United Church Camps, Inc. (UCCI) is an independent non-profit corporation providing outdoor ministry for all people. UCCI operates three sites in Wisconsin: Moon Beach, Daycholah Center, and Cedar Valley.
Wisconsin’s church camping history extends back more than 120 years. UCCI has enjoyed a long and fruitful ministerial partnership with the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ (WCUCC) since 1957. In 1967, the Conference founded UCCI to manage the property, other assets, and camping programs on behalf of the member churches of the WCUCC.
Daycholah Center History
Long before Daycholah Center was established on this land, this was a sacred place to the Native Americans who lived in this area. Green Lake was the center of their community with abundant, clean water and fertile land. Several sacred places on the Daycholah Center property give us a hint of our Native American kin who lived here over 1,000 years ago, including several effigy mounds.
People of many faith traditions have shared and gathered at Daycholah Center since it was founded in 1902 as the Green Lake Bible Institute. A gift of $1,000 secured the property on Green Lake. Since its founding, Daycholah Center has evolved and adapted to the changing times. It moved from a separate corporation to a non-profit stock corporation which included several denominations. These faith groups worked together to provide programming and to share the space and facilities to meet their individual and collective goals. Over time other denominations moved away from camping programs, so the Congregational Church (a predecessor to the United Church of Christ) bought the stock shares and eventually owned the entire property.
In early 2023, the property was sold by UCCI to the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ. Factors that contributed were existing debt, declining participation–going back to 2004, the pandemic shutdown, and a slow rebound from Covid. The Conference moved its headquarters to Daycholah Center. The sale creates a deeper partnership and enables UCCI to continue offering camps, retreats, and outdoor ministry at this site. It invigorates Daycholah Center and all of UCCI to focus on new and relevant programming, improved spaces, community partnerships, and investing in our commitment to Indigenous justice and learning.
Moon Beach, Daycholah Center, and Cedar Valley have a long history of providing meaningful camp events, retreats, and Sabbath at sacred places set apart for rest and renewal. It is in these places that we down enough to appreciate nature, to listen to one another, and to hear God’s still, small voice reminding us that we are loved.
Moon Beach History
Moon Beach was originally a family owned fishing resort. In 1957 the Evangelical Reformed Church in Wisconsin (one of the predecessors of the United Church of Christ), was looking for a camp where children and families could gather for recreation and renewal. The church found this beautiful property and secured it for a very attractive price.
Moon Beach has all of the natural beauty of the Northwoods, and all of the charm of its history as a fishing resort. Cabins overlooking Moon Lake dot the shoreline, providing a stunning view and privacy for each family.
Moon Beach is unique among most camps across the United States in the fact that we offer an extensive family camp program. Most camps only provide programs for youth, but even from the beginning, the vision for Moon Beach included families. Each summer we welcome families of all sizes and all definitions to be part of this unique experience and community. Some people who come to family camp grew up here with their parents and siblings, and now they bring their families to camp. Of course, every week we warmly welcome new participants who have just discovered Moon Beach.
The unique programs – especially the family camps – draw many people from the United Church of Christ, and many others from other faith backgrounds.
Cedar Valley History
Cedar Valley is the newest of our three sites, located near West Bend, WI.
Cedar Valley Retreat Center was opened in 1986 by Cedar Community, a faith-based senior living community led by Rev. Louis Riesch. Cedar Valley joined the UCCI family in 2020.
Historic maps and documents show the 100+ acres of Cedar Valley in the northwest corner of section 35 in the town of Wayne. An 1859 plat map shows no structures on the property but lists H. Mayer as the owner. Records from 1873 and 1892 indicate a small structure and a farmer, Conrad Brinkmann on this property. In 1915, Ernst Boettcher is on the property and more structures are added. These historical records lead us to believe the log home on the property dates to sometime between 1859-1873.
Anecdotal evidence tells us that Spirit Chapel was one of the first structures added when Cedar Valley became a retreat center. Construction of the chapel was begun in January because the heavy equipment and concrete walls required frozen ground.
We invite those who may have additional information and perhaps photos of the early days of Cedar Valley Retreat Center to share them with us!