This is a 1944-1945 Camp
When the prisoners were first brought to the
site in 1944, there was nothing but bare land. There was no barbed
wire, no fence, nothing. they had to fence it them self's. Together
organized building projects and set up a staff and kitchen crew in
addition to working on various farms and projects in the area,
including work at the Heinz 57 pickling plant in Holland and Michigan
Fruit Canners in Fennville. Orchard farmers drove prisoners from and
and back to the camp.
They earned 5
cents an hour which was used to buy necessities like toothpaste and
The camp officially closed in 1945 and was
turned over to the state in 1946. The land and buildings went on to be
used as a rehabilitation camp for trustees and non-violent inmates at
the county jail and by various groups and clubs including the local rod
and gun club, the conservation club, the girl and boy scouts and
eventually Allegan Public Schools as a sixth-grade camp.
Unfortunately, the state didn't have enough people to properly police the camp. Thieves stole wiring and plumbing and lighting fixtures. The buildings fell into a sad state of disrepair
Vern Bouwman Memories (LaVerne)
While living at Hutchins Lake, LaVerne at times would be playing with his classmates in town around the canning factory. Early in 1945 he remembered seeing soldiers carrying guns by the railroad box cars. The soldiers were guarding German War Prisoners.
There was an emergency farm labor program at this time and the prisoners helped solve the problem. Other programs, such as the “Victory Farm Volunteers” utilized youngsters aged 11 to 14 to weed onions, pick beans and harvest cherries and paid them $3.65 an hour.
May 19, 1944, it was reported that work was underway to convert a
Depression-era National Youth Administration camp on
were no public protests, the prisoners were welcomed. Most of them had
captured after Rommel’s defeat in
Lindemann, a former officer, is the only known surviving prisoner to
are many articles printed about