The chapel bears Jantz’s name today, memorializing the man who worked to create the camp and lead it for at least 30 years. Eventually, leadership transitioned to an association and later a board of directors, which oversees the camp today.
“A lot of the kids couldn’t even get here, so he had a Volkswagen Beetle and he’d go to a 50-mile radius and make arrangements,” says Andy Ingalsbe, a Hammond Mill Camp board member, of a period in its history. “He’d pile them in the Volkswagen and get them here.”
The camp's role today
Hammond Mill’s Bible camps — divided by ages — have continued ever since. While they have long been a staple of the natural oasis, many other groups and gatherings regularly use the space as well.
An example is the Ozark Area Community Congress, a nature-based weekend convention, which takes place at Hammond Mill. Families, too, have long visited for events: Another example is from Mustion’s own relatives, who have gathered for an annual reunion for about 70 years.
Yet, at the heart of it all are youth. Another longtime youth camp is D.O.W. Camp, which began in the late ’60s to provide free camping for underprivileged children in Douglas, Ozark and Wright counties.
“I didn’t realize the magnitude of D.O.W. Camp, (but) I began to see it when I taught (locally),” says Mustion, who also serves on a separate board for the local camp. “I taught special ed and some of my kids would get to come. Just the experiences that they had, and then some of them came back as counselors — it’s a really cool thing.”
Even though use of Hammond Mill is open to all, Mustion explains that through the board’s lease with the Forest Service, the priority is for youth use.
“First of all, for challenged youth with disabilities or any kind of a challenge. And then it’s underprivileged. And then youth in general. So those are the top priorities, and they charge us less for those camps.”
Visiting the camp
Over its nearly nine decades, the camp has seen improvements. In the early ’60s, the desire for a long-term lease led to a nearly complete rebuild from the original CCC buildings. Boards and building materials were salvaged as much as possible, today living on through the current structures.
“To tell you what kind of a man Mr. Jantz was — there was a barracks right out in here,” says Ingalsbe. “I think everybody that used the camp got nails and a rock and straightened the nails before they went to the fire. The nails went back in.”
Today, the only original structures that remain are a cabinet holding firefighting supplies near the dining hall, and the former water tower.
Other improvements have been made with time, including the installation of air conditioning in the cabins, new sidewalks and an effort to make the camp more accessible to individuals with disabilities. But changes in use and the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly affected income in recent years, leading to critical issues.