This mid-20th century photo of Camp Joy in Harrison, Tenn., is part of the Chattanoga Free-Press photo archive, courtesy of

Camp Joy is a Baptist ministry based in Harrison, Tenn., that has served more than 100,000 children through the decades.

It was established in the late 1940s by leaders of the former Highland Park Baptist Church here, which was once one of the nation's largest Christian congregations and was housed in a 5,700-seat auditorium on Bailey Avenue.

An influential former Highland Park Baptist Church pastor, the late Dr. Lee Roberson, was responsible for acquiring the property near Chickamauga Lake that became Camp Joy in 1946.

"Camp Joy was named after Dr. Lee Roberson's baby girl Joy Caroline, who died at the age of 9 weeks," recalls Earl Freudenberg, a local history enthusiast and longtime radio personality here. "He bought the property from TVA for $3,000. The camp operated for years. It was free to boys and girls but supported by offerings from friends of the camp."

This photo, from the mid-20th century, shows children gathering for Camp Joy when it was centered at the Thomas Baptist Chapel, a small rural church that was associated with Highland Park Baptist. Thomas Chapel later became Lakewood Baptist Church.

The photo is from the archives of the Chattanooga Free Press. To take a deeper dive into this photo, visit, a website dedicated to preserving vintage images of the Chattanooga area.

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Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available. The website also provides resources not easily accessible in the research of continual discoveries of our region’s past.

If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.


Camp Joy no longer operates as an overnight church camp, but the property in Harrison still hosts some youth activities, according to officials of the Church of the Highlands. (The former Highland Park Baptist Church moved to the Harrison property in 2013 and was renamed the Church of the Highlands.)

According to Camp Joy archives, about 1,700 young men who attended Camp Joy over the years became Baptist ministers.

A book on Highland Park Baptist Church history by J.B. Collins, a former Chattanooga News-Free Press reporter, notes that in its heyday, Camp Joy included about 100 acres of land, 52 horses, dormitories, a gymnasium (built in 1972), a swimming pool and three baseball fields.

Camp Joy was heavily damaged during a 2012 tornado outbreak here.

Follow the "Remember when, Chattanooga?" photo series on the Facebook group of the same name.

Contact Mark Kennedy at