In 1923, during the second State Covenant Conference, a “land committee” was appointed to find property suitable for a summer camp. For the next two years, the committee searched for property around the Santa Cruz area. 45 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside Scotts Valley, was purchased for $6,000 by the Swedish Evangelical Missionary Association of California from the Houghton Family for the purpose of having a permanent place to hold summer conferences, ultimately expanding to its current 300 Acres.
How did Mission Springs get its name? Miss Carolyn Engstrom of Oakland was credited with coming up with the name Mission Springs. She said, “The folks interested in this place are Mission Friends and the purpose of the Summer Conference to be held here is to work for missions, home and foreign, as well as to make people ‘Mission Minded’. Then too, we have a spring of crystal clear water on the grounds, a spring which will never run dry. Remembering that the followers of Christ should be springs or ‘rivers of living water’, I do not think we can find a better name for this place than ‘Mission Springs’.”
Continuously in the minds of the planners of Mission Springs had been the concern for a stimulating program for young people. A new and innovative idea began to take form early in 1963 when plans for an outdoor camping experience with a Western motif was conceived. Land was available, but finances were lacking, so it was not until a few years later that actual work could be started.
Manager Paul Nelson enthusiastically pursued the development. Land was surfaced, a water supply brought in, tent platforms were laid, grass sown, and a playfield established, sewage disposal provided for, camp tables built, a chuck-wagon cooking center set up, and hiking trails laid out. A single building called the Wagon Wheel was built as the hub of all the activities and overlooked an acre or two of playground. The heavy timber and decking used in the construction came from an old railroad freight depot. To add to the western setting, thirty wagon wheels and three old farm wagons were arranged around the center area. A windmill and other farm gear from the past days were acquired to add authenticity to the atmosphere.
Frontier Ranch opened in 1967 with a small group of young people from a Baptist church as the first campers. In June of the same year, seven groups of Covenant boys and girls, ages 9-14 years experienced the adventures offered in this setting, free from the distractions of modern-day life. Every year since its dedication on July 4, 1967, the program has attracted (thousands) of young campers.*
* Historical accounts taken from Mission Springs 50th Anniversary by Vi Martinson and Ester Anderson.