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Camp Tillicum & North Bay Rotary big part of city’s historical foundations

by | Mar 25, 2023

“Clean living and healthful recreation” has been the mission of Rotary’s Camp Tillicum long before the South Shore property was donated to the service club in 1949.

Thomas Palmer and James Nightingale bought the property in 1926 for the expressed purpose of providing scouts a place for summertime water and camping adventures. Listen to Nestor Prisco talking about both Tillicum and Rotary from this recent telephone interview:

Palmer, an early and active Rotarian with the North Bay club chartered 100 years ago in the spring of 1923, helped developed and expand the camp from water access and tents to having supplies brought in by horse and wagon to erecting wood cabins.

Palmer was a club president in 1940, joining a long list of notable citizens such as J.O. McKerrow 1924, Norman McCubbin 1928, W.K.P. Kennedy 1937, Hartley Trussler 1950, George McArthur 1954 and Paul Birnie 1960, plus many more. See Kennedy’s 1961 book North Bay: Past-Present-Prospective for a complete list up to 1960 of not only Rotary club leaders but all the service clubs, groups and organizations as well as a fulsome history. He completed his manuscript in the fall of 1961, several months after celebrating his 79th birthday. He died while returning from a trip to the French River Sept. 24, 1961 after announcing to friends the project was completed and in the hands of publishers.

The Rotary Club of North Bay’s charter members, as found in the book, reads like a list of the community’s founders, which makes sense seeing it started a year after the city incorporated in 1925: R.Y. Angus, Dr. D.A. Campbell, C.E. Coleman, E.A. Doan, Dr. R.L. Dudley, F.S. Fosdick, C./F. Brown, J.E. Holmes, C.J. Knox, G.W. Lee, S.J. Mason, W.H. Milne, T.M. Mulligan, J.M. MacPherson, J.H. McDonald, M. McGuinty, J.O. McKerrow, W.M. Neal, Rev. J.J. O’Leary, T.J. Patton, A.C. Rorabeck, C.J. Sanders, J.A. Thomas, H.H. Thompson and F.D. Wallace.

President of Rotary’s Camp Tillicum board, Bob Cunnningham, said prominent members of the community continue to be major supporters. He said the $1.3-million Redpath Youth Centre completed last year received significant support from the Redpath, Ted Thomson and recently deceased George Stockfish associated foundations, as well as Rotary North Bay.

Also active in this district is the Rotary Club of North Bay-Nipissing, which has one director on the Rotary Camp Tillicum board, and Rotaract Club of North Bay-Nipissing, which focuses on events, volunteering and social engagements (like the Poutine, Pints & Plaid fundraiser for the YMCA.

North Bay Rotarians have also raised much for a variety of community projects, including $500,000 for the North Bay Regional Health Centre, $750,000 for the YMCA’s therapeutic pool, $125,000 for Nipissing University’s Learning Library, $220,000 for breast screening equipment and recently helped establish the children’s activity water park at the waterfront.

Cunningham said there is still some fundraising required to make up for the pandemic-induced inflation of construction costs, but the centre was in full use last year and will have potable water connected by spring.

Through an operating agreement with the YMCA, Camp Tillicum continues to serve the interests of youth by providing outdoor education experiences. They are also broadening its programs to include winter camping experiences for scouts, guides and high schools in conjunction with recreational study programs at Canadore College and Nipissing University.

For the history of YMCA in North Bay, see this PDF report by Edwin Clarke found on the Nipissing University history site.

Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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