From the Memoirs of James Allcock: Skycroft’s 50th Anniversary

The following excerpt is from memoirs by James Allcock, one of the founders of Skycroft Conference Center. The Rev. Allcock died earlier this year. The article below is courtesy of the Allcock family and in conjunction with Skycroft Conference Center’s 50th anniversary

James Allcock stands where Gresham dining hall know stands at Skycroft. (photo courtesyof the Allcock family)

The legal transfer of Skycroft Conference Center from Joseph Kaylor (the prior owner of Skycroft) to the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware took place on the afternoon of October 20,1972. Mr. Kaylor had rented the furnished chalet (later our resident director’s home) to a young man who was the area supervisor for six Maryland State Parks in the Frederick and Washington County areas, and he soon relocated, leaving the furnished house vacant. Fred White was BCM/D’s Consultant for Evangelism and Church Growth, and in early November, he and I slipped away for a couple of days to come to Skycroft for a personal retreat there. We took food with us, and it was a wonderful experience.

I remember the quietness of the experience as we arrived on the mountain-top, but also the awesome desire to drop to our knees and, with humility and gratitude and thank God for this wonderful place and to pray for the individuals…the groups, the hundreds…the thousands who would eventually come to Skycroft. We brought our Bibles with us and enjoyed a devotional time together, as well as some private time to do personal work-related planning.

The next morning, we awoke to find ourselves “in the clouds” as fog engulfed the mountain. After breakfast, as the fog was beginning to lift, we went for a walk down the wagon road by what was later named Meditation Overlook and on down toward Frostown Road and found a pear tree with delicious pears waiting on the ground, ready to share their sweetness with us. On down to the Sky South Farm (Kamp Kaylor area), we walked, becoming better acquainted with the mountain, and finding other delights, like nut trees, etc. I am writing down these memories in 2006, almost 34 years later, but the memories of those pears still linger and remind me of the Scripture that says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

James Allcock enjoyed the beauty of snow on South Mountain. (photo courtesy of the Allcock family)

There was another memorable “first night” at Skycroft, for when we had completed the first phase of construction, we moved into the lodges all of the new bedroom furniture (bunk beds, mattresses, and chests of drawers) which had been stored for several months in the old barn which was located where now the recreation building is located.

When the task was completed, and the volunteers were gone, I went to my car and brought in my pillow, sheets, and a blanket, and joyfully spent the night there, spending time alone with the Lord, again thanking God for His blessings to me personally, but particularly praying for these furnishings and for the Maryland and Delaware Baptists and others who would use these rooms to rest, to reflect, to build relationships, and to prepare for whatever God has in store for them when they “come down from the mountain.”

There are several other memorable “firsts” connected with Skycroft, like the first time John Saunders (a co-founder) and I visited Skycroft after signing the contract to purchase this beautiful land. The signing took place on the afternoon of October 20, 1972, at the Frederick County Court House in Frederick. John Saunders signed the documents on behalf of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the purchaser, and Mr. Joseph Kaylor, the seller, signed them also. I shall never forget the tears dropping from Mr. Kaylor’s eyes as he signed these documents. Oh, how he loved Skycroft. We assured him that he would always be welcome to go there any time he wished to come.

Somewhere in pictures…and I must find it, I have a picture of John Saunders and Mr. Kaylor on the courthouse lawn, standing by a monument containing The Ten Commandments. In John’s hands is a copy of a book about the Appalachian Trail, which we presented to Mr. Kaylor as a token of appreciation for all he had done in identifying and designating the South Mountain Environmental Area along the trail in Maryland to protect and preserve it.

After the signing, John and I headed up to Skycroft for our first visit to Our Skycroft to take some color pictures with a special camera loaned to us by a professional photographer. The autumn afternoon was brilliant with color, and an early snowfall the night before had left a light dusting of white powder in the shaded areas and on the north sides of roofs. It looked like “angel dust” to me!

James and Mary DeLaine Allcock (courtesy of the Allcock family)

Speaking of snow, the following January (1973), John and I had a scheduled appointment to visit our neighboring conference center, Mar-Lu-Ridge, the Lutheran Conference Center just south of Jefferson, across the Middletown Valley several miles south of Skycroft. A modest snowfall for Baltimore had turned into a major snowfall by the time we reached the Jefferson exit off of U.S. 340, a few miles west of Frederick. In fact, the road up the mountain had not yet been plowed, and when we called up to Mar­-Lu Ridge, the host asked us not to come that day, for they had no electricity and were trying to care for 60 or 70 guests who were stranded there in the snow.

With extra time on our hands, John and I decided to redeem the time, and we headed back to Frederick and then out through Middletown to see if we could get to the top of South Mountain and to Skycroft. We were able to drive only as far as the entrance to Washington Monument State Park, so we parked our car there and headed out toward Skycroft through heavy snow drifts. When we finally arrived at Skycroft, the scene was truly a Winter Wonderland. We had had approximately 15-18 inches of snow, and it had fallen in such a manner that when it landed on the outdoor picnic table near the bunk house, it looked as if there were a 16 or 18-inch high layer of cake with white icing on both the tabletop and on the benches. It was truly spectacular!