The area of Rock Creek that flows through our beautiful Camp Shaw was once the home of Pottawatomi Chief Shaw-Waw-Nas-See for which our camp is named.
Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See sits on the site where one of the oldest Pottawatomi villages was located. In 1830, there was a great tribal council, Chief Shaw-Waw-Nas-See who was not only respected by his tribe, but many others in the area advised his people to make a treaty with settlers, in order to maintain their friendship. This eventually led to the mass exodus of the Indians of the Rock Creek area to the reservations in the West. At that time Chief Shaw-Waw-Nas-See was too old and in poor health to make the journey. He remained on this land. He appealed to his family and friends to promise not to bury him in the ground, but to place him in a log cabin built for the purpose which was sometimes the Indian custom. One of his settler friends built him the log cabin and his wishes were met. Chief Shaw-Waw-Nas-See’s remains are a mystery, some believe they were stolen by trappers, some say they were taken to Chicago and displayed in a surgeon’s office and later destroyed in the great fire, others believe he is still buried on these grounds. What we do know is there is a marker we can visit to remember him and those that came before us on this land.
At the end of World War II, Illinois 4-H families were mailed a survey to determine what the financial focus would be after the end of the war. During war time, Illinois 4-Hers raised money to purchase ambulances and other gifts for the armed forces. Overwhelmingly, everyone responded in favor of establishing camps that would serve as a memorial for those who had served in World War II. In the year of 1945 a group of farm and home advisors met at the land that is now Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See, to consider a generous offer of 50 acres of land offered by the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois.
In 1946 a state-wide committee was formed to coordinate camp facility development. Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See, like all of the other 4-H camps in Illinois, grew out of the need for camping experiences on the part of 4-H club members. Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See was the second 4-H camp developed in Illinois.
An additional 20 acres was purchased from the Public Service Company in 1949. This was done through 4-H clubs in the 30 counties surrounding camp. Each club collected money based on the number of club members and their location to Camp Shaw-Waw-Nas-See. In 1949 another 20 acres were purchased and in 1956 Willliam Brandenburg from Kankakee gave the Northern Illinois Association an additional 30 acres allowing camp to become the sprawling 100+ acres that it is today.
At first the camp was set up entirely with tents with about 40 being used to house the campers and there was also a craft tent, a mess hall tent, a recreation tent and a pop stand tent.
It was during the 1950’s that most of the present camp facilities were constructed. The dining hall was completed in 1950, the tents were replaced with cabins in 1951, the program building in 1955.
The number of campers enrolled during those early years was staggering. The very first summer of 1946 over 1000 campers attended, in 1953 over 1600 and in 1966 over 2600 campers! Today, our campers come from all over and are not limited to just 4-Hers. Look at where our campers today come from!
Today we offer both traditional and new programming for our youth and rental groups. We are fortunate to be celebrating 70 years, but that ,too, comes with challenges such as aging facilities. We are working hard to restore, rebuild and renew and expand our facilities into other seasons. We’ve recently added a new Plains Pavilion to our facilities for more diverse rental group offerings, among other uses. Our hope is to rebuild and/or winterize our cabins and kitchen and continue to offer strong programs for our youth.