Hughes Remembers:

Camp Murphy on Lake J. B. Thomas

6/30/93  Newell Hughes Remembers Camp Murphy.  Note: This is a talk between Steve Odom, former Scout Executive of the Buffalo Trail Council and Newell Hughes, long time volunteer.

Steve Odom: Newell, tell us a little bit about Camp Murphy Thomas, how it was developed and what happened to it on Lake J. 8. Thomas

Our good friend Lyle Deffebach from Snyder was a good friend of Mr. Ed Murphy, who had a lot of property on the new Lake J. B. Thomas. Lyle got Mr. Murphy to give us 40 acres on the lake to build a Scout Camp. The lake had filled up fast after the dam was completed. We started with a topog map that Lyle came up with to plan. The first trip over, about four or five of us wen to see what we had. We arrived at the lake on the south side, looking at the site across the lake.  There wasn't any road to it at that time. I had brought my boat, and we launched it and went across the lake to visit the camp for the first time. We stopped at the foot of the hill where we eventually placed the dining hall.

Most of the buildings that we used were given to us by oil companies who were just beginning to discontinue their residential camps out in the oil fields.  The dining hall building came from Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring. It had a large walk-in freezer and made a good facility. The caretaker had a nice cottage....

Note:  Recording tape ran out at the point.  Another talk was held in August.

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8/3/93  Newell Hughes Remembers Camp Murphy and the Hughes Aquatic Base and Training Center.

I don't think we used Camp Murphy on Lake J. B. Thomas more than five or six summers at the most. With Murphy, we did have enough room to operate a camp. Our subsequent aquatic camp on the West Side of Lake Colorado City was leased property, originally used by Cosden Oil and Chemical Co. for an employee recreation site. Cosden generously donated the lease to us. Unfortunately, it was really not large enough for a Boy Scout Camp at all because it was only slightly over 4 acres. There really wasn't enough land for Scouts to do anything except to go down and hop off the dock into the water, and that wasn't too safe to do that because of underwater obstacles. It was great for raising grassburs. We weren't very enthusiastic about spending much money on facilities because it was leased and not owned by us.

However, the camp on the West Side of Lake Colorado City was a good move for a temporary location from Murphy on Lake Thomas. Thomas had been a good lake for us because we got in there at the initial filling, which was five years ahead of its supposed rate. Enough water had fallen on the watershed_ to rapidly fill the lake and keep good water in it for a number of years. The big rains that caused the rapid fill apparently also brought in silt at a faster rate than had been anticipated, which eventually shut down our portion of the lake and put us out of business.

We were located on the upper reaches, only about a 'half mile from where the incoming river became a lake. This seemed to be a good location, because at that time there was enough water a mile upstream from us for fishing camps and cabins. The lake just dried up faster than anybody thought possible. This was not only due to the additional silt, but also because small lakes were built on farms on the watershed that stopped the water before it reached Lake Thomas. We also had problems in rainy weather getting to Camp Murphy because our road in was pretty terrible when it was wet.

I guess I kinda had a penchant for aquatic camps, because some of my first dealings with the Buffalo Trail Council involved aquatic camps on Lake Sweetwater. The Council included Sweetwater at that time, and Henry Norris, our District Executive there, and I ran a couple of camps on Lake Sweetwater with good success. This was about 1952 or '53 shortly after I moved to Midland and before we had Camp Murphy. The Council didn't have any aquatic facilities at all when I came here, and I didn't think you could run a Boy Scout program without teaching them now to handle canoes and rowboats. The Lake Sweetwater camps worked out so well that when the proposition came up to build Camp Murphy, I was ready to work on it.

I'd say that Camp Murphy was probably one of our most unsuccessful developments. Somehow or other, we never did get the enthusiasm from our Scouters to use it like it should have been. I don't know whether it was for lack of promotion or what, but it never did draw the campers that it should have. We bought some boats and canoes and a couple of little sailboats, but they actually never got enough use to justify what we had spent on them. One of the primary reasons we had to abandon the camp and move out was because that was no drinking water around. Wells only produced gyp water. We had a filtering system all set up to process lake water, but we didn't have much success out of that because the camp caretakers didn't know how to properly operate a filtration plant. We couldn't keep good water for drinking, much less for showers. And of course, eventually the lake receded a long way from the camp.

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