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A tour of Vade Mecum


Most of the readers of this blog are not from Stokes County, or even from North Carolina, so I need to explain what Vade Mecum is and why people in Stokes County are so concerned about it.

A hundred years ago and longer, Stokes County was a tourist destination. People would come into Walnut Cove on a train, then travel by wagon to one of the resorts. The resorts were clustered around what is now Hanging Rock State Park. There are cool-running springs there, particularly on the shady north side of the park. It was a cool place to be in the summer. Most of the old resorts, which were built of wood, are gone. Only one remains: Vade Mecum.

Vade Mecum was never exactly abandoned, but it was a bit of a white elephant, and no one knew quite what to do with it or how to deal with the expense of keeping it up. It belonged to the Sertoma Club for many years, and for that reason it’s often known by another name, Camp Sertoma. In recent years, it has been managed by N.C. State University. However, N.C. State was losing money on the property and abandoned it on short notice last year. The Stokes County commissioners scrambled to figure out what could be done with the property. Interested citizens floated a business plan, but the plan never flew. But at present, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering a budget bill that would include some money for Vade Mecum and attach Vade Mecum to Hanging Rock State Park, which is just a stone’s throw away. It seems likely that the bill will pass and that Vade Mecum will be saved for the people of North Carolina. But people in Stokes County aren’t counting their chickens yet.

Yesterday there was a tour of Vade Mecum. Many people who are very interested in saving the place had never been inside, including me.

The dining room

The kitchen

Just inside the main door

Robin, superintendent of Hanging Rock State Park

Friends of Vade Mecum and leaders of the tour

A bedroom on the third floor

The chapel

The chapel ceiling

The gym, which has a stage at one end…

… and a fireplace at the other

The big porch in front of the gym

A vast swimming pool behind the gym

Some of the cabins

The main building


  1. Jo wrote:

    Your pictures indicate this place has a lot of potential. The proximity to Hanging Rock State Park is a plus. Am wondering if an initial “cleanup/fixup” day(s) could be organized and high school and college youths recruited to help out.
    Also, has this treasure been featured in a newspaper, i.e. Winston-Salem Journal? Hope a “Save Vade Mecum” campaign will generate interest and this beautiful site will flourish again.

    Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Jo… The people in Forsyth County haven’t been as fired up as the people in Stokes, but we definitely have a lot of community support for this place. As for the young people, many of them love the place, because there were 4-H and other camps there for years.

    Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Dale Armstrong wrote:

    I attended Vade Mecum from 1959 until it closed…but made the journey as long as I could remember as my parents and I took my brother to camp and then picked him up. We were both campers then camp counselers. This was my sanctuary & very important place in my heart. It is a special place that deserves to be preserved and used for future generations.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  4. Cliff Hale wrote:

    Is the camp available for reservation? If so, who can I contact?

    Thank you,
    Cliff Hale

    Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  5. daltoni wrote:

    Vade Mecum is now part of Hanging Rock State Park. Some renovations are to be made with some of the bond money that N.C. voters approved March 15. I’m sure that it will be a while before the renovations are done and the place opens to the public.

    Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  6. Cliff Hale wrote:

    Thank you. I will contact the state park.

    Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  7. Martha McDaniel Park wrote:

    I went to camp there about 45 years ago. I remember the main building and cabins and especially the chapel. It was called Camp Vade Mecum then.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  8. Jane Cheshire-Allen wrote:

    Both my father and I attended Camp Vede Mecum as children. It was run by the Episcopal Church back then. Such fond memories of the cabins, chapel, singing in the gym, and waking to a recording of revele played over the PA system. It is a treat to see these photos after wondering what happened to my beloved camp.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 4:46 am | Permalink
  9. Rhonda Hayter wrote:

    My father Ron Hayter ran the camp the last two years before it closed. My sisters worked on staff and I got to “go to camp” when my age group of campers came through. It was a beautiful, beautiful place and I’m so glad that people have fought to save it.

    Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  10. Debbie wrote:

    Friends of Sauratown Mountains is hosting an open house at Vade Mecum on Janaury 28, 2017 from 1 to 5pm. This will be an opportunity to tour the grounds of Vade Mecum and talk with the design team that State Parks has hired to come up with a plan to revitalize the property so people can one again enjoy it. Steve Shelton, local historian will give a talk at 3pm on the Vade Mecum Springs Resort in it’s glory days. Hope to see you there. Debbie Vaden, FSM President

    Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  11. Monica wrote:

    I am so happy to know that something is being done to save this wonderful place. My youngest daughter had her wedding there on 12-21-13,the last event before it was slated to close. We have lots of photos and great memories. Soooo happy that this will be restored.

    Friday, January 27, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  12. William J.(Bill) Haw wrote:

    I used to practice music at Vede Mecum.
    It was and IS a Wonderful place!

    Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  13. Tom Spencer wrote:

    I last attended camp at Vade Mecum in 1959 as my mother and father had in the early 1930’s when it was called Camp Penick after the bishop when it was created. It’s a great spot and I don’t understand why the Episcopal Church ever let it go.

    Monday, July 3, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink
  14. Ginger Hahn wrote:

    We just saw it for the first time this weekend when driving up to Hanging Rock. I came home and looked it up to see what it was. It looks like a beautiful place. I have lived in Stokes county 27 years and this is the first I have heard of it. It needs to be more publicized. I hope they will restore it.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  15. Skipper Hammond wrote:

    I went to Camp Vade Mecum for two weeks each summer while I was in junior and senior high school. It belonged to the North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church. The first few years we had evening service in the chapel in the woods, back behind the gym. Then, they built the Chapel pictured here. We had swimming class in that pool now full of leaves and every summer we held a synchronized swimming performance. The Director was The Rev. Moultrie Moore, priest at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, and a scholar.

    Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  16. Skipper Hammond wrote:

    Forgot to say–that was in late 1940s.

    Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
  17. Richard Beil wrote:

    In the late 1960s, my wife of the past 47 years spent her summers as a crafts counselor at Camp Vade Mecum.

    During that time — in the summer of 1968 to be specific — my future wife and I fell in love talking under the mercury vapor lamp across from the main building during the course of a conversation beside my red Plymouth that lasted until 4 o’clock in the morning.

    Any counselor working there at the time may remember that episode — which ended without a kiss — since it was witnessed from the porch by several members of the Camp Vade Mecum staff.

    Saturday, September 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink
  18. Sherry Easterbrooks wrote:

    DRBA is conducting a tour of this site on March,4 2018. More information can be found on the DRBA site. DRBA for those who at not familiar is the Dan River Basin Association.

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  19. Sherry Easterbrooks wrote:

    Sorry but the DRBA event on March 4th to Vade Mecum is not open to the public!

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink
  20. Jeff wrote:

    I am hoping to find out if the old late 1800’s Vade Mecum Springs bottles are extremely rare to find. These bottles have the slanted embossed Sterilagua name on one side of it. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    Sunday, August 12, 2018 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  21. Bill Corbett wrote:

    Around 1961 (I would have been 15 or so, been so long it’s hard to remember exact dates/times) myself along with 12 other teenagers and a carpenter named Harvey Hooker built the three newest cabins at Vade Mecum. The foundations were there but we constructed the cabins completely from the foundation up.I had camped there for years as a camper first, then a counselor and then on the cabins project. It took us 6 weeks only. We worked very hard and long days but had loads of fun and learned much about carpentry and life in general. We were joined one day by Bishop Baker of the North Carolina diocese of Episcopalians. My mother had camped there in her youth also and helped build the chapel, stone by stone. It means so much to me that Vade Mecum has survived! I have visited it many times since then and loved walking around and the memories flooded back.

    Monday, September 9, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  22. Bill Corbett wrote:

    To Skipper Hammond. my family lived one city block from St. Martins, when Moultrie Mooore was the priest. We walked there every Sunday. Thanks for sharing your memories!

    Monday, September 9, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  23. Elen Blair Smith MD wrote:

    I went to Vade Mecum, part of the Episcopal Diocese of NC, as a camper and as a counselor/maid & waitress each summer through 1969. As a camper or counselor, I stayed in the cabins. Between sessions or for sessions for families or parishes, I stayed in the big house. My high school ring is somewhere in the entry sign which we built in 1969; it slipped off during construction of the stone and cement structure. Such wonderful memories! We watched the moon landing on a tiny black and white TV in the dining hall. I used to love mopping the chapel, such quiet, peace and serenity. Thanks for the memories and work to preserve this treasure,

    Sunday, January 19, 2020 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  24. Ann Graham wrote:

    My aunt attended Camp Penick in 1940. I have about 40 unlabeled photographs from that year. Will be glad to send if anyone is interested. Thanks

    Monday, February 22, 2021 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
  25. I just found a lot of photos from Vade Mecum in 1962 when I was a camper there… If you are interested in seeing them, let me know.
    Tula Holmes

    Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  26. Melody Leckie wrote:

    From High Point, NC at the time I attended Camp Vade Mecum. I remember assembling in the gym and watching something going on, on the stage. Remember swimming in the pool, arts and crafts and the canteen. Going to chapel and taking hikes. I bunked in one of the cabins. My brother was a camp counselor there. I love the memories. Our church in High Point also used it from time to time, as a retreat. Remember eating in the dining area. A couple of other memories, hearing the bugle call over the PA in the morning and also the mess call. Someone got on the PA and said “soupy, soupy, soupy, come and get your beans”. It was so funny to me as a kid. One last memory, I recall going into a room that was within the hotel. It was like a library maybe, or someone’s office. There was a large collection of butterflies and moths that I was fascinated by.

    Monday, June 7, 2021 at 3:45 pm | Permalink
  27. Lori K Cantrell wrote:

    I went to Vade Mecum as a child and LOVED it. I remember the bugle call in the mornings,the midnight walk to the lodge to have watermelon in our pajamas, the crafts, archery, swimming in that ice cold water in the pool,singing around the night time camp fire, and one of my very special counselors; Stamps Dillard, who told us bedtime stories and taught us how to properly make a bed. I have such wonderful memories of that camp that I hope I never forget!!!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2021 at 9:09 am | Permalink
  28. Trish Avery wrote:

    Vade Mecum was magic! I attended a choir camp there in the late 50’s and high school camp 1960-1962. Only because my father’s job took us to New Jersey from Burlington, NC did I not return. There was never another camp for me after that. I had wonderful cabin mates from Raleigh, and college-age counselors whose faces I’ll never forget. Miss Sally ran the kitchen (and my high school’s cafeteria!). The hot chocolate and her biscuits were memorable.
    The Chapel was dark, cool and holy. Females were expected to wear headcoverings in chapel so lace mantillas were the logical choice for outfits of bermuda shorts, Villager blouses, and Weejun loafers. I wish I still had the group photos taken there. We were so fresh and innocent.

    Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  29. M Ruth Little wrote:

    I am doing an architectural evaluation of the camp buildings for HH Architecture, the firm hired by State Parks to rehabilitate Vade Mecum. Ann Graham posted on Feb. 22, 2021 that she owns 40 photos of the camp in 1940. I would like to see them in order to solve some questions about the age of the front porch of the gymnasium and the age of the chapel. My email is and phone 919-412-7804. Thank you

    Friday, October 15, 2021 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

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