The summer months are a great time for hosting reunions. Each year, on the second Sunday of August, my family gathers together at Camp Whitewood to celebrate 11 generations, and growing, of the White family. This year our family celebrated our 104th White family reunion, all descendants of James and Fannie (Pittinger) White. Our family is one of the largest in Geauga County with our reunion being one of the longest running.
Why would we celebrate at Camp Whitewood for all these years? Let me briefly explain.
By the early 1960s, the Northeastern Ohio 4-H Camps, Inc. owned seven acres of land that included a main camp area and buildings located on Wiswell Rd. in Windsor, Ohio. That original parcel of land, with an additional two acres for the water supply lake, was donated by Tomas White. All other land used for camping activities was leased from Thomas White on a year to year basis. It was in early 1961 when Thomas White would finally agree to sell an additional 210 acres to Camp Whitewood. He included in this purchase most of the Warner’s Hollow property and close to 80 acres west of Wiswell Rd. This property already had lakes, orchards, and farm buildings on it.
The financing of this purchase of land was a major one for the Northeastern Ohio 4-H Camps Inc. However, because of the cooperation of Thomas White, a down payment was made by the camp board with the balance being secured by a first mortgage held by Thomas White himself. In order to pay off the first mortgage, quotas were established and assigned to each county that used the facilities at that time. Involved in the fundraising activities were Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage, Summit, and Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Then, on a pleasant day on October 16, 1965, a mortgage burning ceremony took place with members and advisors of 4-H, community friends, and members of the White family in attendance. It was a full day of celebration and a major accomplishment for 4-H.
Our family has not always used Camp Whitewood as its main location for our reunions, but no other place seems more fitting to us today, especially since it was once home to Thomas. Thomas White loved children and believed in the 4-H program. Many of our family members were and still are involved with the 4-H programs, some of us as leaders today. We believe as Thomas did; that 4-H is a strong builder in the development of our youth, and our family will do everything we can to protect what Thomas White believed in by giving Camp Whitewood the support it needs for a strong future. Today Camp Whitewood still operates as a camp for 4-H, but also offers camping for school band programs and has year round educational events. Visit their website and see what they have to offer.
Now you understand our history with Camp Whitewood. In the year 2014, our White family will celebrate 105 years of reunions, most of those at this camp. We will come together at Camp Whitewood with our dish to pass and table settings, our “White” elephant auction items, and pictures to share with those we know and love. We will share stories of how our past year has been and give insight of what our future might hold. We will give thanks in prayer for being able to come together one more time as a family, remembering all our loved ones we have lost over the past year, and years prior. As we dine on homemade recipes, that should be graced in a “White Family” cookbook, many will guess how many pieces of candy are in the bottle, sign the guest book, and update addresses and emails.
There is always a brief family meeting, giving prizes for largest individual family in attendance, farthest traveled, newest born, oldest member living, and a basket of everything beginning with the word white to the oldest family member in attendance with the actual last name of White. A passing of the hat will then end the meeting.
When we finally venture outside to sit together and talk, memories will be shared of the past reunion years as we watch the children’s games unfold before our eyes and eventually participate in the adult games ourselves. If you watch closely enough, you will see a certain cousin to be found walking around in and out of the crowd with her bag of red licorice, asking how everyone has been over the past year. In 2014, we are adding something new to the games; a corn hole tournament will be included in the festivities with a prize for the winning team.
Our Century Quilt made to commemorate our 100th reunion and showing nine generations in hand stitched needlepoint, once displayed at the Great Geauga County Fair where it earned high honors, will cover the hillside on the west side of Wiswell Rd. with all White family descendants in attendance surrounding it for a once in a lifetime photo.
Finally, we will hug, kiss, say our good byes, and with a few tears give well wishes to family members before we separate for another year. But we are ok with that. We know that soon we will be together again doing what our parents, grandparents, and ancestors did before us; celebrating another year as the descendants of James and Fannie (Pittinger) White at Camp Whitewood.