The idea for the Retreat House originated with the late Rev. Don Schmidt, then pastor of Zion United Church of Christ in Ursa. In 1955 Rev. Schmidt noticed the lodge, nestled in the woods beside the lake. He stopped his car, walked to the rustic structure, and dreamed about making it into a Christian retreat.
The late Bert Gardner of Gardner-Denver Company of Quincy had built the main house as a summer home, later selling the house and land to Mr. & Mrs. Russell Shriver. The Shrivers lived in the lodge several months while their new home was being built. They then listed the lodge and five acres for the asking price of $12,000.
The Shrivers had received an offer of $9,000 when the Rev. Schmidt contacted them to see if the property might be purchased for a Christian retreat. The Shrivers then offered the property to the Adams County Council of Churches for $7,500 with another two acres thrown in because they believed in the project.
A steering committee was organized, a proposed plan of organization drawn up, a budget adopted, and a letter was mailed to all member churches. The budget included an additional $4000 for improvements.
Charter member churches at the time included Bluff Hall Congregational, Mendon Congregational, Liberty Lutheran, St. Paul United Church of Christ of Fowler, Ursa Christian, Centennial Ebenezer Methodist of Lorain, Zion United Church of Christ of Ursa, and Pleasant Grove United Methodist of Adams; all were members of the Adams County Council of Churches, which is the “mother” organization of the Retreat House. Other churches who joined were Payson Congregational (1957), Salem Lutheran of Mendon (1958), First United Presbyterian and Salem Evangelical United Church of Christ (1960), First Union Congregational of Quincy (1964), Federated Church of Lima (1967), St. Peter Lutheran of Coatsburg (1980), Trinity United Church of Christ (1981) and Ellington Presbyterian (1990)
In 1956 the late Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Mittleberg accept the duties of resident superintendent. The value of their services toward the success of the Retreat House cannot be over emphasized according to those who worked with them from 1956-1971 when they retired.
To make the facilities usable for sizable groups, a well and water system were provided, toilet and shower houses constructed, the sleeping cabin remodeled, bunk beds purchased and necessary utilities supplied.
These improvements were financed by one year notes signed by individuals interested in the Retreat House Project. Moorman Manufacturing Company’s Foundation board of directors underwrote the cost of a complete heating system, as well as making a generous cash contribution. In 1957-58, usage volume was sufficient to balance the operating budget.
The parking area was completed in 1957, fire extinguishes and first-aid equipment supplied, the porch remodeled, kitchen cabinets installed and electrical expansion completed.
The first Easter sunrise service, sponsored by the Adams County Council of Churches, was held in 1957.
A dining hall was added to the lodge in 1958 with seating for 75 people.
In 1959, Moorman Manufacturing Company made a contribution that helped fund an outdoor altar and amphitheater. A new tractor and mower were purchased to make the campsite look like a park. A fund drive was launched to build a concrete swimming pool. It was completed in 1960 at a cost of $4,681.
In 1961, the late Mrs. Bert Gardner gave 64 shares of Gardner Denver stock to the Retreat House Corporation. The main building was shingled in 1961. Adams telephone service was added, and a balance of $2,500 was paid on a mobile home for the caretakers.
The mortgage on the Retreat House was burned in 1965, a real milestone, with Dale Donley in charge of the ceremony.
Other improvements have been added through the years. A shelter house was built in 1966; the pool pump house was added in 1967; electrical wiring in the lodge was updated in 1968 when security lights were installed and a three well sink was added to the kitchen.
Eighteen trees were planted with funds from a St. Louis church in 1968. A shower and bath house was built by the pool in 1969 when a new well was drilled that was capable of producing 30 gallons per minute. A new sewer system was installed in 1970. Following the retirement of Arthur and Martha Mittleberg in 1971, Donald and Thelma Faxon served as caretakers/superintendents until 1977. A larger mobile home was purchased for the caretaker in 1971 when a garage was also built. The bunk house was equipped with a new heater in 1972.
In 1973, a play court was funded by a memorial contribution of $1,000 in memory of Danny Beeson. A memorial contribution in memory of Roger Ellerbrock funded a basketball court in 1975.
Mrs. Bert Gardner gave $2,500 to the Retreat House Corporation in 1976. Donald and Thelma Faxton served as caretakers/superintendents from 1971 to 1977. Richard & Dolores Leebold took over these duties until _____. A utility room was added to the superintendent’s mobile home in 1978.
Volunteers from member churches installed a new roof on the lodge in 1981 at a cost of $12,000. The north shelter house was enclosed in 1982. The boat dock was built by board members in 1982.
In 1985, a new pool was built of fiberglass and ceramic tile with twice the deck space at a cost of $21,700. A fund drive by member churches and the community paid for the pool over a three year period. The construction was done by Smith Brothers of Quincy. The Retreat House received $5,000 from the Marian Gardner Jackson Charitable Trust. Plans call for using this donation to remodel and enlarge the kitchen. A swing set was purchased.
in 1986, an addition of a built in porch at the west side of the superintendent’s mobile home.
A new furnace was installed in 1988. In 1989, the lake was dug out and landscaped. In 1990, the #3 bunk house was shingled.
in 1992, a new deck and porch floor was built on the lodge. A new trailer was purchased. A new riding lawn mower was purchased in 1993.
The Illinois National Guard established their headquarters at the Retreat House from August 1993 to March 1994 while working the “Great Flood of 93.”
In 1994, new shingles were placed on the craft building. In 1995, a new water line was installed. United FFA built six new picnic tables.
In 2016, a volleyball court was built.
In 2017, a new bunk house with a “safe room” below was built onto the back of the main lodge. The “safe room” provides safety for campers in the event of inclement weather. A beautiful brick memorial was also built with bricks purchased to help with the costs of the new building.
In 2018, a playset was erected in the back of the main lodge using a playset gifted to us from Salem Church.
Rich & Cindy Lohmeyer
Brent & Judy Seals 2014
Past Presidents include: Melvin Simms, Dale Donley, Eldon Vahle, Leslie Knox, Ralph Reichert, Charles Tallcott, Henry Moellring, Otis Doyle, John Griffin, Otis Doyle, Lowell Knox, David Arnsman, Gary Dedert, ……Richard Walz……Brenna Reed, Kevin Beck
Bluff Hall Evangelical From beginning
Centennial Ebenezer From beginning
Ellington Presbyterian 1990
Faith Presbyterian 1960
First Congregational UCC First Union Congregational (Qcy) 1964
Paloma United Methodist Church
Pleasant Gove Methodist From beginning
Salem Evangelical UCC 1960
Salem Lutheran 1958
St. Paul UCC From beginning
St. Peter’s Lutheran 1980
United Methodist Church of Loraine From beginning
Ursa Christian From beginning
Zion Church From beginning