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Ford grandson’s family enjoys family camps at N-Sid-Sen

Eric, Laurie Ford share history of camp N-Sid-Sen

Eric Ford, his wife Laurie, their three children and grandchildren have been enjoying the site since 1989, when they first began going to family camps.

Eric is the grandson of Arthur and Margaret Ford, who in 1935 bought the property north of Harrison, Idaho, on Lake Coeur d’Alene  that is now the PNC’s N-Sid-Sen Camp and Retreat Center.

Arthur Ford in about 1949. Photos courtesy of Eric and Laurie Ford

Arthur and Margaret had bought the property to start a  church camp and in 1939 gave land south of the log cabin they built in 1936 for a youth camp when Eric’s father, Peter, was a teenager.

My grandfather had a vision for a church camp.  He saw that the property could be a blessing for youth, and had a vision of what he wanted to see there.  I believe N-Sid-Sen today has fulfilled his vision,” said Eric.

Arthur, who was born in 1888 in Birmingham, England, had immigrated from England as a young man, going to Canada to work in logging, mining and railroad companies as a cook and paymaster.

He went to Washington State College to be a farmer, but answered God’s call late in life to be a minister. 

Margaret Ford in 1949 at the cabin.

He married before going to study at Pacific School of Religion and returned to Washington.  Margaret was from Scotland and Seattle.  They met at Plymouth Church.

As a Congregational minister, Arthur served small churches in Forks, Colville, Gig Harbor and Vaughn Wash., and Kellogg and McCall, Idaho.

He retired from ministry in 1947 and became a farmer in Sunnyside.  Because Arthur and Margaret were unable to be at the cabin all year, Eric said, they advertised in South Dakota and a couple came to be caretakers. They gave them a pig, a cow to milk, a cabin and barn in the meadow.  Different caretakers

The Ford cabin was built in 1936.

came for a year or two, but it was hard to be there in the winter.  One caretaker decided to make a living by growing iris.

Before Forrester Lodge was built, the cooking for camps was in the basement of the Ford cabin, he said. In addition, Margaret led Bible studies for people sitting on chairs on the porch.

The first cabins were Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the John,” he said.

Eric was born in 1951, the year his uncle, George, died, and was two years old when his grandfather died in 1953.

“A few summers, I went with my grandmother Margaret when I was in high school and college, and stayed in the cabin above the cove,” he said.

Eric went to the cabin with his parents and siblings only a few times as a child, because his father was a physician in Portland, Ore., and had six children.

In 1989. Eric, Jay, and Brian are on the left. At the top are Bill and Lorraine Steyh, who came that year with five of their grandchildren including Julya (in front of Lorraine) who returned to camp last year with her husband and daughter. Lizzy and and Laurie are sitting on the lower step at the right.

“Even though the lake was gorgeous, it was quite an undertaking to take our family of eight there for a weekend or even a week,” Eric said.  “There was no electricity or indoor plumbing.  We used kerosene lanterns and had an outhouse.”

So the cottage on the cove was not used much. 

After Eric’s grandmother died in 1978, the property with the Ford cabin became part of the camp, and the cove became the swimming and boating area, shifting from the beach below Forrester Lodge.

In the late 1980s when Eric Johnson was camp manager, N-Sid-Sen added Spirit Lodge. 

Eric and Laurie, who live in Seattle, said their two sons, Brian and Jay, and a daughter, Lizzy had gone to children’s camps at Pilgrim Firs in Port Orchard.

In 1989, they first went to a PNC family camp at N-Sid-Sen.

“That was a low point for the camp, because there were water problems. Just three families went. There was no program staff, so we had to figure out our own schedule of activities,” Laurie said.

Eric Ford with granddaughter Finna, son Jay, and wife Laurie on the porch of the Ford cabin.

For 30 years since then, they have gone every year to family camp at N-Sid-Sen with their children and granddaughter.

Last summer, there were nine preschoolers, eight of whom were grandchildren of families who are long-time attendees.

“It’s like a reunion with a second family,” she said.

Phil and Pat Eisenhauer are still going, along with their son and daughter-in-law, John and Dee Eisenhauer, their daughters and now a great-granddaughter.

Sometimes it’s just grandchildren coming with grandparents, Eric said.

For several years, Shawna and Ryan Lambert, pastor at Kirkland UCC, have been leaders.

Eric Ford enjoys a quiet moment on the porch of cabin six reading to granddaughter, Finna.

Rather than staying in the Ford cabin, Laurie and Eric usually stay in cabin 6.

“Our children don’t want to stay anywhere else,” she said.  “When they were in high school, we brought extra children with us. 

“It has always been a great place to vacation, especially when the children were little, because it was a vacation for me as a mother, not having to cook,” she said.

“It’s meaningful to go there and have the connections with my family history,” said Eric.  “Many who go do not know the story of how the camp began.

“There are meaningful connections for other family campers: Ryan and Shawna Lambert, and Randy and Linda Crowe met there.  Randy is a former managing director,” said Eric, who worksfor a small wine importer in Seattle.

Laurie works employee services for people with disabilities.

Eric and Laurie are members of Broadview UCC in Seattle. They met Broadview’s former pastor, Dan Stern, at camp and decided to check out the church. They had attended Methodist churches. After college did not go to church for many years, but they went to camp every summer.

Does Eric wish the property still belonged to his family?  No.

“We can come and enjoy the camp.  Someone else does the repairs,” he said. “In addition, every year, hundreds of people enjoy the camp and, over the years, many thousands have enjoyed it.”

Eric Ford, center, with his siblings Marcus Ford, Bronwyn Rhoades, Paula Ciesielski and John Ford at the 2017 Ford family reunion.

The Ford family had a reunion in 2017 after Labor Day.  Eric’s four living siblings from North Carolina, Arizona, California and Oregon came. His siblings are Marcus and John Ford, Bronwyn Rhoades and Paula Ciesielski.

“It was the first time they had been to camp since they were children.  The air was smoky, but it was special to share that space,” Laurie said.  “We love going there so much.”

When Eric’s mother, Barbara died 10 years ago, they had buried her ashes in the family graveyard beside the Ford cabin.  Last summer, they buried Eric’s father’s ashes there.

“We bring flowers to put on the graves of Eric’s grandparents, parents and uncle,” Laurie said.

Laurie’s family has a cottage on American Lake near Tacoma, and they also go there weekends in the summer. 

“It’s a second home and lots of work,” she said, so “it’s nice to go to N-Sid-Sen have someone else responsible.

“We bring our ski boat to N-Sid-Sen and teach children to wakeboard and waterski,” she said.  “We go there for a week and put our feet up.”

Eric and Laurie remember when N-sid-Sen was more isolated, with only a pay phone in the basement.

Laurie said she values the conversations about faith among adults at family camps.

“People are welcome to share in discussion of faith even if they are not sure about faith,” she said.

“It’s a break from the normal routine and duties,” she said.

“I appreciate morning watch, as a way to express gratitude for the start of the day, reading scripture and thinking about it.”

“It took more than the gift of my grandfather to the Washington North Idaho Conference,” said Eric. 

“Many other people over the years have stepped up in many decades since the camp started to build additional lodges and cabins,” he said.

For information, call 208-689-3489 or email


Pacific NW United Church News Copyright© January-March 2019


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