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A Brief History of Aldersgate

Prior to Aldersgate

Prior to European settlement, this land existed at a crossroads of the Nipmuc and Narragansett territories, holding historical significance in the intersection of these indigenous lands. Nearby Chepachet, initially established by the Winsor, Burlingame, Owens, Irons, Waterman, and Steere families, grew throughout early American history. The land camp currently resides on later came under the ownership of Grace Episcopal Church in Providence.


1944 – The land Aldersgate sits on was purchased from the Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, RI.

1945 – First camp season kicked off!

1947 – Campers chose the name ALDERSGATE.  Prior to summer 1947, Aldersgate was just called “Methodist Camp.”


A group of campers during the 1940s.

Whether this is your first time or your tenth, you are now part of a special legacy. 2022 marks 77 years for Aldersgate! Aldersgate is owned and operated by the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church who purchased the land from Grace Episcopal Church in 1944. The first summer of camping was 1945.


Campers enjoying Lake Aldersgate in the 1950s.


1951 – Junior and Senior High camps only

1952 – Elementary camp added

1953 – Retreat Center dedicated


1957 – “Warm” showers were proposed but determined to be too expensive and campers continued to take cold showers!


1960s – 22 acres purchased from the adjacent Cook property.

1964 - Original farmhouse destroyed in a fire.

1968 - The 1953 Retreat Center renovated to become a conference-style, year-round facility. New sleeping and cooking areas were added and programs could be held at Aldersgate during the winter as well.


An interior view of the dining hall before additions and renovations.


The dining hall before additions and renovations.  The dinner bell is now across the road and used every day at all three meals.


Chair of the Board of Directors ,Dave Burke, as a camper in the 1970s.


1972 – First part-time Resident Director, Rev. Ken Stiegler, received half-time appointment to Camp Aldersgate.

1973 – Rev. Ken Stiegler became Aldersgate’s first full time Director.

1976 – Gary & Jean Meddaugh became Aldersgate’s Co-Directors.

1976 Living Arts week was started by Jean Meddaugh & Rev. Sam Johnson. (This camp still runs today!)


1983 – Solar bathhouse constructed.

1983 – Sandra Kelley became Aldersgate’s Director.

1984 – Sandra Kelley became the Treasurer of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church and Rev. Jefferey Thomas is name Aldersgate’s new Executive Director.

1985 – Group initiatives, low ropes, and high ropes courses are added to the camp programming to enhance team building, communication, and problem-solving skills.


1986 – Camp Hope, for children with cancer and their siblings, begins. Camp Hope served children in partnership with the American Cancer Society for over 25 years.


1987 – The Dining Hall was renovated, expanded and upgraded. Les & Lois Langhans became the volunteer contractors, designing changes, ordering materials, supervising the carpenter, and working on the project.


1988 – Basketball court erected.


Aldersgate summer staff of 1988.



1990s – Numerous site improvements were made including new platforms for the Hogans, new shelters constructed in the Volunteer Village area, Waterfront Bathhouse renovated, and Staff Bathhouse renovated.

1999 – Camp Celiac, a camping experience for children and youth with Celiac Disease, began as a completely gluten-free environment, where campers could enjoy camp without concern for their safety. This was the second gluten-free camp in the country.


2001 – Deck donated to Camp Hope/Camp Aldersgate and constructed outside the Great Hall in the Retreat Center.

2006 – Jenn Becker Carpenter becomes Executive Director and Lee Carpenter becomes the Associate Director.

2007 – A drama style worship, later named LifeMime, begins and becomes a worship tradition at Aldersgate for over ten years. 

2009 – GaGa Court built during Alumni Weekend. Labyrinth built by Living Arts campers, volunteers, and staff near Uncle Don’s Chapel.


A new tradition at Aldersgate is GAGA, an Israeli dodgeball game. This court was built by alumni in 2009 and, in following years, two more courts were built.


During the 2010s, the Living Arts spirit gift was an opportunity for campers to give back to Aldersgate. Some of the gifts were the solar bathhouse mural, the labyrinth, and the amphitheater seating.


2010 – New 200-seat amphitheater built across from the Health Lodge, by Living Arts campers, volunteers, and staff.

2013 – Program Director John Michael Spelman leads Global Village initiative focused on celebrating diversity and education of global issues.

2015 – Social justice is emphasized during summer camp programming.

2017 – Adopt-An-Acre Campaign kicks off to fund the purchase of the Cook Property.

2018 John Michael Spelman named Executive Director.

2019 - Second day camp pavilion built.


2020 - Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, Aldersgate did not open for in-person programming. Virtual camp programming was offered free of charge and Aldersgate staff provided a series of anti-racism videos and conversations for the community.

Be part of Aldersgate's future!

The original dinner bell has a new home across the road and is used to signal mealtimes throughout the summer.

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