Club Background

By Dr. Richard Craft

As I look back upon the history of the Wawarsing Rod & Gun Club, also known as the Wawarsing Sportsmen's Club, I see faces, events and a lot of good times.

In 1968, the club Secretary Vernon Kelder did an excellent job in putting together a journal chronicling our first 30 years of history. For those sentimental enough, we still have a few copies available. It took us from the amalgamation in 1938 of the Cotton Tail Club (No, Hugh Hefner was not around at that time), the Southern Ulster Fish and Game Club and the Ellenville Chapter of the Izaak Walton League into the Wawarsing Sportsmen's Club. The first official minutes of the new combined WSA reveal concern as to the disposition of thirteen dozen rabbits which were arriving momentarily. There is no official comment as to how they solved the dilemma.

The first official clubhouse was located in a building located behind the present Barthel Farm Stand between Ellenville and Napanoch. Trap and rifle shoots were held on a regular basis, which brought in much needed funds to help operate the club. Then in 1953 the men of the WSA went-out on a limb and purchased the former Sutta Bungalow Colony adjacent to Honk Lake in Napanoch, which contained 65 acres and a number of buildings, renovated the casino, sold some land to the Ellenville Pistol Club, brought in their hand operated trap and went into the sportsmen's business in a big way.
Their first order of business was to retire the indebtedness incurred by a large mortgage and in a little over ten years this had been accomplished along with the re-purchase of the Ellenville Pistol property. Monies from special shooting events, dinners and raffles put the club on a sound financial base. In those years men like Elsworth McDole, James Innes, Vernon Kelder, James Findlay, Horace and Willis Everett, Irving Richmond, Roger Fredenburgh, Harold Gillette, Frank Wintish, George Garrison, the Terwilliger boys, Abe Rand, George Barthel, Dick Porter and others too numerous to mention worked hard to build, groom, maintain and establish the Wawarsing club to the status it holds today.

While some clubs have come and gone and others are still struggling, the WSA has survived and flourished. While other clubs have sought to retain their regional identity with a closed membership, the Wawarsing club has had a long standing policy of open membership to any and all sportsmen and sportswomen. We take pride in accepting all applicants regardless. We have been able to generate a large membership from which a larger number can actively contribute to the success of our club. We have also opened our membership to those who live outside a twenty-five mile radius and while they are unable to be active members their dues and occasional trips to our excellent shooting ranges still makes them feel an integral part of our unique organization. This inclusiveness and not exclusiveness is the secret of our success. While many clubs decry the lack of help in maintaining their facility, we are blessed with a fine nucleus of men and women whose pride in our club is evident immediately upon accessing our property.

To me the first thirty years of our history speaks of getting established and making a positive name for ourselves. The next thirty years speaks of steady growth with attempts being continually made to provide a diversity of programs for a diverse sporting public. Just as we relied upon the efforts of some special men in our first thirty years, so to have we relied upon a new group of sportsmen who have taken their place. As you review our list of past presidents and Sportsmen of the Year as well as our present leadership, you will get a glimpse of the reason for our success. Unselfishness, cooperation, teamwork and contribution has always been our trademark. With the name of each person-goes a face, someone who we have laughed with, enjoyed, teased and appreciated. Many other unsung and unlisted names could not be added lest we forget a few, but to all I have known, who have worked, played and ate with us and have contributed their little or much I say thank you.

We are confident in our future. Young leaders are being groomed to assure the continuance of our club into the next century. We have made a special commitment to the inclusion of women, minority groups and young people.

I can envision a club of 750 strong accessing Honk Lake for its excellent bass fishing by way of our new boat launching ramp. I see an enlarged clubhouse complete with member amenities, an active archery division and an indoor rifle range open all year round. I see private hunting lands, enlarged shooting ranges as just a beginning. As some of today's old timers slowly fade into their ATV's and bench rests, they can look back on a job well done and in a future that certainly looks bright from where I sit (on my ATV). To those who are our future I say, "Keep up the good work -you are and always have been a great bunch of guys and gals."


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Wawarsing Rod & Gun Club             PO Box 305 Napanoch, NY 12458