Located between and Hereford, and bordering Berks County is a village known as Sigmund, home to the Victory Valley Camp and 73 acres of surrounding property.
Members of the Upper Milford Historical Society listened intently as Douglas Manwiller of the camp spoke of its history at their March 31 meeting.
Victory Valley Camp began in 1955, Manwiller said, when the property was purchased by the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (now the ) for use as a nursing home or Bible camp meeting site, before deciding on a children’s camp.
In the summer of 1956, the first 121 campers came to “Sigmund Bible Camp,” as it was originally called. It was unclear when the name was changed to Victory Valley Camp or why.
According to Manwiller, the chapel on the property dates back to before 1850. It was used as a coal storage building for the iron furnace across from the camp. The chapel is still used on Sunday nights and for Bible time during the week.
The stone house on the property was built in 1871 and once served the town of Sigmund as a general store, post office and hotel. “I remember delivering ice to the hotel with my father,” recalled Joe Benner. “We would take it there from Vera Cruz, where the ice house was,” he continued.
The house was purchased in the 1920’s by a Mr. Henninger, who placed a large “H” on the front porch and chimney. That “H” remains on the building. The house now serves the camp as offices, living quarters, the crafts room and photography dark room. The barn is used for storage.
Beulah Miller recalled that she would help to deliver milk to customers in Sigmund. At that time the milk was put into glass bottles and sold by the quart, she said.
The property also contains three lime kilns and two quarries. Neil Moser explained that the limestone was mined from the quarries and burned in the kilns into a powder in order to use it for fertilizer and cement.
Manwiller said there are now 13 cabins on the property, along with a swimming pool, a man-made 2.1 acre pond, covered walking bridge and a gymnasium. The pond, he said, comes complete with fish, bullfrogs and a snapping turtle.
The gym is used year-round by the community, including the Upper Milford Youth Association. “It’s a nice way for us to reach out to the community,” Manwiller said. “We have this nice facility that we don’t use all the time.”
During the question/answer portion of the program, Henry Beitler shared with the group that during his time as fire chief at Old Zionsville Fire Company, there was an arson fire at the camp.
Following his talk, those in attendance looked over photographs Manwiller brought along with him. Duane Wetzel, of Coopersburg, was looking for pictures of himself when he attended the camp as a young boy. “I found my brother and my uncle,” he said, “but not me. I guess I was hiding that day!”