Montlure has become a special place with special meaning for many campers and Presbyterians for over 75 years. Down through the years, children and adults alike have supported and participated in the growth and development of our church camp. The greatest growth has probably occurred in within each of us and our Christian lives, as we have made new friends, worked and played together, and worshiped God together surrounded by His great beauty. The heritage of this beautiful camp, located high in the White Mountains near Greer, Arizona, comes from the vision, toil and sacrifice of many dedicated people.
The vision for Montlure started at a long ago Presbyterian summer conference held in Oracle Junction (just north of Tucson) in June, 1926. The group had been traveling to different sites around Arizona for summer conferences but at this meeting it was determined that a need existed for a permanent summer conference and camp ground to be established.
In 1930 the same group met for their summer conference in Greer at the Hilltop Butler Lodge. The beauty of this place was fascinating to the point of making everyone thoroughly convinced that this as the place. They felt they were “lured” to the mountains because one felt closer to God at such an elevation and in such beauty. Hence, the name “Montlure” was created.
The goal of the Presbyterian group was to make this stunning place an important addition to the church properties and programs. Later in 1930, the U.S. Forest Service was contacted and a long term lease was signed for 20 acres of land in the canyon south of Greer (Montlure’s current location). However, over the years the lease has dropped from 20 acres to the current lease of 13. The Forest Service had to cut a road from Greer to the campsite which is the East Fork Road that exists today. All the trees cut down from the road construction were pilled at Montlure to use for the construction of the first Main Lodge. In the fall of 1930 before the snow fell, volunteers had constructed the walls, rafters, and framework for the roof of the Lodge by standing the logs on end. The builders were living in tents and left Montlure just ahead of the first snow.
All during the winter months the people of Tucson and Phoenix combined their efforts to build up supplies and make plans to complete the Lodge and to get ready for Montlure’s official opening of the camping program. The volunteer builders came back again in March, 1931. Because Highway 60 was not completed, the party and its load of supplies traveled to McNary over the one-way road through Whiteriver to get to Montlure. This hearty group of founders worked long hours to get the Lodge completed and on June 21, 1931 the first conference in the new facility was held.
From that year until the outbreak of the World War II in 1941, the campgrounds were improved upon by building cabins and a tool house. In 1939 the center portion of the current Administration building was built, making it the oldest building now on the Montlure Camp property. Since it was a tall building it was referred to as the “Corn Crib”.
During the War, the camp was closed down and largely neglected for 4 years. This is the only time since 1931 that Montlure has not had a summer program. When people returned to Montlure they found it to be a rat infested mess full of debris and consideration was given to abandoning the property entirely. Thankfully, a group of people believed in the beauty and legacy of Montlure so the clean-up began.
In 1946 Hwy 60 was finally completed and the drive from Phoenix to Montlure was reduced to just six hours. Until then, the route from Phoenix was to drive through Wickenburg, Yarnell Hill, Prescott, Flagstaff, Holbrook, and Springerville to get to Greer. The other option was still the one-way road from Whiteriver on the Apache Reservation.
In 1947, the current Barn was built and used as the boy’s dormitory. In 1948 a girl’s bathhouse was built which now serves as the boy’s bathroom. In 1951 Montlure had 5 cabins named Cabin A, Cabin B, Cabin C, Girl’s Cabin, and De Kino Cabin (De Kino is the name of the group that donated the cabin). Lark Cabin was built but housed the manager and the camp office. Our current medical building was the Cook’s Cabin. By 1967 Montlure had all seven current cabins in place and renamed to: Thrush, Lark, Wren, Robin, Ostrich, Porcupine, and Beaver ( renamed to Elk in 1981.)
Montlure Presbyterian Properties, Inc. was formed in 1949 to address liability issues and was composed of five members, all from Phoenix. Tucson membership was added in 1952 and the group expanded to ten members and later to 16 (now 18.)
In 1960 the original Lodge was torn down and the new Lodge was built around the original fireplace. The year 1968 brought Montlure its first phone. In 1973 the sewer system was added along with the walk-in cooler (located in the area that is now the Lodge bathrooms). The new and expanded electrical supply system, which included underground wiring to the cabins, the Barn, and outside lighting, was completed in 1980. Between 1981 and 1985 our well was drilled, a new girl’s bathhouse was built, cement was poured on the volleyball court, fireplaces were added to the Barn, a Ramada with a grill was built, and the Administrator’s cabin was constructed. In 2005, Hummingbird cabin was added to the family.
Over the years Montlure has touched many, many lives. Some folks even tell stories of how they met their spouses at Montlure. More important are the stories of how many of our campers and volunteers have come to know our Lord Jesus through a deeper and more personal relationship during camp at Montlure. Montlure is truly a special place where God does seem closer. As a member of the Montlure family, you are already a part of our current history and will hopefully continue to camp at Montlure or will volunteer to sustain this beautiful place for generations to come.