Camp Viking, Colonel’s Island

The retreat community at Camp Viking features over a dozen of these cabins, generally identical in style and reminiscent to me of 1950s government architecture. They are built along the perimeter of Lake Pamona.

Cheryl Blount Donaldson relates the story of Camp Viking, started by her father Joe and Uncle Clayton Blount:

Joe & Clayton Blount bought the property in 1949. It was originally part of Blackrock Plantation, a grant from King George III in the 1770s. Clayton’s daughter, Carolyn and her husband Paul, were the ones who started the camp and they also raised sheep. There were 16 cottages/cabins and 4 latrines along with the mess hall and kitchen. The 105 acre lake was made from the marsh by forming an earthen dam and flooding it with fresh water. The lake was named for Joe’s granddaughter Mona and Clayton’s granddaughter Pam, hence Pamona Lake. (Cheryl’s father told her that the Minnesota Vikings held summer camps there at one time, hence the other name, Camp Viking. She notes that this is unverified.) When the “camp” was closed the cottages were rented out. Mr Norris did oversee it until Joe Blount became the sole owner in the middle 1980s. It is only available for private rentals, but anyone can fish there for $5/day per person. That’s a bargain for such an idyllic location! If you’d like to know more, please email Cheryl at honey831@coastalnow.net

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Joel Heath wrote, on 2 May 2012: This is Camp Viking Cabin Number 1 where I lived about 2 years, 1981 to June 1983, while I worked as Chief of Surveillance at Fort Stewart Ammo Supply Point. I was amazed to find this as the first item on a Google image search for Camp Viking Cabin Midway Georgia. When I saw the number 1 on it I realized this is the exact unit (of about 15 very similar buildings) that I lived in with tidal flats and the North Newport River in the backyard scenery.

When I visited there years ago I heard that the Camp had been sold off as individual cabins with many having been fixed up nicely. It may have been a 100 dollar a month rental when I lived there managed by a proud self-proclaimed old cracker (though originally a Texan), Roy Norris.

One Saturday I ran an errand with Roy and his wife hauling something for them in my 1976 Ford F-100. After we had the business done we stopped in the Midway Café on Highway 17. I had eaten there a number of times because you could get a heaping plate of fried shrimp for a price that seemed most reasonable to me. Roy took one look at the menu and said, “This must be the Yankee menu. These prices look too high. They’re probably the prices they charge the tourists passing through.” He called across the room to the waitress, “Miss, I want the cracker menu. This must be the Yankee menu.” I was amazed when without a word she picked up the menus and gave us each a lower-priced menu.

Cy Johnson wrote, on 27 November 2015 recalled: I resided at Camp Viking when I was a flight student at Ft. Stewart, Summer 1968. I remember Clayton Blount and jumping off the rope swing. We had many parties here and used to water ski and watch the gators splash around.

 

 

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19 Comments

Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Colonel's Island GA

19 responses to “Camp Viking, Colonel’s Island

  1. Joel Heath

    Brian: My understanding (per Roy Norris who managed the entire property in 1981-1983) was it was originally built as a boys’ summer camp (probably in the 50s). If I recall correctly there are 12 identical cabins in an L-shape with 3 similar size and construction brick buildings spaced as an inner L. Originally all the 12 cabins were just one room bunk houses for the boys. Each building may be only 25 foot by 25 foot but solidly built of red brick on a slab.

    The 3 other buildings served as the bathrooms and showers. There was one larger building near the lake that served as the mess hall.

    Sometime after the boys’ camp shut down the cabins all had low-quality interior walls installed to make 2 bedrooms across the rear, a small half-bathroom in the right front corner, a kitchen behind that and living room on the left.

    One oddity that fit with the history was there was no source of heat installed in the cabins. Roy said most renters there installed a wood stove and used electric space heaters. He said he knew where there were a couple marble table tops I could use as a platform on top of the old orange shag carpeting for a wood stove. He also found a piece of sheet metal furnace door he gave me that I cut a hole in the center of and cut to fit the upper open window on the left.

    Some stove pipe was laying around as well to go with an antique pot belly stove I found in a Glennville thrift shop.

    That may explain why one cabin and the mess hall both were in disrepair and had fire damage. A few other cabins were not in use with about 8 rented out.

    Roy just received free rent and utilities living with his wife in an old white wooden house near the entrance to the Camp off a sand road.

    I never met the owner but heard from Roy the owner was college professor/absentee landlord. The entire Camp Viking may have been about 40 acres including the small man-made earthen dam lake to the east and a farmyard with an old barn on the west side.

    Roy was a pleasantly grumpy old man of about 70-80 at the time. He really got grumpier when as he told me the story that the owner decided he wanted to run an experiment to prove that sheep could thrive in GA. At the time there were no sheep known by us to be raised in SE GA as it was thought to be too hot.

    The owner had a truckload of about a dozen or more ewes (with a similar number of recently born lambs) delivered to Camp Viking. Roy then had to repair the fence around the barn yard and feed the sheep. He said he hated sheep as he was a Texan and in Texas they raise cattle not sheep. And he complained he was still paid no more than the free rent despite the added work.

    Before that he just did minor maintenance on the cabins, advertized vacancies and collected the rent. One of the first days the sheep were there, I awoke about dawn hearing a cow bell as all the sheep walked by my window. Roy told me he put the bell on the one he thought was leading the others to escape.

    • Thanks so much for sharing these anecdotes, Joel!

    • Eric Crews

      I knew Roy for many years throughout my childhood. He was like a grandfather to me and was one of the toughest old somebitches that I ever knew. What great memories of the stories he told.

      • Eric just brought back some pleasant memories of my monthly rent payment. I’d usually visit Mr. and Mrs. Norris an evening of a day or two before rent was due. They would invite me in for a couple hours of great conversation usually accompanied by some liquor. Roy was a professional grumpy old man who liked to tell stories related to his downtown Savannah antique shop. Since I worked at Fort Stewart in Ammo Surveillance and Explosives Safety I recall well the story of when some ass brought a fuzed live cannon ball into Roy’s shop. EOD agreed with Roy that the spring-loaded hung fuze could have dislodged with handling. As Roy told it they evacuated a block before containerizing the TNT filled cannon ball to take it to the Ft Stewart Demo Ground to destroy. I also recalled when Roy had a big cast on a leg. A week or two later he said he wasn’t going back to the Dr on that. He’d removed his own cast with a hammer and saw a couple weeks before the Dr intended to.

  2. My husband and I visit this area often and have always wondered about the very large lake, which we thought was Lake Pamona, located in the area of these cabins. The wetland area, with the boardwalk and viewing area, on Colonels’ Island is not attached to this lake. Which of these is Lake Pamona or Pamona Lake? Who owns the large lake and the cabins now? Most importantly, how did this large lake come to be? We have heard several stories, but would like the facts. This is a beautiful area and is untouched commercially. We hope that it stays that way. Any additional information that you have on Colonels’ Island/Sunbury area would be exciting to hear about.

  3. Cheryl Blount Donaldson

    Brian, I just found your blog on Camp Viking and thought that I would provide some of the history for you. My Father, Joe Blount and his brother Clayton Blount bought the property in 1949. It was originally one of the plantations from the 1770, Blackrock Plantation, a grant from King George III. We lived here during the summer and weekends before the “camp” was established. Uncle Clayton’s daughter, Carolyn and her husband Paul was the ones to started the camp and the sheep. There were 16 ottages/cabins and 4 latrines along with the mess hall and kitchen. The 105 acre lake was made from the marsh by forming an earthen dam and flooded with fresh water. It is named after Daddy’s only granddaughter MONA and Uncle Clayton’s granddaughter PAM, hence PAMONA LAKE. I was told by my Father that the MInnesota Vikings had their summer camp here also for several years but I have not verified this. When the “camp” was closed the cottages were rented out. Mr Norris did oversee it for a while until my Father became the sole owner in the middle 80’s. My husband and I are now the sole owners of the property. It consists of the 105 acre lake and 100 acres of land +/-, and a thousand acres of marsh +/-. We raise cattle and goats and horses. It is not a retreat nor a camp ground but private rentals. We allow the public to fish for a meager $5.00 per day. The property is located on Colonels Island off Hwy 84 on Camp Viking Rd.
    The wet land that the McBrides mentioned belongs to Liberty County but does not adjoin my lake.
    We do not have a website at this time but I can be reached by email.
    If there are any other questions my email is honey831@coastalnow.net.

    • Thank you so much for the history of Camp Viking, Cheryl. I think it’s wonderful that it’s still so private back there, a real gem in a place unspoiled by so many people as are on many of the other accessible islands. I’ll let people know the fishing rates…

  4. angel

    Oh my what a beautiful place Camp Viking was. I lived there for 3 months, June-August, in 1984, I was 15 years old. I remember Mr. Roy and the history he told me about the camp. Their were wild hogs that came up in our back yard and a super large alligator in the lake that was shot and left to rot by some noaccount just a few weeks before I moved. I loved the lake and dock. It was my favorite place to be all the time, fishing and reading. The fans in the wall were so loud and the drinking water smelled terrible. Lol

  5. Cy S. Johnson

    I lived at Camp Viking spring/summer 1968 while at flight school at fort stewart… all the camp were flight students at that time. I was in the cabin next to the big tree hanging over the water with the rope swing. Got great old photos !!!!

    • Brian and Cy S: It would be great if some of those old photos could be posted here. I was a civil service employee with my office at the old 1940s vintage Fort Stewart ASP from 1980-1983. In my time at Camp Viking there were just a few cabins occupied by groups of Soldiers but none stayed on more than a few months. I think the renter who had been there the longest (and only one who had been there more than a year or so) was a bachelorette grade school teacher. As I said above I was in cabin 1 in the far left corner of the L-shaped rows of cabins. Two young enlisted men with the wife and daughter of one of them were in cabin 2 part of the time I lived there. Roy Norris’s son and young family moved into cabin 3 about half way through my two years or so there. I think the first I learned of that was when I heard a Shop Smith multi-purpose saw running one evening in the nearby building that once had served as the bathrooms and showers. Roy’s son cleaned out that building and set up a wood shop where he made impressive accurate copies of old furniture. He re-used antique lumber and square hand made nails which he bought from old building torn down in Savanna. A real find was some very large antique yellow pine beams he had a lumber mill cut down into the dimensionally correct sizes he needed. He sold a number of very authentic appearing yellow pine “Hunt Boards” which he sold as reproductions of antiques made of all antique lumber and fasteners. Joel

  6. hi im curtis bailey i lived at camp viking in 1974 it was called tidelands comunity school there were boys and girls there. classes were taught there,,, for heat a great big candle with 6 wickes were used for heat,, there were horses that we rode,,a motor boat we skied behind, a sail boat loved the place very much. the island was a big classroom. CtBailey03@aol.com

    • Kaiser Henry J III

      Curtis, Thanks much for that further info. I often wondered when the cabins were built and the original purpose. I’d be interested to read it if further info comes to mind. I also hope that Cy S. Johnson might post some of his photos here.

      • Kaiser Henry J III

        Camp Viking & Pomona Lake

        24 June 2015

        Looking at this again (and the following pictures of Pomona Lake) a couple more fond memories came to mind from when I lived in Cabin 1 from sometime in 1981-June of 1983. There was an Osprey nest near the lake high in a tree. I was privileged a couple times to see an Osprey carrying a large fish back to the nest. The fish looked bigger and heavier than the bird.

        The Osprey is also known as a Fish Eagle because it looks much like a miniature bald Eagle. The bird always carries the fish head forward beneath him like a belly bomb on a WW II bomber.

        The second thought was if you followed the sand road that curved at the Camp Viking drive way, it narrowed to a very soft sandy one-lane path that crossed a little pond that had bird sanctuary signs. One or more alligators apparently enjoyed having the birds there too. There was a big groove warn through the brush as an alligator path across the road. I don’t remember seeing the gator but did see fresh grooves across the sandy road.

        I enjoyed visiting that little bird sanctuary at dusk as many birds came in the rooster for the night. Both that spot and the area by Lake Pomona had a very loud hum on summer nights combining frogs, cicadas, and birds (I’m guessing).

        I just looked at Wikipedia to refresh my memory on Osprey at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osprey .

        Here is a picture of an Osprey carrying a fish: http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/new/843-2.html

  7. Cheryl Donaldson

    I want to thank all that have remembered “When”. I have inherited the camp when my Dad died. I would appreciate it if some of the photos were shared either here or emailed to me, as I don’t have any original photos. Again thanks for the memories.
    Cheryl Blount Donldson
    honey831@cOASTALNOW.NET

  8. Thomas (Tab) Bottoms

    I grew up right near here in the 70s and 80s. I am Thomas and Alma Barnett’s grandson, with Alma being a Blount. John and Tommie Bottoms are my parents, with Tommie being the Barnett. The Barnett / Blount families have so much history in this area. We lived in a trailer behind my grandparents little green house, close to the intersection of Sunbury Rd and Islands Hwy, then Route 1 🙂 . I spent many summers at Yellow Bluff with my Barnett family (uncle Paul, grandpa’s brother) fishing the days away in the Medway, Walburg, or McQueens. Or trekking out from Sunbury dock to fish some other undisclosed secret location near St Catherine’s Sound with my Dad, or other members of the old Barnett clan (usually uncle Robert or uncle Schley). The old geezers would often pretend to be angry when sometimes I would catch more trout than them!! Other times I would be patrolling the sandy backroads on my little Suzuki 125 four-wheeler. I often cruised by Camp Viking and the bird sanctuary, enjoying the scenery, breathing in the fresh salty air. Also spent a lot of time fishing in Judge Underwood’s old ponds behind our house (which are now an unfortunate mess left over by some real estate developer). God how I loved growing up here. There was just something about this magical place. The river, the marsh, the swamp, the forest, my Big Oak climbing tree (still standing!), the history, the amazing people. Grandma and Grandpa and Mom and Dad are now gone to be with the Lord. My sister, Amanda, still lives in my grandparents’ old home with her husband Charles, son Morgan, and daughter Ashleigh. They have done a wonderful job of fixing up that old place! My brother Matt lives in Guyton, with his wife Tabitha and son Rhett. One day, when we go to visit my family, I will make a point to go back and share this magical place with my 4 boys. They are at an age where they can appreciate it now. My two older girls were here a lot when my parents were still alive. Thank you for this history on Camp Viking! You can take the boy out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the man. A big piece of my heart still lives here. I will never forget my beautiful home in this remote corner of Dixie, the Coastal Empire.

    • Thanks for a great history story, Tab. Camp Viking was one of my favorite places of very many where I have lived over a 30 year career moving frequently at Uncle Sam’s directives. Glad to hear it is being maintained and improved!

  9. Cheryl Blount Donaldson: Thanks to you also. My apologies if some of my recollections above (some posted as Joel Heath and some with this screen name} were inaccurate. At the time I lived there I did not at all know the full story of the place. Almost all of what I “knew” was colored by Roy Norris’s interpretation. I hope to visit again sometime. I think it was about 1989 I last drove through and was favorably impressed at cabin improvements compared to my memory of living in Cabin 1 about 1981-1983. Joel

  10. Cheryl Donaldson

    Thank you for your letter. I enjoy hearing from former tenants and locals. I had the misfortune of living in Savannah until 1985 when I moved to Colonels Island. I will never move back.
    Cheryl

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