Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
Sometimes one joins an organization for one reason but leaves a legacy of a completely different sort.  Such was the case for Jim Kennedy who moved to Marshall and joined the Rotary Club in 1922 for business reasons.
In Jim’s case he found his “calling” in Rotary working with young boys.  While he was in Marshall, he bought a small parcel of land just north of Marshall, probably intending to build his retirement home and spending the rest of his life there.
But fate intervened, and he moved to San Antonio before he could do whatever it was that he had planned to do with it, so he held on to it and a couple of years later he deeded it to the city of Marshall for a city park.  The city decided it didn’t want to pursue a park at that time, so they sent it back to him.
Then he thought about the boys he had worked with in the Rotary club and decided to give it to the Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts.  In 1928, the Pine Tree Council announced plans to hold a Boy Scout Camp at the Old City Lake which was about two miles north of downtown Marshall.  The site, at the time was used as a swimming lake.   It was served by a good road and the Marshall Trolley Company ran to and from the lake. 
The Scouts eventually, built and operated a scout camp on the land for a little over seven years until the property was bought by the federal government and a CCC Soil Erosion camp was built to train people in soil erosion prevention and water conservation.
It was operated as a Soil Erosion camp for several years, successfully training thousands of volunteers and pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy, until the program was shut down in 1944.
In 1954 the Horizon Club took over the land, cleaned it up and updated the facilities and held its first Camp-Fire Girls camp.  In 1957 the camp was renamed the “WaCanTa” camp, meaning “happy hearts among the pines”.  Elbert L. Wells past president of the Marshall Rotary club, and long-time supporter of Boy Scouts and Camp-Fire was “instrumental” in naming it.
Camp WaCanTa served the Campfire and Marshall for many years after that, but the cost of maintaining it eventually became an insurmountable issue, so the property was deeded to ETBU in 1993, which operated it as a public service for ten years.  In 2004 ETBU returned the camp to the Camp-Fire council.
As its last humanitarian service, on August 31st, 2005, the Camp-Fire donated mattresses to the refugees from hurricane Katrina huddled down in the civic center.  Now the entrance to the property that welcomed thousands of eager kids and hundreds of thankful CCC enrollees, is a locked fence gate, with “Private Property. Keep out” posted on it, but for those who remember it, it is a treasured memory.   And, who knows what still lies ahead for this gift that just keeps on giving?
J. C. “Jim” Kennedy did not live to see this all play out, but he would have been pleased to know how it did.
In the short time that he was in Marshall, he worked tirelessly for many causes and was honored in a special luncheon January 14th, 1926.  But, the 40 acres of land with a small lake, approximately two miles north of Marshall, that he later donated to the Boy Scouts, is probably his proudest legacy of all, and rightfully so.
His legacy and the legacy of others who followed him in supporting “Camp Jim Kennedy” and “Camp WaCanTa” in Marshall, will be fondly remembered when we “Celebrate a Century of Changing Lives in Marshall, and Beyond”, August 24th, 2019.