Camp Oceanside began at Ocean City Beach, on Topsail Island, North Carolina, in 1955 by the Rev. Edwin E. Kirton, then rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington, North Carolina.
There being no camping facilities in the Diocese of East Carolina that Black youth could attend, the Rev. Kirton pursued the idea of giving Black youngsters this opportunity in this Diocese at Ocean City Beach on Topsail Island. Camp Leach, near Washington, North Carolina, was the Diocesan camp for white youngsters only.
The Rev. Kirton had taken some youngsters to Pawleys Island in South Carolina in 1953 and 1954, but the distance was too far, and the area was devastated by Hurricane Hazel.
In 1955, at the invitation of Wade H. Chestnut II and Associates, the motel and the restaurant were used for the camping sessions for two weeks during the summer.
Father Kirton and all the other Black priests in the Diocese would participate and be responsible for various aspects the camp experiences. Father Kirton was director until his retirement in 1975.
Hundreds of black youngsters in the Diocese of East Carolina who could never have done so otherwise were provided camping experiences.
This camping experience was extensive and successful because of the support and dedication of Father Kirton, the Rev. Charles Johnson, the Rev. Joseph H. Banks, and the Rev. Richard Horsley, who spent their vacations leading various camp experience areas.
With the building of the fishing pier in 1959, and the continuous demand for the motel, land adjacent to the chapel built in 1957, was donated to the Diocese by Ocean City developers to build a camp for Black youth in the Diocese.
The Ocean City developers’ based the donation on the camp’s success and accomplishments in supporting the youth from 1955 to 1959.
A dormitory was built in 1959 to house 60 boys and girls and their counselors, as well as a dining hall/activity building and cottages for the staff and priests. Two sessions were planned for the first time in 1960 due to the overwhelming attendance.
The chapel and camp were dedicated on July 17, 1960, by the Rev. Daniel W. Allen, executive secretary, acting on behalf of the retired Rev. Thomas H. Wright, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, who was on a mission for the National Church in Europe.
With the retirement of Bishop Wright, his successor, Bishop Hunley A. Elebash, visited the camp yearly and carried on the enthusiastic support of Camp Oceanside. His executive secretary, the Rev. Edwin B. Jefferies Jr., was a zealous supporter of the camp and it’s director and staff.
After Rev. Kirton’s retirement, Neal Stitt of Goldsboro accepted the position of Camp Oceanside’s director. He continued in that role providing outstanding leadership for the next 10 years.
In 1985, camping facilities in the Diocese of East Carolina were integrated when Camp Leach and Camp Oceanside were closed. And under the leadership of the retired Rev. B. Sidney, Bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, a new facility was built at the Trinity Center.
The pavilion at Trinity was named the Kirton – Chestnut Pavilion in honor and recognition of Father Edwin E. Kirton and Wade H. Chestnut II and their commitment to serving the youth of the Diocese of East Carolina for decades.
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