Laurel Lock History

Laurel Lock Campground is celebrating 58 years of providing wooded, family campsites on Gardner Lake of Oakdale, CT.

Before the Schultz family purchased the land, family lore has been passed down that the famous race horse, Man of War’s mother, was sired on this very property.

Gretchen “Snookie” and Charles Bruno Schultz emigrated from Germany in 1900. They took up residence in Hoboken, New Jersey where Charles worked as a maintenance man and Snookie worked as a cook at Hoboken Academy. They met a man named Milo Light, a history teacher at the school who convinced them to come to Connecticut. They moved their two daughters, Alma and Martha, to Gardner Lake in 1916. Snookie became a business partner with Milo Light running a boarding house that still exists at the very end of the Cottage Road in Bozrah. Snookie was the cook and Milo ran the boarding house. After a time, Snookie became dissatisfied with the quality of meat her partner was purchasing for her to prepare meals with. She wanted out of the partnership. Milo had purchased a parcel of land that included all of what is now Laurel Lock and St. Thomas More School. Milo was rich in land, but was cash poor. Snookie and Charles opted to purchase this property from Milo. The land was subdivided and housed a working farm with a barn, farmhouse and outbuildings. Charles and Snookie raised cattle, pigs, chickens and horses and harvested a variety of fruits and vegetables. They started a boarding house of their own on the property in 1921 and within a short time Charles built a road, the old-fashioned way with horse and plow, through the property down to the lakefront. Shortly thereafter he built an icehouse and Schultz’s Grove was born. Schultz’s Grove was a picnic and swimming area open to the public. A family could rent a picnic table in the grove of Hemlock trees for $1 per day, go swimming off two floating rafts and a dock, or rent a rowboat. A little store had hot dogs, hamburgers, candy, soda and ice cream for sale. Cottages were rented by the week or month. Life was good amidst the roaring 20s!

Then, in August of 1928, Charles Schultz entered a general store on Cottage Road and was shot by a crazed man who was tending the shop. After burying Charles, a family meeting was called. Snookie’s oldest daughter Alma was living in Poughkeepsie, New York with her husband Joe Adelizzi. Her younger daughter Martha and her husband Charles Sweet resided in Lebanon, Connecticut. It was decided that Martha and Charles would move in with Snookie to continue running the farm, boarding house and picnic grove business. The business continued to thrive.

On June 1, 1931, Ann Margaret was born to Charles and Martha Sweet. Ann would remain an only child. She had farm chores – feeding the chickens and livestock, cleaning the guest rooms and other day to day chores that farm children helped with. Ann attended a one-room elementary schoolhouse and then Norwich Free Academy high school. After high school she attended Mitchell College in New London for one year and then went to nursing school in Brooklyn, New York. She traveled home frequently by train to see her family.

Bill Breda was a first generation New Yorker with parents immigrating from Russia and Czechoslovakia. Bill was raised in Manhattan, and after graduating from Bronx Science High School in the 40s, moved in with his mother and step-father to a farm on Raymond Hill Road in Oakdale. Ann met Bill at an area square dance while home for a visit from nursing school.. They were married in March of 1953. Ann and Bill continued to live and work on the farm with Bill’s parents until they decided to buy a home and raise their family in East Hampton, Connecticut. Bill attended the University of Hartford nights while working at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

The boarding house and farm faded over the years, but the picnic grove business continued to thrive with Martha, Alma and Ann running the candy store and grove, and Charles and Bill tending to the physical needs of the property. Several off-shoot activities also ensued on the property in the 40s. The town of Montville had its swim school program for several decades here, and the father of Howie Dickenman ran a children’s summer camp, Pine Point, from 1947-1967.

Ann and Bill’s love of camping began when Bill converted an old school bus into a 1960s RV. During the summer of ’66, while spending time with best friends Ralph and Sheila Ceder, Ann made a comment to the Ceders and Bill, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could share this place with others?” The idea blossomed, and midway through the summer of 1967, Laurel Lock Campground, named for the profusion of laurel and hemlock trees on the property, commenced with the first 8 campsites – sites #1 through #8. Each year, Ann and Bill would spend spring and fall weekends building new sites, maintaining the property and building the facilities primarily with their four children, Valerie, Bill Jr., Crystal and Katie. During the summer, the family moved into the red log cabin (which is now the gray cottage) lock, stock and barrel, only to return to their East Hampton home the day before school started. Others who helped in the building and maintaining of the camp property over the years were Dave Stebbins, Cliff and Marie Michaud, Randy Sargent and Ralph Ceder.

Initial modest plans of a handful of sites expanded as the reality of overhead costs and economies of scale brought us to the current number of 130 sites. Sites were numbered as they were built and given a picnic table, trash can and fireplace. Back in the late 60s, campers had firewood delivered to their sites daily and trash removed several times a week. There were no utilities in the very beginning and the toilet facilities consisted of outhouses. Campers had to fill up their water containers from a faucet at a pump house located at the gray cottage.

As an area of sites was developed, restrooms were erected to service those areas. A white cottage was lowered and converted to the lake bath house with flush toilets and hot showers in the early 70s. The laundry bathhouse was built, followed by the safari bathhouse. A recreation hall and store were built in 1972 and were subsequently burned down that fall by a few students from St. Thomas More School. The rec hall was rebuilt that winter. A hammer was found for each member of the Breda family. The Breda’s grandfather, Charles Sweet, and Alma’s husband, Uncle Joe, helped too! Grandma Sweet and her sister Alma cooked meals for us so everyone could concentrate on getting the job done. In the late 70s, the adult rec hall was added to the existing hall, and the apartment above the store was completed.

Much to the disappointment of the Schultz’s Grove day-trippers, the picnic and swim area ceased to operate in 1976, and in 1978, the point was converted to sites P-1 through P-6, the last area of sites created.

After having worked with Ann and Bill for over 15 years, Howard and Priscilla Sherman took over the management of the business from 1995 – 2001. When the Shermans gave their notice in 2000, it was decided that the family would once again run the campground. In the fall of 2001, a partnership was formed between Val and Pete and Katie and Tom Hornat – sisters and brothers. The 4-person management team ran the campground for 19 years doing business as Laurel Lock Property Management. In 2021, 100 years after the property was purchased by the family, Tom and Katie Hornat continue the camping tradition of sharing this beautiful, hilly, lakeside property with others - working to continue the upkeep, improvements and management of the camp property.

In 2004 Laurel Lock discovered a legion of people in the country who deem themselves workampers. These are folks who love camping and moving about the country but are semi-retired with too much energy for real retirement. All our workampers have added so much to the personality of our business. Their efforts are greatly appreciated. Tom’s brother, Joe helps out with property maintenance, and other family members have pitched in to help when needed. Most recently, Katie and Tom's son Peter has been involved with the day-to-day workings of the camp property and has taken on an assistant manager position.

Our history isn’t over yet. Going forward we plan to continue as a seasonal campground, providing our camping families a place to make more summer memories for years to come.

Join Us!!

Upcoming Events

May 18, 4-7pm, Dieciocho de Mayo
May 25, 8-11pm, 70's Project
May 26, 10am, Horse Shoe Tournament
May 26, 7:30pm, New Camper's Reception
Jun 1, 3-5:30pm, Poker Run
Jun 8, 6:30pm, Pot Luck Dinner
Jun 15, 5-8pm, Oz'N Bones BBQ Food Truck
Jun 15, 8-11pm, Steel Country
Jun 22, 3-4pm, Craft Sale
Jun 22, 4-6pm, Sip and Paint
Jun 29, 4-7pm, Samedi Gras
Jul 5, 8-11pm, Still Kickin' with Big City Band
Jul 6, 10am, Horseshoe Tournament
Jul 13, 3-5:30pm, Poker Run
Jul 20, 4-6pm, Sip and Paint
Jul 20, 7pm, Mr. Magic
Jul 27, 4-7pm, Beach Party
Aug 3, 7pm, Halloween
Aug 3, 8-11pm, Halloween DJ party
Aug 10, 4-6pm, Sip and Paint
Aug 17, 6:30pm, Crock Pot Cookoff
Aug 24, 7pm, Campsite Crawl
Aug 31, 8-11pm, Bootleg Band
» See all event details