In August 1925, the Baptist Young Peoples Union of Beauregard Association (BYPU) met in Dry Creek. The BYPU selected a hilly area situated between Dry Creek and Bundick Creek. During this meeting, the campers slept in tents and cooked over log fires.
Over 100 campers attended this first meeting. The gospel was preached, and the newly saved were baptized in Bundick Creek. Before ending the meeting, those present agreed to organize into the Beauregard Baptist Association Encampment and to meet yearly at this six-acre spot. They also elected Dave Sargent as president.
Even more people attended the meeting the next year, and the encampment adopted the motto: “An Encampment Built Around a Revival.” Other associations were invited to join and the name was changed to Southwest Louisiana Baptist Encampment.
It became a yearly tradition to hold a 10-day encampment. Services were held in the round open-air tabernacle. Some churches built dormitories, but most campers continued to sleep in tents. Instead of a dining hall, meals were served on tables set up under the trees. Hundreds of people attended the yearly camp. During the nightly services, several thousand would come to hear some of the finest Southern Baptist speakers. Long-time residents of the Dry Creek community still speak of the huge clouds of dust stirred by hundreds of cars coming each evening on the dirt roads.
Throughout these years, God continued to do a mighty work through the ministry of Dry Creek. Many people met the Lord at the encampment. Many others rededicated their lives or surrendered to missions or preaching. More churches built dormitories and cabins. A dining hall was added and the tabernacle was extended.
After World War II, attendance continued to increase. This brought about the need for a larger worship facility, which was built in 1953 and seated over 1,200. About this same time, a large swimming pool was also constructed.
Dave Sargent, “Uncle Dave”, as he was called, was Dry Creek fixture, serving for 39 years until his retirement in 1964. If you visit Dry Creek today, you will see that the Tabernacle, scene of where Jesus has changed so many lives, bears the title of “Uncle Dave Sargent” Tabernacle.
During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, many of the old dormitories began to deteriorate. Also, as times changed and people became busier, the allure of the ten-day family type camp began to fade. It was then that the encampment took on a new name and a new focus. The first full time manager, Albert Hagan, was hired. Under a new name, Dry Creek Baptist Encampment, many of the church-owned buildings were either donated to the camp, dismantled, or moved. At this point in Dry Creek’s history, the area’s five Baptist Associations took ownership of the camp. Trustees from Beauregard, Carey, Luther Rice, Mt. Olive, and Vernon Associations directed the development of Dry Creek.
In 1971, the Camp purchased adjacent property and existing buildings from Dry Creek Baptist Church, which moved to a new location. This allowed expansion of the camp property and office space. The present camp office was formerly the education building for Dry Creek Baptist Church.
As more summer camps were added, God continued to do His great work at Dry Creek. The last three decades have seen many changes and additions at Dry Creek. A year-round lodge was built in 1972. This allowed groups to use Dry Creek year-round for youth retreats. Two modern dormitories, able to hold 320 campers, allowed for greater use and comfort of visitors. The purchase and renovation of the nearby Dry Creek High School resulted in Dry Creek having a wonderful facility to host the growing adult population for retreats and conferences. This Adult Conference Center is a favorite for adult groups of all types. The combination of comfortable, private lodging in a historic atmosphere draws groups back year after year. The beautiful Ethert Hagan Prayer Garden, situated beside a pond, complete with gazebos and seating for over 200, is the location for evening campfires, as well as a great place for meditation. The Prayer Garden was completed in 1992, shortly before Albert Hagan retired as manager, after 26 years of service. Through these additions, Dry Creek’s ministry has evolved into year-round camps and retreats for all ages.
Hagan’s successor was Curt Iles, just the third leader of Dry Creek Camp in nearly 70 years. Curt became manager after years of service on summer staff and staff leadership. Iles’ ministry focused on improving the facilities and programs, as well as hiring more staff to operate the ministry with excellence. During this time, most of the buildings on campus were remodeled in some way, and many abandoned buildings were brought back to life. Even though the Country Store was the only new building built during Iles’ 14 years as manager, the bed capacity of the camp was increased to over 400 because of these renovations.
The largest of these improvements was the remodeling of the Uncle Dave Sargent Tabernacle. This project was completed mostly by volunteers and transformed the old barn-type sanctuary into a state-of-the-art facility without losing the rustic charm that makes Dry Creek special. Through it all, from the first tents set up under the pines to the present full-time facility today, God has done a mighty work at Dry Creek, and we are deeply thankful for how He has used this place in the lives of so many.
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