Overview

Camp Highlands is more than a camp. It’s an institution. It was founded in 1904 by a University of Chicago lab-school principal charged with giving boys a “real wilderness experience.” For more than a century we have had the honor of watching boys grow and learn, struggle and persevere, play and explore.

Boys throw balls on the same fields as Heisman trophy winners Jay Berwanger and Nile Kinnick. They paddle the same waters as Senator William Proxmire and Ambassador George Kennan. They perform on the same stage as playwright Archibold MacLeish and actor Bruce Dern. While we celebrate those great men of the past, we believe that every Highlands camper is capable of greatness.

It’s the Highlands traditions and values that are most meaningful. They are centered on helping your son have fun, worthwhile experiences. Walk into the office at Highlands and take a look at the many photos of the hundreds of boys who have slept under the unparalleled skies over Plum Lake. In those faces you’ll see the boys of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Read more about the history of Highlands at the Highlands Archives website!


  •  1904 – Clearing Woods, Camp Highlands' first photograph.

  • 1906 – Going for Mail. Standing is Ernest Alton, caretaker from 1904–1916. Froctor sits middle right with hat. Photo by James Colby, Northern Photo Company (NPC)
  • 1911 – Softball on Junior Hill. Photo by James Colby, Northern Photo Company NPC
  • 1913 – Pajamas at breakfast

  • 1912 – Grandpa and Grandma Frew with a box of cookies in front of the dining hall
  • Nineteen-teens – Cabins 1 through 4
  • 1916 – Tom Monilaw with a Northern pike
  • The CH Band with J. Beach Cragun, known at Camp as <em>Kewpie</em>. The man on the left wrote the words to <em>Highlands Loyalty</em> (a.k.a <em>Camp Highlands We’re True to You!</em>)
  • The CH garden on what is now the golf course as you first drive through the gates at Highlands
  • 1914 – What a haul!
  • 1918 – Three well-dressed <em>Best Campers</em>
  • 1919 – Boathouse Swimsuit Attention. Can you believe those suits were made of wool?
  • 1921 – Diving Towers Extraordinaire! Taken by Doc from the camp Launch. 17 Divers. Doctor Frew (<em>Froctor</em>) in white hat on pier directs the action
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Early Camp

It was Harry O. Gilette, University of Chicago Laboratory School Headmaster,  who brought ten boys from the city to a remote point on Plum Lake in the North Woods of Wisconsin for a summer in the wilderness in 1904. But it was under the ownership and direction of Dr. William J. Monilaw from 1914 to 1959 that Highlands really grew and flourished. He believed that character building should be the underlying purpose of a Highlands summer. His legacy lives on today in the Doc Monilaw Dining Room. There you will see the 17 honor camper qualities posted proudly on the wall: Pep, Perseverance, Clean Thoughts/Clean Speech, Honesty, Good Manners, Cleanliness, Dependable, Camp Spirit, Sportsmanship, Responsibility, Generosity, Initiative, Self-control, Consideration, Willingness/Helpfulness, Leadership and Good Fellowship.

  • 1959 – <em>The Admirals, </em>Norvil Beeman, Tony Anthony, <em>Unk</em> Nelson, Ralph Magor, <em>Snow</em> Nothdurft, Bob Manschott
  • 1970 – Snow sets up the Cub/Midget pier
  • Dave Baker with the Canadian senior trippers
  • Mike Bachmann and Chuck Holt play yukes on the last day of camp
  • 1967 – Steve Akre, Rick Haefele and John Garrard after their Canadian canoe trip. Upon return to camp, they came into the dining room – with the canoe!
  • 1968 – Merle on guard as Butch fires the cannon on the 4th of July
  • 1969 – Sharon and Mike Bachmann with baby Tim
  • 1968 – Dan Barnett at the Track Meet
  • Butch drives a motorcycle into the dining hall
  • 1971 – Kent Overby teaches track (with Loren Shin and Jeff Price)
  • 1977 – Mark Jensen running during the Steeplechase
  • 1977 – Butch starts, Brian Wilcox and Craig Taylor in the crutch race
  • 1980 – Seniors on top of the weight room
  • 1980 – The Highlands Barge!
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1959–1963

When Doc’s health began to fail, six long-time educators and Highlands counselors pooled their money and talents and formed a corporation to assure that Camp Highlands would live on. Doc’s partner, Norvil Beeman became the director while Bob Mannschott, Tony Anthony, Ralph Magor, Unk Nelson, and Orville “Snow” Nothdurft completed the Board of Directors.

It was Bob Mannschott who brought the saying, “I’m Third” to Highlands. I’m Third became the camp motto and still today is a wonderfully simple way to remind all of us to keep God (however known to you) first, Others second, and I’m Third.

In 1963 Mike Bachmann purchased Norvil Beeman’s interest in the camp. Mike took over the camper recruiting and staff selection in his role as assistant director. Bob Mannschott became the summer director.

1963–present

In 1963 Mike Bachmann purchased Norvil’ Beemans interest in the camp. Mike took over the camper recruiting and staff selection in his role as assistant director. Bob Mannschott became the summer director.

After Bob Mannschott passed away 1969, Mike Bachmann took over the full directorship of Camp. A key component of Mike’s leadership has been his belief that every boy can have success at Highlands. He holds to the original idea that Highlands is a Northwoods boys camp. A place where each boy can learn a true appreciation of the beauty of the natural world that surrounds him at camp. He believes that the various activities are the tools the counseling staff uses to help build character. At Camp Highlands it really does matter how you play the game. In 2007, Mike’s son, Andy Bachmann moved from assistant director to co-director. Today, Andy and Mike share the director’s responsibilities.

Other resources

Interested in finding out more about Camp Highlands? The Highlands Archives are a great place to read about camp and explore over 100 years of photos.

Additionally, there are two books compiled by Highlands Historian, Tim Bachmann that offer interesting views on Camp.

A Camp on Plum Lake will give you an in-depth overview of the relationship Highlands has had with Plum Lake over the years. It’s a fascinating look at Camp in the context of it’s surroundings and American history in general. Read the review of the book in the Lakeland Times.

On Mike is a great collection of essays written for Mike Bachmann’s 70th birthday gift. It has great photos, stories, memories and more. Really get to know the father of the modern Camp Highlands.