The grounds on which this retreat center resides are filled with history and God’s presence. This is a Holy Place; it has been sanctified by those who have gone before, by those who visit it now, and those who have yet to come.
In the late Woodland Period a group of people, presently called the Meramec Indians, lived in the caves and cliffs along the river that now bears their name. It is believed that the two low mounds on the property near the retreat center entrance may have been their work. Other Native American tribes who have lived or briefly passed through include the Osage, Kickapoo, Choctaw, Quapaw, and Chippewa.
In 1804 as part of the Louisiana Purchase these lands became part of the United States. Fur traders and miners began settling in the area at that time. Then, in 1849, forty-five years later and with dreams of a transcontinental railroad, the United States government gave thousands of acres to the State of Missouri as the source of funds and right-of-way for construction of the Pacific Railroad. The thousands of acres included the land where Mound Ridge now stands.
For the next 70 years the 375 acre Mound Ridge tract was the source of railroad ties and other lumber products. Then, in 1920, the Mound Ridge property was purchased by Fritz Hueppner and his wife, Evelyn. Over the next 10 years, Mr. Hueppner, assisted by talented labor (including several Italian stonemasons) constructed the older buildings such as the Retreat Lodge and the handsome walks and stone walls. To this day there is an “H” over the front door of the Lodge in tribute to Mr. Hueppner.
Mr. Hueppner died in 1930 and was buried in a small cemetery adjacent to the retreat center; his headstone was not located until December of 2011. His young wife went back east and subsequently remarried a Mister Del Porte. Their grandson visited Mound Ridge several years ago. After Mr. Hueppner’s death the property was purchased by Mr. Hugo Wurdack, a wealthy St. Louisan and founder of the very first street lighting plant in St. Louis. The Wurdacks used it as a getaway farm with crops, cattle, and orchards. In 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Wurdack gave Mound Ridge to the Presbytery of St. Louis for use as a summer camp. In the following years, the Presbytery built the present chapel/recreation hall, dining room and kitchen, swimming pool, and summer cabins. Several smaller buildings and the barn were demolished to save maintenance expenses. For many years, well into the 1980’s, Mound Ridge was a popular and well-used summer camp and place for weekend retreats by the Presbytery’s churches. Grownups frequently tell those of us currently involved of the great memories they had of periods spent at Mound Ridge and the importance it played in their later Christian life.
Unfortunately times, values, and priorities changed in the 1980’s and the property had started to show a lack of attention to care and maintenance which contributed to the decline in use by churches. In 1989, the Presbytery considered disposing of the property. That is when God moved in His own mysterious way and the newly elected members of the Presbytery’s Outdoor Ministry Committee accepted the challenge of revitalizing and renovating the buildings to bring it back to its prime. With help from outdoor experts including consultants from the National church’s Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association, or PCCCA, they recommended a 10 year respite of any disposal action in order to breathe life back into Mound Ridge. The respite was approved and the effort began and hasn’t stopped since.
Volunteers were enlisted to repair roofs and utilities, paint inside and out, repair electric and water service, upgrade landscaping, build new bunks, and so much more. Willing workers were found not only from our own churches, but from churches many miles away. At the same time, every effort was made to improve the programs offered to better market the Mound Ridge product.
In the early 2000’s, the Outdoor Ministry Committee conducted a very successful capital fund raising program: The New Millennium Fund project. Over $225,000 was raised from our churches, Friends of Mound Ridge, and several foundations. The funds raised provided for a new Chapel in the Woods, two modern Conference Rooms, Two bathrooms with access for the physically challenged, and separate bathrooms for each of the Lodge’s six sleeping rooms. An attractive Plaza area in front of the conference building and the Wray Darr Nature Cabin were also constructed from these funds.
Most recently, Mound Ridge has been modernizing and expanding to accommodate more people and get the word of the mission and ministry being provided out into the world. A beautiful outdoor deck was added onto the dining hall as well as the inside being renovated, the North end of the Lodge was enclosed, there were massive renovations done on Osage and Chippewa cabins, a Butterfly Garden was built, the outdoor Labyrinth was rejuvenated, and two switchback trail designs were provided by Trailnet. In the summer of 2010 several walkways were repaired to create a safer environment for visitors.
Here we are today, proudly displaying your Presbytery’s outdoor ministry mission facility – Mound Ridge Retreat Center.
Some above remarks made by Jim Meanor and Wally Diboll at the Open House for Seniors from throughout the Presbytery, held at Mound Ridge on October 21, 2004.
In most recent time, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy leadership in August of 2015 approached the Mound Ridge Governance Team and encouraged the team to seek independent status for a 501c3 entity. The presbytery was struggling to continue the subsidy to assist Mound Ridge operations. Thus the moving forward in this manner would allow the Mound Ridge Governance Team to seek more funding through donations in a broader spectrum and apply for grants and funding through foundations.
On January 21, 2016 the Missouri State Secretary office made official the request to become Mound Ridge Retreat and Mission Center, INC. 501c3 of Missouri.
On July 28, 2016 the Federal Government determined the newly incorporated 501c3 Mound Ridge Retreat and Mission Center to be a tax deductible entity.
On September 1, 2016 during the Gathering of the Presbytery Giddings-Lovejoy, the body voted to place in “Trust” the property of Mound Ridge and the body voted on the Ministry Partnership for continued ministry with the congregations of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, PC(USA)
On November 16,2016 at 08:23:24 AM the Recorder of Crawford County, Missouri recorded the Mound Ridge deed as a Trust.