Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run

Answer

 

 Camp Legion

Henry Ford started Camp Legion in 1938 for underprivileged boys  age 17-19, mostly sons of dead or disabled WWI vets but also those  helping to support their families. The original camp, set up in the Dearborn area, was held in the summer months, teaching boys farming, management, and sales skills. Ford provided room and  board and paid the boys $2 a day for their labor.  The boys were  taught how to prepare fields, plant, raise crops, and harvest the  produce. All during the summer they sold their produce at a roadside  market that Ford built and also sold wholesale to Ford Motor Company and other retail outlets in the area. At the end of each year the campers split the profits from the produce sales among themselves. The boys stayed only one season, and then were either placed in a Ford job or entered into the Ford Trade School or Apprentice School, or struck out on their own.

Early on, the boys slept in tents, with the kitchen/mess hall, roadside market, and chapel being the only structures on the property. The chapel was one of the six Martha Mary chapels Ford built. In 1943, Ford decided to run the camp year round and built a wood barracks, the boys farmed in the summer, and in the winter made small tools for Willow Run. Academic classes were also added to the camp in 1943. Under the administration of the Henry Ford Trade School headed by Frederick Searle, classes were taught in basic academic subjects as well as management, mechanics, and farming.

In 1944 the camp program was modified to include the rehabilitation of WWII disabled vets, though the boys remained even when the veteran program started. This program invited all veterans who were given a medical discharge, though the camp preferred those with physical disabilities. Veterans worked at their own pace to learn skills to integrate themselves back into the workplace. In late 1945, the camp was changed back to a program for boys and the veterans program ceased in 1946. Buildings for the Trade School were erected and a new program of training for the boys in trades, supervisory roles, sales and service was started which lasted until 1952 when the camp was shutdown.

 

Camp Willow Run

With the success of Camp Legion, Henry Ford decided to start a second endeavor, Camp Willow Run, in 1939 near Ypsilanti. Using the same principles and methods as Camp Legion, this second camp taught farm training, self-reliance, management, and salesmanship. Like the first camp, the boys governed themselves, appointing a foreman and field foreman from their own ranks. They lived in tents, with a mess hall and a chapel on-site, and sold their produce from a roadside stand built by Ford. Boys in both camps had time for recreation as well as work, each camp had a baseball diamond and the boys participated in a softball league, there was also volleyball and handball, movies were shown, and each camp also hosted harvest dances, inviting nearby high school students to join. It appears that Camp Willow Run shut down after the 1941 season with the coming of the bomber plant, many of the boys went to work at the Willow Run village industry plant, and others moved on to the apprentice and trade school.

 

                                   

 

Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run Bibliography
Archival

  • Acc. 23 General Personal Records
    • box 9 Camp Legion and Willow Run
    • box 19 Wells, Linton, June 9, 1940 (speech given at Camp Legion and Willow Run)
    • box 39 Scrapbooks
      • 75th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1938
      • 79th Birthday Greetings from the Boys of Willow Run Camp, 1942
      • 79th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1942
      • 80th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1943
         
  • Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office Papers
    • box 2113 Camp Legion, 1938
    • box 2277 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run, 1939-1940
    • box 2450 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run, 1938-1942
    • box 2482 Camp Legion, 1941-1942
    • box 2632 Camp Legion, 1943-1944
    • box 2804 Camp Legion, 1945-1946
    • box 2836 Henry Ford School of Vocational Guidance in Agriculture and Industry; formerly Camp Legion, 1945-1946
       
  • Acc. 983 Henry Ford Trade School, Administrative Files
    • box 2
      • Camp Legion; correspondence, 1944-46
      • Camp Legion; Project, supplement #1, 1946
      • Camp Legion; Project, supplement #1 alternate, 1946
         
  • Acc. 13 Engineering Library Vertical File
    • box 4 Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run, 1938-1941 (2 folders) (includes student newspapers)
    • box 25 Willow Run Camp Newsletter, n.d.
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  • Acc. 38 Charles E. Sorensen Office Files
    • box 101 Camp Legion, 1944
    • box 104 Camp Legion, 1945
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  • Acc. 44 William John Cameron Records
    • box 16 Camp Legion, 1940-1944
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  • Acc. 446 Dealer Film Subject File
    • box 7 Subject file: Camp Legion and Willow Run movie, c. 1934-1942
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  • Acc. 559 E. M. Anderson Records
    • box 1 Dearborn: Camp Legion, 1945-1946
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  • Acc. 1865 Ford Motor Company Branch Operations Records
    • folder 1 Data: Camp Legion, 1946
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  • Acc. 1685 Photographic Library (Earle Hager) Records
    • box 2 "Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run," undated
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  • Acc. 951 Ford Motor Company Non-Serial Publications Collection
    • box 5 Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run, 1949
    • box 53 Welcome to Camp Legion, n.d.
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  • Acc. 408 Plant Engineering Floor Space Records
    • box 3 Layouts: Camp Legion, c. 1938-1948
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  • Acc. 524 Plant Engineering Department
    • box 1 Henry Ford Properties: Camp Legion, c. 1920-1950
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  • Acc. 454 Division Executives Records
    • box 3 Camp Legion, c. 1927-1947
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  • Acc. 536 Public Relations Research Library Press Releases Subseries
    • box 148 Camp Legion and Henry Ford School of Vocational Guidance 
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  • Acc. 1 Fair Lane Papers
    • box 123 Camp Legion and Willow Run Chapels, correspondence and promotional materials, 1938-1949
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  • Acc. 391 Wendell S. Miller Records 
    • box 2 Camps Legion & Willow Run, 1941-1946
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  • Acc. 33 General Subject Files Subseries. Auditing Department
    • box 26 Camp Legion 1938
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  • Acc. 435 Charles C. La Croix Records
    • box 40 Subject File: Willow Run; Camp Willow Run
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  • Engineering and Aperture Cards
    • drawer 4 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run
    • drawer 8 Vocational Education - Camp Legion
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  • Acc. 1660 Photographic Vertical File
    • box 67
      • Camps – Michigan – Camp Legion (2 folders)
      • Camps – Michigan – Camp Willow Run
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  • Acc. 188 Personal for Henry Ford Photographs
    • neg 23338-351 Back to Farm Project – Camp Legion, 1938
    • neg 23356-358 Opening Day, Camp Back to Farm Project, 1938
    • neg 24041-054 Camp Legion produce, 1938
    • neg 24131-133 Closing of Camp Legion
    • neg 25304 Chapel at Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 25396-399 Ford tractor cultivation at Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 25431-434 Camp Willow Run, 1939
    • neg 25478-486 Chapel dedication at Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 25501-503 Camp Legion Chapel, 1939
    • neg 25504-511 Camp Willow Run and Market, 1939
    • neg 25512-516 Camp Legion Market, 1939
    • neg 25548-555 Camp Willow Run progress, 1939
    • neg 25598-606 Camp Willow Run, 1939
    • neg 25642-646 Camp Willow Run, 1939
    • neg 25700-706 Willow Run – Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 25973-975 Ford tractor with potato digger – Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 26004-009 Chelsea High School – Camp Legion produce exhibit, 1939
    • neg 26035-0112 Camp Willow Run progress, 1939
    • neg 26094-117 Ford tractor cultivating in orchard – Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 26489-493 Christmas Tree at Camp Legion, 1939
    • neg 27273-274 Camp Legion chapel at Willow Run, 1940
    • neg 27845-849 Chapel – Camp Willow Run, 1940
    • neg 29681-683 Camp Legion – Willow Run, 1941
    • neg 71213-235 Camp Legion opening, 1943
    • neg 72404-409 Threshing oats with combines - Camp Legion, 1944
    • neg 73156-161 Preparing meals at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73162-166 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73183-192 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73247-259 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73260-266 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73288-295 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73298-301 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73322-333 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73350-360 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73558-568 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 73581-591 Progress at Camp Legion, interior and exterior, 1945
    • neg 73772-775 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
    • neg 23285-288 Back to Farm Project – Camp Legion, 1938
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  • Acc. 833 General Photographs Series
    • box 74 Camp Legion (203a)
    • box 75 Camp Legion (6 folders, 203b - 204b)
    • box 76 Camp Legion (2 folders, 204c-204d)

Ford News

  • Camp Legion (Dearborn, MI)
    • A New Lease On Life (Ford program for poor boys). 19:12:280+:1-3
    • A School Vacation Project (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 21:1:13+:1-3
    • They Pay Their Way (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 20:12:274+: 1-3
  • Camp Willow Run (Ypsilanti, MI)
    • Ford Looks Forward to 1942 (Ford film about it shown at press conference), 21:10:257+:1-3
    • A School Vacation Project (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 21:1:13+:1-3
    • They Pay Their Way (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 20:12:274+:1-3
    • Willow Run: Another Village Industry. 21:3:72+:1-3

Oral Histories

Vertical File

  • Camp Legion
  • Camp Willow Run
    • General
    • Chapel 
    • General
    • Sons of WWI Veterans, 1938-1940
    • WWII Veterans, 1944-1945

Books 

  • Last Updated Mar 27, 2024
  • Views 1393
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