north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     White Lake, which takes the name from its white sandy bottom and clear water, is among the largest Carolina Bays, the depressions in southeastern North Carolina believed to have been formed by a meteorite shower. The 1,068-acre lake drew increased interest as a recreational area once it was made accessible by roads in 1922. In 1928 the Young Tar Heel Farmers organization, soon to be known as the Future Farmers of America (FFA), chose the lakefront as the site for their summer camp. With the exception of 1943 and 1944, FFA members have gathered at White Lake every summer since 1928.

     The Young Tar Heel Farmers (YTHF) program was an effort by the State Board of Education to promote vocational agriculture in the high schools. Planning for the organization and the camp began in 1926, but it was in 1928 when the YTHF was chartered and the camp opened. The national FFA organization was also started in 1928 and the following year the YTHF affiliated with that group. North Carolina’s first local FFA chapter was at Lillington in Harnett County. The claim has been put forward that the summer camp in Bladen County was the first of its kind in the nation, but evidence indicates that another was started in Tennessee in 1928. Certainly the White Lake camp was among the first of its kind.

     Over the years the FFA in North Carolina has sponsored two other camps, both now inactive. The S. B. Simmons Camp was founded near Swansboro in 1953 by the Negro Farmers of America, a group that merged into the FFA in 1965. The Tom Browne Camp, north of Asheville at a former Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC also had a camp at White Lake) camp, was established in 1937 and sold in 1978. The White Lake camp was named in 1966 for longtime FFA state advisor R. J. Peeler. The facility, once leased, is now state owned and available for use year-round. Most use is in the summer months with the usual stay being one week. Attendance, which peaked in 1952 at 3,356, has been around 1,000 in recent years.

“FFA Camps in North Carolina” unpublished typescript prepared by R. J. Peeler (n.d.)
The FFA at 50 (1978)
The Progressive Farmer (Carolinas-Virginia edition), July 19, 1930
William S. Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer (1968)
Bladen County Deeds, North Carolina State Archives

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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources