Lake Nepahwin, known for many years as "Gillett’s Pond" was discovered either by Gresham Gillett or his son Wilkes while hunting for cattle which had strayed from their farm. Mr. Gillett lived in a double log house on the site of the old Daniel Innes house on South Avenue.
Little attention was paid to this pond until the first Hotel was opened at Minnequa, when it became a favorite drive, enjoyed by the guests of the Hotel. One of these guests, Grace Greenwood, an author of that day, christened the lake "Nepahwin" in the summer of 1876. (May 25, 1876 Sentinel)
Lake Nepahwin is 307 feet higher that Canton Boro, and since the fall of 1888 has furnished the town with the bulk of its water supply. After much wrangling and the threat of a lawsuit between the boro and the Water Company, water mains were laid by William Robinson and William Burns and a large crew of men. When the lake water was turned into these mains it was far from satisfactory in quality, and it was several years before the quality of the water was noticeably improved.
During the 1890’s a large hotel was built on the north shore of the lake and was operated for many years by Mr. and Mrs. Will Baldwin. Mrs. Baldwin was an excellent cook and her Sunday dinners were enjoyed by many Canton families. The hotel had a large boathouse, with boats for the guests and dances were enjoyed each week. The hotel was known as "Lake Breeze Hotel" and was operated by the Baldwins until ill health forced them to leave. Sometime later the buildings were sold to the YWCA, and a large girls camp was established.
The girls came in groups of 200 to 300, changing every two weeks during the summer. YMCA’s from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Harrisburg and many other cities sent girls to this camp. After a number of years the popularity of the camp declined and the Association sold to another group. Since then the buildings have been owned by several different organizations, including the present Baptist Association.
Lake Nepahwin is fed entirely by springs and has no inlet. It covers about 50 or 60 acres and is 80 feet deep at the deepest point. The west side and part of the northwest and southwest corners have a sloping beach, but much of the rest has a rocky shoreline and is deep almost at the water line.
Before the days of electric refrigeration the lake was the source of Canton’s ice supply. Skating is enjoyed in winters when the ice is not covered with snow. There are eighteen cottages clustered around the lake and owned mostly by local people. These are in use during the summer and at least three are occupied the year round. In addition to these, there are several cottages owned by the Baptist Camp.
The first cottage built was the one now occupied by Cameron Campbell.
It was used as a fishing camp and for ice cutters. Later almost that entire
side of the lake was sold for $300.00. The second cottage built was Idylwyld,
owned by Dr. J. W. Parsons, and later by the Keagle family. It was first
used as a tavern, and consisted of two rooms downstairs, the larger of
which was a bar room.
Eleanor P. Keagle (1896-1971)
At a little lake in the hilltop,
The home of the Mallard and loon,
Towanda was wed to Nephawin,
By the light of the full blazing moon.
And to make her name immortal,
With the lake so placid and deep,
They christened the lake Nephawin,
Which means “sweet spirit of sleep.”
Then Minnequa and her father
Went westward to their home;
Returning one day years after,
Determined no longer to roam.
Adorn the beautiful valley,
Towanda hunted the deer,
Nephawin was queen of the forest,
Their children the hunters’ cheer.
Author not recorded.
This was found among Miss Sadie Parson’s personal papers and is written in her handwriting. She was the librarian (1904-1928) of the Green Free Library in Canton, PA.
A nameless spring in the wildwood, clear as
the crystal sea,
A spot where all red men were peaceful for its waters were healing and free.
Here, in the doorway of his wigwam with two daughters by his side,
Sat an aged, weary chieftain, from the red Oneida tribe.
But old time was fast encroaching, bent in form, and lame was he;
And to try these healing waters, a long journey came the three.
He remembered in his childhood how the lame were quickly brought,
When in battle, sore and wounded, they these “spirit waters” sought.
He for years had roamed these forests and knew every stream and mound,
Wild bird’s notes, and leaflet’s rustle, were to him familiar sounds.
Many tribes had found these waters north and south, from east to west
And the sick throughout all nations thought these “spirit waters” blest.
Sparkling, bubbling, gaseous waters, sulphurous to smell and taste;
Coming up from deepest Hades, where good is driven off as waste.
Here he lingered, growing stronger, till he had his youth regained,
Then tho’t to memorize the fountain and a fitting name obtain.
So he sent out a delegation to all tribes of the Iroquois,
To come dance by the spring in the wildwood, sings songs and tell tales of its joys.
When the tribes had thus assembled, heard the tale of youth renewed,
And drank of the cooling fountain and these loving daughters viewed.
They, in honor to their children, whom they knew as Manatau,
Named it for the eldest daughter, “Healing Waters” – Minnequa.
Young Towanda, a brave of the Mohawk saw charms in the younger one.
So beautiful, agile, and cunning, gave his heart, and her hand he won.
And quite jealous, lest the elder should outshine the younger one,
Told the tribes he would be wedded before the day was done.
At a little lake on the hilltop, the home of the Mahug, or loon,
Towanda was wed to Nephawin, by the light of the blazing moon.
And to make her name immortal with the lake so placid and deep,
They christened the lake “Nephawin” sweet – “Spirit Of Sleep.”
Then Minnequa, and her father went westward to their home;
Returning one day years later, determined no longer to roam.
Down the beautiful valley, Towanda hunted the deer,
Nephawin was queen of the forest, their children the hunters cheer.
Leona, the foot of Mt. Pisgah, was for one of their daughters named
And for good deeds, and brave ones, the other children were famed.
Once a year they met together in honor of Manatau brave,
Near the spring, quite hid in the forest, at a mound, that was Minnequa’s grave.
Grace Greenwood was a well-known author and poet. It was this poem that made people change the name Gillettes Pond to Lake Nephawin. This was considered a more dignified name.
||On a bluff overlooking the waters of beautiful Lake Nephawin stands
a rambling old building once known as the Lake Breeze Hotel. Built
in 1894 by the late Henry Baldwin, this summer resort has long been a Mecca
for those seeking rest and relief from the heat of the city.
Mr. Baldwin, who had operated a hotel at famous Minnequa Springs, realized the advantages of the hilltop location near the lake which at that time was known as Lake Breeze, and built the three story structure with wide porches on three sides and an observation tower from which an excellent view of the lake could be seen. The building was surrounded by a large expanse of beautiful lawn sloping down to the highway on the North and facing the lake on the South and towering poplar trees lined the driveway which encircled the grounds. Nearby were the stables where fine horses were kept for the use of guests who desired to take drives throughout the scenic countryside. Here too, was the old side-seater (the surrey with the fringe on top) in which trips to town were often made. Boating on the lake was also a favorite pastime and several boats and canoes were kept along the north shore of the lake.
After the death of Mr. Baldwin, his wife continued to reside on the property in a small cottage near the hotel which she rented to Ben Loop of Williamsport. At that time Mrs. Loop operated the Canton House located on Troy street where the Canton Publishing Company building now stands.
In 1912 the Philadelphia Y.W.C.A., which had for several summers maintained a camp for its members at Mourland Park, (which later became the home of the late Congressman L. T. McFadden,) decided to expand, and bought the Baldwin property at the lake as well as a nearby cottage once owned by Grace Greenwood, a noted writer. The Y.W.C.A. later acquired the Greenleaf cottage nearby, built by Lincoln Stone, and also the Beechwood cottage across the lake, to accommodate the young women who came in ever increasing numbers for a vacation and to attend summer conferences at the camp which then became known as Camp Nephawin from an old Indian legend. Often 300 girls enjoyed the healthful recreation offered by the camp which was for several years under the capable direction of Miss Mary Johns Hopper and her sister Miss Aletta, of Baltimore, a Miss Williams of Philadelphia and Miss Dorothy Morgan of Williamsport. They were kept busy with swimming in the pool which was built on the grounds, horse back riding, boating on the lake, hiking to Cedar Ledge rocks and other points of interest, picnics and many other activities.
At one time the camp was so crowded that it became necessary for some of the girls to sleep in tents so, in 1921, a new building was erected just southeast of the former hotel. This contained a large recreation hall with a mammoth stone fireplace at one end and a stage and dressing rooms at the other, on the first floor, and wide stairways leading to spacious dormitories on the second floor. It was connected to the original building by a hallway with space for dishwashing and storage on the ground floor, and a catwalk from the dormitory to the upstairs hallway of the hotel. Building costs mounted until in 1926 the organization was forced to close the camp for lack of funds and for several years it remained in disuse. The Beechwood cottage was later sold to Andrew Campbell and James Coons who still use it for a summer cottage.
Camp Nephawin again came into its own in 1930 when a group of people from Williamsport saw the possibilities of a site for a summer camp, and acquired the property as a private camp for girls. This corporation consisting of the Misses Ethel Collier, Pauline Ott, Eva Belle Lovell, Carolyn and Charlotte Williams and Roy Williams, made extensive repairs to the property and built a new swimming pool. Other recreational facilities provided included horseback riding, tennis, archery, boating, hiking trips, campfire ceremonies, amateur programs and instruction in handicrafts. The camp, which was often attended by from 100 to 250 girls at one time, flourished for six years and was again closed.
The place then remained deserted until 1939, except for one winter when William Lorrimer of Williamsport rented it and conducted a roller skating rink and held dances there.
At about this time Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Freeman of Buffalo, who drove past the camp while on their way to Eagles Mere for their summer vacation, became attracted by the favorable location and the beautiful surroundings and rented the place for their son Crawford, who acted as counselor at summer camps in New York State and was interested in camping as a vocation. Crawford Freeman and friend Raymond Robertson of Cleveland started a private camp for boys there, and named it Camp Sherwood. They made several changes in the place and were just getting well established when the war came along and they were forced to close the camp in 1941 and answer the call of their country.
Again the once famous hotel was inhabited only my memories and fell into quite a state of disrepair. But in 1945 the old camping spirit was again revived on the hilltop when the Northeastern Baptist Association bought the property as a summer camp for young people from Baptist churches in several surrounding counties. The Rev. Henry Wray, then of Williamsport, was president of the corporation which was known as the Baptist Camp at Canton. The Rev. Cecil Palm, then of Warrensville and now of Sabinsville was business manager for several years.
Since its beginning, the officers of the Baptist Camp have changed several times but the name remains the same to the present day. The purpose of the camp is to provide religious education and wholesome recreation for young people of the Baptist Church, and many notable speakers and teachers have visited the camp at various times.
--Canton independent-Sentinel – July 24, 1952