Pro - Tennis
Campers relaxing in the library
333 Hershey Lane
Clayton Georgia 30525
In 1915 Lillian Smith graduated from High School in Jasper, Florida. Her father's lucrative business in lumber and naval stores failed because of an embargo on American exports during the First World War. The Smith family, nine children and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, moved to Clayton, Georgia in the foot hills of the Appalachian mountains where they had a summer home. Her father then opened an inn and eventually in 1920 the inn became Laurel Falls Camp for Girls.
Lillian went on to study music at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia about 30 miles south of Clayton and in the fall of 1917 moved on to study piano at The peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. 1918 was spent back in Clayton teaching at a small school in Tiger, GA but the next year through 1920 she was again studying at Peabody. During all of these years Lillian would return to work at the camp in the summer. In 1922 she left Peabody to teach music at a school in Huchow, China. Returning to Clayton in 1925 she would assume the directorship of Laurel Falls Camp.
In 1949 well into her writing career she would recognize that 28 years of working with children and running the camp were responsible for shaping her life's purpose. In a letter to the camper's parents she writes to explain a summer with no camp and says the following:
"My writing, the bit of success I have had with it, the somewhat stormy and exhausting years that have followed the book [Strange Fruit], all these have only made me more certain that from children comes one's richest and most real experiences in life and one's final contribution to this world's welfare can be measured most truly by what one does for children everywhere."
"I hope that the idea of Laurel Falls will not die. I want to believe that we have started a chain reaction of dreams that will go on touching child after child in our South. And always I hope camp will not be full of just echoes, but that you and [your child] in the flesh will be climbing the old rock steps many a time to visit us".
Echoes indeed there may be but they are not ghostly or gossamer. Screamer Mountain still rings with the music of dedication and purpose, with the idea that clear thought and compassion can create a world where humanity will be a word on each person's lips and a fire in every heart on the planet.
The memory of Laurel Falls Camp for Girls, Rabun County, North Georgia, continues to hold a special place in the hearts of the many who came to the mountains as young women in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and enjoyed the time they spent at the camp. If you are one of those women or know one of them please contact us.
MEMORY OF LAUREL FALLS CAMP