From the Archives, June 2, 2024

A Submerged Camp

As we’ve discussed before, the African American summer camp, Camp Burton, ran for about sixteen years, roughly 1944 through 1959. For the majority of those summer, Burton was located off of Couchville Pike in what would today be Long Hunter State Park. The camp usually ran for about two weeks and by 1948, the Council and community invested enough funds to actually build “A large frame building having a dining room, kitchen, and pantry.” This is pretty incredibly given that when Boxwell at Rock Island opened the following summer in 1949, the dining hall would be three large tents!
By the mid-1950s, there was much discussion about building on dam on Stones’ River. This dam (and reservoir it created) would eventually be christened the J. Percy Priest Dam and Lake. Much like Old Hickory Dam had done to the Cumberland, the Percy Priest dam would back up Stones’ River to create the lake (reservoir) and thereby flood much of the surronding community… including Camp Burton.
And so today we present a map of the submerged Camp Burton (the green blog in the lower right of both maps). This map comes courtesy of Cynthia Pendley, who runs a online group called “Under the Waters–History of the Lands Lost to Percy Priest Lake.” On the left is Burton as it stood in relation to the surrounding area in 1951. On the right is the overlay of Percy Priest Lake with Burton completely underwater. Thus, there is no way to visit the Burton property today to see how the old segregated camp looked.
Two Views of Camp Burton

Here are two views of Camp Burton, one in 1951 and one in 2023. The second image shows the camp relative to Percy Priest Lake.

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