Written by Stephen Thompson
Canada West Mission Centre Historian
Vol. 1 | No. 4
Welcome back to our next installment of “Historians Corner.”
You may remember (or may not! It’s been a while!) that in our last column we heard about the acquisition of the Hills of Peace Campground. I thought it only fair that I share the story of how the Samish Island Campground came into the possession of the church. Many members in BC may be quite familiar with this story.
For these details I am relying on a video featuring Kim Naten telling a fairly complete history of Samish. (Kim is currently the President of the Greater Pacific Northwest Mission Center (GPNW) and a life-long attendee at events at Samish.) I cannot tell this story any better than Kim, so I will simply directly quote excerpts from her presentation:
"…The story of how Community of Christ acquired these grounds is a story of immense generosity and humility …
Back in the late 1920s a young Norwegian couple by the names of Sig and Tora Freestad purchased a large parcel of property on Samish Island in Skagit County, Washington… They started out raising cattle there and eventually turned to raising turkeys.
Sig happened to work with a minister from a church very few in the area had really ever heard of, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Over time the two men became friends and through that friendship Sig and Tora eventually made the decision to join this little church.
The Freestads, who later moved away from Samish Island but still owned the property, developed a deep appreciation for the camping programs that the church offered its youth. At this time the church camps in that area took place at Silver Lake (near) Everett, Washington.
Sig and Tora came to feel so strongly about the need for a dedicated site for church youth camps that they ultimately felt led by the Holy Spirit to gift their farmland of over 80 acres to the church for this purpose. The Freestads presented their proposal to both the British Columbia Canada District as well as the Seattle District in 1957. While the BC District gladly accepted this generous gift, surprisingly, many folks in the Seattle area did not want to accept this and wanted camps to remain at Silver Lake. It took some time, along with a visit from one of our apostles, but the gift was finally accepted by a fairly close vote at the Seattle District Conference in 1958. By the summer of 1959 the first reunion was held there.
Between 1959 and the early 1960s a dining hall and restroom facility were built along with wooden tent platforms… Sig and Tora purchased a home across the street from the property and served as the campground’s first caretakers even as the campground developed with cabins and classroom buildings being added."
And that is the origin story of Samish Island Campground and Retreat Centre according to Kim Naten. See the bibliographic information below for access to Kim’s video.
Please let me know if you have any comments about this. Perhaps you have other memories of the early years of Samish Island that you would like to share. I would be happy to receive them!
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537