Hartman Center: A Brief History
By Ken Wolensky & Rev. Dr. Bruce R. Druckenmiller
Hartman Center is the Outdoor Ministries facility owned and operated by Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ since 1964. Year-round programming includes retreats, conferences, workshops, dinner meetings, summer camps and other events which, while designed for particular age levels and interests, are open to all persons without regard to race, creed, or ethnic origin, and who accept the guidelines and philosophy of the Center. Its mission is to help people grow in relationship to God, become a whole person by showing awareness of uniqueness and special gifts, develop trustful and responsible relationships with others, experience the joys of outdoor living and learn to manage the environment as faithful stewards of God’s creation.
Hartman Center is located at the base of Straley Knob on Old U.S. Route 322, ten miles north of Lewistown and 21 miles south of State College, Pennsylvania. It is comprised of 192 acres of open and wooded areas, with easy access to nearby streams, hiking trails, and state parks. The land on which Hartman Center sits formally became a camp in 1932 as it was willed to the Congregational Church of Milroy by its owner and namesake, Rachel Hartman. Its early history indicates that the land was part of an original indenture between a prominent Philadelphian and a Mifflin County landowner. It read:
“This Indenture made the twenty-eighth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred ninety-five between David Rittenhouse the city of Philadelphia, Esquire, and his wife Hannah of the one part and John Murphy of Armagh Township in the County of Mifflin yeoman of the other part … witnesseth … for the sum of two hundred and seventy-four pounds specie undo them paid … for a tract of land 274 acres 13 perches.”
The document is recorded in Mifflin County Courthouse. Prior to David Rittenhouse owning the land it was part of the original holdings of William Penn and his family.
In 1876 Christian Hartman came into ownership of the land that would later become Hartman Center. Christian was born in York County and, as a young man, visited Reedsville near Milroy and fell in love with Barbara Wilson whom he married in 1842. He was a farmer and a stone mason by trade until he accumulated enough capital to purchase a farm just outside of Milroy. In 1888 the barn and stone mansion on the farm were destroyed by fire. Far from being discouraged by this misfortune, Christian restored the stone house and built a larger barn. He and Barbara had a family of ten children, five of whom died early. The last survivor was Miss Rachel. It was she who erected the stone monument amid the pines beside the stone house in memory of her brother, Joseph R. Hartman.
The Stone House, originally built between 1800 and 1808, has passed through many changes as it has been modernized while preserving much of its charm and original integrity. In its early years the first floor door (which is now a window) of the house was used by stage coach drivers to pay their tolls before crossing nearby Seven Mountains. The barn, which has since been removed, provided shelter for horses and vagabonds. The cooks in the house provided the famous chicken and waffle dinners for travelers.
By 1932, the Hartman farm contained 166 acres including the wooded area along Laurel Run. According to Miss Rachel’s will, dated July 28, 1932, she bequeathed money and personal items to friends and local organizations and concluded that “the balance of my estate of whatsoever nature to be given to the White Memorial Congregational Church of Milroy.” Among the specific bequests was one to a nephew, Harry Haines, of Elk City, Oklahoma, who contested the will. As a result, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made the final decision on November 3, 1934, whereby Mr. Haines was to receive a cash payment but the land title was to remain vested in the Congregational Conference of which the White Memorial Congregational Church was a member.
In the initial stage, the Milroy Congregational ministers were called upon to oversee the affairs of a camp for the Congregational Conference. Dr. Wilson P. Minton was the first administrator to conduct business for the Conference from Hartman Center’s stone house office. When summer conferences were held, the King’s Daughters of the White Memorial Congregational Church provided the meals and the Sunday School classes served them. The Trustees, Deacons and local people gave their labor to build the entrance, clear the land in the meadow and plant trees. The chapel was dedicated June, 1958. The chapel’s chancel picture window, with its panoramic view of Seven Mountains, was given by friends in memory of Bertha Anna Minton, the first Hartman Center hostess from 1937 to 1951.
On February 2, 1964, the White Memorial Church voted to join with the United Church of Christ. Thus, a promising new chapter of expansion at Hartman Center began and it grew to become a modern church camp. The stone house was renovated to accommodate thirty persons. In addition to the manager’s house, the Center has an administration building and dining hall with a fireplace built with the stones from the old barn’s foundation. The dining hall has recently been expanded to include more space for banquets as well as meeting and program space. It also includes a new serving/catering kitchen. There are nine cabins, all of which have wall to wall carpeting for eight to twelve occupants and are handicap accessible, twenty camping pads in the wooded area each of which is equipped with electricity and water, two program lodges, a craft house, a shop and storage buildings and Michaux Lodge, the most popular and most used facility which can accommodate up to 40 people and is completely handicap accessible. Michaux Lodge was named for Camp Michaux, a church camp located in Michaux State Forest on South Mountain near Pine Grove Furnace which was in existence from 1947-1972 and was a joint venture between the U.C.C. and Presbyterian denominations. Camp Michaux has a fascinating history. It started as a CCC camp, became a prisoner of war camp during W.W.II, and finally become a church camp during the summer of 1948. You can read more about the history of Camp Michaux by going to www.schaeffersite.com/michaux on the web.
Recreational facilities at Hartman Center include a swimming pool as well as basketball courts and two sand pit volleyball courts, all of which can be illuminated for night games, and a large field that is used for everything from soccer to softball and marching bands. Along with the many hiking trails around camp (including the one that goes to the top of “the Knob”), one of the most popular aspects of learning about living in community is the Co-Op Trail (low ropes course) which helps groups work together in completing various tasks and helps individuals build self-confidence by doing things that are sometimes out of their “comfort zone”. There are also three pioneer camping areas that house campers through the summer in A-Frames and Adirondacks.
Hartman Center Directors
Paul Oberkircher, 1964-1973
Dan & Sharon Wilson, 1973-1976
Charlie Hull (Chaplain)
Ellen Matten, 1976-1979
TC Day, 1979-1984
Bob Knowles, 1984-1987
Rob Brown, 1987-1991
Lee Lawhead, 1991-1998
Betsy Matten, 1998-2001
Bruce Druckenmiller, 2002-present