The History of Tilikum

Tilikum is the result of one family’s faithfulness to God.

Russell Baker was born on March 21, 1908, to Ida and Harry Baker, who owned a dairy farm in the Chehalem Valley. Eventually Russell bought this farm, and the acquisition of it caused him to seek out his personal values and God’s purpose for his farming life. On October 12, 1962, the Columbus Day storm blew through western Oregon with hurricane-force winds. The Baker farm was hit especially hard. Irene Baker, Russell’s wife watched from the house as the storm reduced the dairy barn and silo to rubble. The Baker’s estimated losses were $40,000-$50,000 with no insurance to cover wind damage. Russell thought he was financially finished. He wrote, “In meditating on what to do. I felt led to make a vow or covenant with the Lord…if He would bring me out of this mess, I would not only give a large part, but all.”

In the next few years, Russell did recover from the storm damage, and according to his promise, he began to look for ways to use his farm for God’s work. In 1968, Russell sold some of his property and purchased a tractor to use in developing the lake. In 1970, the Bakers donated the newly formed 15-acre lake, their new home, a barn, and the remaining 77 acres of the original Baker farm to the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends. In 1975, Tilikum came under the ministry of George Fox University. As of Jan. 1, 2012, ownership of Tilikum transferred back to the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends.

Interested in learning more about Tilikum’s history? View Living a Legacy, Tilikum’s 25th anniversary booklet covering the camp from 1971 – 1996. It’s a large (24 Mb) file, but well worth the view.  [View the booklet]

Additional Tilikum historic resources

1971 Letter from Russel Baker  [View the letter]
Original 1971 letter from Russel Baker gifting property to the Northwest Yearly Meeting.

The Camp Tilikum legacy – The Russel and Irene Baker Legacy [View the video]
Used with permission of OPB.

History of the 1909 Valley View School  [View page]

1987 Day Camp promotional video  [Watch the video]

Photos from the 70s and 80s  [View the photos]

The Essence of Tilikum A Retreat Center video from 1984  [Watch the video]
In 1984 Tilikum produced a double slide projector show that was shown in sync with an audio cassette.  It’s clearly dated, but the primary message is still the same.

More Tilikum videos  [View more videos]

The Tilikum timeline

If you have information or corrections for the timeline, email Dan in Marketing.

Tilikum Pre-History (1902 – 1970)

1902 Russell Baker’s grandfather David Baker Jr. purchases the original property

1908 Russell Baker is born in the Chehalem Valley, the fifth child of Harry and Ida Baker

1914 What is now the Tilikum property is purchased by the Baker family
1914 The telephone comes to the Chehalem Valley area

1932 Russell Baker graduates from Portland Bible Institute

1933 Russell Baker marries Irene Brown
1933 Russel and Irene’s first home completed in December

1937 Wilbur and Russell Baker purchase the farm on contract from their parents

1938 Electricity comes to the Chehalem Valley

1948 The original dairy barn and silos are built on the valley floor near Russell and Irene’s home

1950 – Russell and Irene become sole owners of the Baker farm

1962 – The Columbus Day storm strikes the Chehalem Valley

1969 Timber is cleared in the ravine for the construction of what is now Lake Tilikum

1970 The Bakers donate the upper 92 acres for establishing a camp
1970 The Dam is completed

The early years (1971 – 1975)

1971 Tilikum is established and an 11 member Board of Directors is formed for planning and development. Lon Fendal proposes the name Tilikum which means friend or friendly place in Chinook jargon.
1971 Gary Fawver begins as Tilikum’s first Executive Director (1971-1990)
1971 Susan Fawver begins as Food Service Director (1972-1988)

1972 Kraig Saks begins as Tilikum’s first Summer Staff
1972 The first group of retreat guests (Zion Lutheran Church) is welcomed into Baker’s lllahee.
1972 Tilikum hosts (for the first time) three weeks of Summer Camp with a total of 341 campers

1974 First Tilikum sponsored retreat held.
1974 Tilikum begins the first Potlatch fundraising event at The Thunderbird Inn in Portland. The event was sponsored by one generous donor. Potlatch in ordinary Jargon usage this means “to give”, or anything given, a present. It became the standard word used to describe the great gift-feasts which underlay the Pacific Northwest Coast people’s economic and political systems. Potlatches were ceremonials of giving away or destroying one’s possessions to gain social status, often accompanied by lavish theatricals and conspicuous consumption (and destruction, to show more wealth could always be acquired). The goal was to earn prestige, as well as humiliate one’s rivals into poverty by forcing them to spend more on a feast to outshow your own. In Chinook Jargon, the word potlatch simply meant “give” or “a gift”, although a gift with no reciprocal obligation expected at all is a cultus potlatch – just an ordinary gift.

1975 Arnie Mitchell begins as maintenance man (1975 -1990)

Under the George Fox banner (1975 – 2012)

1975 Ownership of Tilikum is transferred to George Fox College

1977 The Quiet Place is built on the south side of Lake Tilikum.

1978 The multi-purpose building ‘Fawver Center’ is completed
1978 The 5th Annual Potlatch is held for the first time in the Fawver Center
1979 Curt Ankey begins as first Office Staff (1979-1985)

1984 Dining room and kitchen are expanded and remodeled with the help of more than 50 volunteers.

1986 Over 100 volunteers help move the historic Valley View Schoolhouse from Yamhill Highway to its current hillside location at Tilikum.
1986 Dennis Littlefield begins as Program Director (1986-1998)
1986 Upper meeting room expanded, new entrance, and deck on Baker’s Illahee which means plot of land or friendly place.

1988 Gary and Susan Fawver take an 8 month sabbatical and travel the world as President of Christian Camping International
1988 Cara Prentiss steps in as interim Food Service Director

1989 Letha Quinn begins as Food Service Director (1989-1991)
1989 Death of Russell Baker
1989 A new Administrative Office is completed and the old office is moved and remodeled into a staff home
1989 Valley View Schoolhouse dedication ceremony

1990 Arnie Mitchell transitions to Tilikum’s second Executive Director (1990-2000)

1991 Susan Button begins as Food Service Director (1991-1993)

1992 The Hiding Place is built on the north side of Lake Tilikum

1993 A 12-bedroom addition to Baker’s Illahee is completed resulting in a large increase in retreat bookings.
1993 Susan Sohler begins as Food Service Director (1993-1994)
1993 Camp Tilikum partners with Project Adventure to build the Challenge Course

1994 With the completion of the Challenge Course, a new program, High Adventure Camp begins primarily for junior and senior high youth groups
1994 Nadine Kinser begins as food Service Director (1994-1998)

1996 Tilikum 25th Anniversary!
1996 Tilikum builds the Big Zip Line across the lake

1998 The Northridge Camp site is established and High Adventure Camp changes from a “Day Camp” to an overnight program.
1998 Merle Hilbun begins November 1 as Director of Guest Services, replacing Melva Lloyd
1998 Beth Appart begins November 1 as Retreat Coordinator, replacing Heidi Pender
1998 Jeff VandenHoek begins as Program Director, replacing Dennis Littlefield (2000-2006)

1999 Jenny Crackenburg begins as Food Service Director (1999-2002)
1999 Carrie McNeal begins as Housekeeping Supervisor in September (1999-Present)
1999 Beth Appert begins as Retreat Coordinator (1999-2006)

2000 Bedford Holmes begins as Tilikum’s third Executive Director (2000-2008)

2001 Quest Camp begins as a Day Camp for older kids

2002 Josh Cogar begins as Adventure Program Manager
2002 Tami Ankeny begins as Day Camp Manager (2002-2006)
2002 Suzanne Maki begins as Office Manager and Registrar (2002-2007)
2002 Summer Camp is 11 weeks and hosts 2,900 campers with 34 Summer Staff

2003 Danny Hernandez begins as Food Service Director (2003-2006)

2006 Nick Chapman begins as acting Day Camp Program Director
2006 Roberta Anderson begins as Food Service Director under Bon Appetit (2006-2009)

2007 Carol Yard begins as Program Director in March (2007-2011)
2007 Nate Forbes begins as Day Camp Manager in May (2007-2011)
2007 Julia Brown begins as Office Manager and Registrar (Fall 2007 – June 2009)

2008 The Amazing Race comes to Camp Tilikum

2009 Gary Fawver steps in as Interim Director
2009 Dennis Littlefield returns in May from Twin Rocks and begins as Tilikum’s 4th Executive Director (2009-Present)
2009 Michelle Davis begins as Office Manager/Guest Services Director
2009 Suzanne Maki steps in as acting Office Manager and Registrar for the Summer
2009 Lisa Hereford begins as Food Service Director (2009-2012)

2011 Amy Watson begins as Challenge Course Manager
2012 Ownership of Tilikum is transferred back to the Northwest Yearly Meeting

Back to the Northwest Yearly Meeting (2012 – Present)

2012 New Board of Directors established
2012 Tami Ankeny steps in as interim Program Director
2012 Tilikum becomes a member of NWYM Camping Ministries (joining Quaker Cove, Twin Rocks, Quaker Hill)
2012 New Water System completed
2012 October, Tilikum adopts new tagline reflecting five values, Camp Tilikum is a place you can go to experience creation, build community, provide refuge, encounter God, and see lives transformed.
2012 Chuck Stobie begins as Food Service Director (2012-2016)
2012 Mandy Schmidt begins as Program Director (2012-2018)

2013 First Trail Run event held at Tilikum (previously held at Champoeg State Park from 2004-2011)
2013 New Shop Facility construction begun
2013 Lakeside Patio constructed
2013 Friends of Tilikum Day is restarted

2014 Wetlands Bridge completed
2014 Big Canoes purchased to expand waterfront activities

2015 New Waterfront dock
2015 First Willamette River Run event with the Big Canoes
2015 Murdock Trust Staffing Grant awarded for two positions, Marketing and Development (2015-2019)

2016 Suzanne Maki begins as Guest Services Director (2016-Present)
2016 Becky Headrick begins as Food Service Director (2016-Present)
2016 Pat Schmidt begins as Maintenance Director (2016-Present)
2016 Leanna Smith begins in December as Development Director (2016-2020)
2016 Dan Prow begins in December as Marketing Director (2016-Present)

2017 A Writers Retreat is held at Camp Tilikum with Renovare and Richard and Nathan Foster, and a groundbreaking is held for the new Writers Cabin.
2017 The Lakeside Village Capital Campaign begins

2018 New gravel road to Lakeside Village completed
2018 Rommie Christiansen begins in December as Camp Program Director (2018-2022)

2019 Debbie Ford begins as Registrar (2019-2020)

2020 COVID-19 wages huge impact on Camp ministry
2020 Fawver Center Remodel completed including new roof, south side windows, new bathrooms with running water and flush toilets.
2020 46th annual Potlatch at the Fawver Center for the first time in 12 years!

2021 Tilikum 50th Anniversary and the 47th Annual Potlatch Celebration (begun in 1974)
2021 Tilikum Lodge gets some much needed repairs and a fresh coat of paint
2021 Lake Tilikum is drained to repair the leaky valve

2023 Justin Adsit is hired as the new Maintenance Director in January
2023 Lake Tilikum is refilled, allowing Day camp to begin again in the summer!
2023 Grant Banham is hired as the new Program Director in May


For more information about Camp Tilikum, email Dennis Littlefield/Executive Director, or call Dennis at (503) 538-2763, ext. 103.

What Tilikum is all about.

The Gift of Tilikum – The Russel and Irene Baker Legacy  [View the video]
Used with permission of OPB.

Review Tilikum’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Tilikum’s 50th anniversary Celebration was Labor Day, September 6, 2021. To review the day, [CLICK HERE]


View the 50th Anniversary coffee table book, “50 Years of Ministry and Service”.

Click on the image above…

Questions about Tilikum?

For more information about Camp Tilikum, email Dennis Littlefield/Executive Director, or call Dennis at (503) 538-2763, ext. 103.