Camp Fire Girls was organized around 1910 as a sister organization to Boy Scouts of America. By 1913 there were three scouting girls’ groups in the United States: Girl Scouts, Girl Guides, and Camp Fire Girls. Camp Fire Girls’ watchword was “WoHeLo,” which represented work, health, and love. The fire in the title of the club represented the home, a place of comfort and cheer. Fires also inspire activity and a place to gather together.
In Routt County, Camp Fire Girls was the most popular scouting club. The first club in Routt County was organized in Hayden. The Hayden group was named “Chipeta,” in honor of the wife of the Ute Chief Ouray. Camps were formed in Yampa, Steamboat Springs, Craig, Mount Harris, Phippsburg, Elkhead Camp, near Hayden, and Hot Sulphur Springs. By the 1950s Steamboat Springs had at least six different chapters of Camp Fire Girls (Wahelwa, Petawata, Waditaka, Tandah, Luta, and Odako). Each group had a quota of twenty girls ages twelve to twenty, and one Guardian, who had to be at least twenty-one-years old.
The camps adopted their own version of Native American spirituality and their own understandings of Native American lore and symbolism, particularly in their dress. Each girl was expected to make their own ceremonial dress and headband. “The dress resembled what the organizers thought of as a “typical” Native American buckskin dress, straight with fringe on the bottom,” wrote Catherine Ellis in her 2011 article, “Glorify Work and Be Happy.” 1
There were three levels of progression in Camp Fire Girls, Wood Gatherer, Fire Maker, and Torch Bearer. Each level was reached based on years of membership, attendance at meetings, and elective honors.
The local clubs took an annual camping trip which included activities such as hiking, baseball, fishing, and archery. Each morning the girls attended a “sunrise devotional” on the top of the nearest mountain and an inspiration Council Fire. Each camp raised money throughout the year to help fund the summer trip.
“Probably the greatest impact the Camp Fire Girls organization had on the girls of Routt County was the lasting friendships. For more than 58 years, the girls from Hayden’s Chipeta Camp kept in touch via a round-robin letter. They shared photos, poems, and news of their families with the friends made ...” Catherine Ellis 2
In 1976, the Tread of Pioneers Museum received two Camp Fire Girls ceremonial dresses for its permanent collection. One dress was made and worn by member Alma Baer. Baer was a member of the group around 1915 through 1920. The Baer family came to Routt County in the 1880s when Alma was three years old. The other dress was made and worn by member, Betty Hubbard. Like many people, Betty was a member of several clubs throughout her life including the Reading Club, Ladies Recreational Club, and the Bridge Club.
In the 1975, Camp Fire Girls became a coed organization and is still active today as “Camp Fire.”
1, 2 Source: “Glorify Work and Be Happy: The Original Camp Fire Girls of Routt County” by Catherine Ellis in Colorado Heritage, Nov/Dec. 2011.