Fortson 4-H Center:
- Fortson 4-H Center offers 7 different lodging facilities.
- Fortson 4-H Center can lodge 174 individuals.
- Fortson 4-H Center has a small educational farm with: turkeys, chickens, guineas, goats, geese, and peacocks.
- Fortson 4-H Center has a 1.2 acre pond that is fully stocked with many species of fish.
- Fortson 4-H Center has a herpetology lab with 27 species of reptiles and amphibians.
- Fortson 4-H Center has 44 foot tall climbing wall.
- Fortson 4-H Center has a 900' zip line course.
- Fortson 4-H Center has a state-of-the-art amphitheater stage with a Boise system.
- Fortson 4-H Center has 3.2 miles of well maintained hiking trails.
History of Fortson 4-H Center
(history compiled by Grace Whipple)
Camp Fortson started in the backyard of Robert and Regena Whitaker's home over fifty years ago. A number of adults wanted an opportunity for children to experience the great outdoors and the American tradition of camping. The children slept in tents and brought with them a cup, plate, fork, and spoon. They enjoyed playing outdoor sports, KP, and water games.
Mr. Ed Fortson and his wife Miss Claude were intrigued with this concept of having a facility for the community children to go to camp and enjoy what nature had to offer. They donated more than 77 acres on the Henry-Clayton County line and in 1962 Camp Fortson was born. The first campers along with many adults, who themselves are Master 4-H'ers, including several County Extension Agents began to clear the land. The first campers slept in tents with no luxury of running water.
In 1963 the campers and adults began to dig the foundation for the first building. The cinder block dining hall was created from the hard work of campers and adult volunteers. This building served not only as a place to eat, but also as the first dormitory. At night the adult leaders would stretch a rope across the middle of the dining room. The would then hang sheets and blankets creating a wall between the boys and girls sleeping quarters. The campers slept on donated Army cots and each morning their bedroom would be magically transformed back into the dining hall.
The next building constructed was the chapel. The chapel seats 168, has a steeple, stained glass windows, and chimes that play soothing music. The chapel is dedicated to the memory of Margaret Copeland one of the founding members of the Kitchen Kuties.
The Kitchen Kuties are a group of women who have raised over $500,000.00 for Camp Fortson. The Kuties were formed as the result of an attendance competition between two Sunday school classes. The losing Sunday school class had to entertain the winning class and the Kitchen Kuties were born. The class decided to form a kitchen band which encompassed:
- Eloise Rowan, grader grinder
- Margaret Copeland, spoons
- Velma Huckaby, fiddler
- Regena Whitaker, washtub
- Ruby Robinson, pan pounder
- Ethel Smith, butter churn
- Secola Dodgen, piano
The Kitchen Kuties went anywhere and everywhere to play. They played at church socials, parties, country clubs, and even appeared on the Ted Mac Amateur Hour in New York City as well as the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The Kitchen Kuties, in their matching long dresses, silver boots, and kazoos went to the extremes to make sure the community's children had a place to camp.
As the years passed, dorms were built, one for the boys and for the girls. They followed the plan the dining hall and were made of cinder blocks. One painted blue for boys and green for girls. In the first dorm even the bathrooms were designed for children-down to the width of the toilet stalls and the smaller toilets.
The lake was dug in 1964, the lake is fed from a natural spring located at the north end of the lake. Ellis Floyd donated the first fish for the pond and personally poured the fish into the lake himself. He also paid a $1.00 to the first camper that caught a fish. Soon the board that makes us Fortson saw the need for children to have a separate fishing and swimming facility. The lake was then divided and the first official swimming hole was opened complete with a white sand beach. Every year new sand was delivered and spread around the pond....it was first class.
In 1975 a lake pavilion was built so that the Henry County Grand Squares would have a place to practice. The pool pavilion was added when the pool was built in 1976. The pool was paid for when Henry County 4-H'ers sold McDonald plats. Each plate was $1.00 and Fortson received .50 cents for each plate sold. The 75,000 gallon mini Olympic sized pool is still in use today.
Across Fortson Road there are 31 of the 77 donated acres. When Margaret Copeland past away her daughter, Ginger a former 4-Her wanted to give something to Camp Fortson in her mother's memory. She donated $5,000.00 and still continues to remember Fortson each year. In 1979, the 31 acres was named, "Margaret's Mountain". The Hampton Boys volunteered to clear the land. They camped out on the site and over several years and tree by tree, limb by limb-battling poison ivy the future Ropes Course emerged. They first erected the high zip line and rock climbing tower and rock wall. During this time a 1 mile nature trail and campfire ring were created.
As Fortson grew new sleeping quarters were built for the counselors. In 1982 the Staff House opened featuring a full kitchen, 5 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. Later another bedroom and bath were added. Counselors now had their own home.
The gymnasium was built in 2001 and dedicated to Robert and Regena Whitaker as a monument of all their hard work and dedication to Fortson. Two new cottages were constructed and dedicated to the memory of other Fortson pioneers--Ethel and Junior Smith and Eloise and Julian Rowan. These cottages sleep 26 and have seven private bathrooms.
The Rowans and Smiths would be awed by the new 200 seat amphitheater. Fortson now has a state of the art outdoor stage complete with lights and a Bose stereo system.
Now, Camp Fortson has come home to its roots 4-H. In 2003, Camp Fortson became Fortson 4-H Center. Fortson 4-H Center is operated by the University of Georgia College or Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension.
In cooperation with the Fortson Board of Directors many improvements and renovations have been made since 2003. The staff house was totally renovated with many new amenities and updates. All buildings have gone through and extensive new painting. In 2011 the White House was renovated and edits were made--making it the newest cabin at Fortson 4-H Center. Also, in 2011 a small educational farm with plants and animals was added to Fortson 4-H Center. In 2012 a new canteen was added along with bathrooms and dressing rooms to the pool pavilion that is adjacent to the swimming pool.
Fortson 4-H Center is one of five facilities in the state managed by Georgia 4-H. We look forward to you becoming a part of this wonderful location.
Your private group may rent our facilities for a retreat or you may join us for one of the following activities that we offer to young people: