Peelle-Hoskins was a popular water spot

Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist

Not too long ago I wrote an article about the Dover Mineral Springs as a location where a variety of outdoor meetings were held prior to the advent of air conditioning. But it came to be dominated by the local and area temperance meetings and finally the springs dried up.

Another location that came to be even more popular and enduring was the Peelle-Hoskins camp, which went by several names and is located north of Wilmington off Highway 134, but it is mostly forgotten.

This is a story that will be enjoyed primarily by the older set!

I have relied on on the internet as well as Suzanne Kenny and a few others to fill in the information about this very popular meeting site, but there is still a great deal I don’t know about it.

The first reference I find in the source is dated June 24, 1927 and the occasion is the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Friends Church. Rather than being an established location for meetings at this time, it was simply the location where, “Mrs. Frank A. Peelle received guests at her very delightful summer home, an ideal camp located in a charming wooded environment not far out on the Port William Road.”

The second entry in the Wilmington News Journal is the next day and it mentions several social meetings going on at the “Peelle-Hoskins Camp on Todds Fork.” The August 10, 1928 article is quite a surprise – “Local Swimmers and Divers in Tourney: Will Compete at Chillicothe.”

The article goes on, “Despite the fact that no pools are located here (in Wilmington) – using Peelle’s pool,” written by Kroger Babb. The schedule for the contest indicates there are to be several swimming and diving events.

I checked with Suzanne Peelle Kenney and she assured me that there were two diving boards at the Peelle location, one high and one low. (I must mention that Suzanne was not there during the 1928 season, as she came along much later.)

There is no report in the WNJ how the local swimmers placed in the Chillicothe competition.

What was available at the park/lake — aside from picnic facilities and swimming/diving — during the 1950s was explained to me by Suzanne. Besides the two diving boards, there was a gigantic rope swing which Suzanne was permitted to swing on, but could not drop into the water.

There was a building where both men and women could change into swimming gear as well as hold meetings. Snacks were also sold there.

Dell Peele was in charge of the location, served as the lifeguard and collected the admission fee. There was a semi-circle boardwalk away from the deeper water that served as a safe location for children. Nothing of these things I mention remain.

It seems that there was often a problem with moss growing in the pond, and that is obvious today. Today, to view the pond (it seems to me that the word “pond” is the most appropriate to describe the body of water) it is next to a small grove of walnut trees well cared for by the current owners.

It is difficult to relate the many types of meetings that were held at the Peelle-Hoskins camp nor the number over the decades it was in use, but the highest use was late in the summer during the 1930s.

An example of its popularity appeared in the August 11, 1934 “Social Calendar” in the WNJ listing the following events on the same day. Sunday, August 12: Smith reunion; Moore family reunion; Bonecutter reunion; and finally, the Miller-Hildebrant reunion. Sundays seem to be special time for reunions.

I looked in vain in to find an explanation for the demise and end of the very popular gathering place for so many groups – church, educational, fraternal, etc.

It is clear in the mind of Suzanne Kenny and others that there was a drowning at the location and the story never made it into the local newspaper. So, the story goes – two high school boys were swimming at night without permission when one of them drowned.

If others could add to this incomplete story, it would be welcome.

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist