicated in April 2007 in memory of Jeannette Marquis, serves as a recreation and meeting room.
Learn about the prehistory of the camp here!