The Story of MHOC
The Outing Club was formed in February of 1921 by history professor Nellie Neilson as a branch of the Athletic Association. It included almost all the students in the College. Sports such as skiing, tobogganing, skating, snowshoeing, canoeing and horseback riding were all managed by the Club. When Joseph Skinner, a Mount Holyoke trustee, built a nine-hole golf course on Amherst Road in 1922, the club was invited to play golf.
Soon the Club was hosting yearly winter carnivals and hikes in the Pioneer Valley. Members of the Club quickly looked for a house of some sort to use. A cottage on the Connecticut River was used initially, and then a new cabin on the Mount Holyoke Range with a capacity for twenty people was rented. It had tennis courts and became a popular winter destination. Senior Marion Emerson began campaigning to have a Club cabin built in 1928. She raised $1,000 towards her goal, and with help from Mr. Skinner, a cabin was built in 1929 four miles from campus, halfway up the side of Mt. Holyoke.
In 1932 the Club attended the first conference of the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association (IOCA) at Dartmouth College. This marked the beginning of many conferences and trips with other colleges that provided students with social occasions. In 1935, the Club became involved with the youth hostelling movement. The Club purchased its first mode of transportation, a Chevy station wagon fondly named “Mountain Time” in 1937.
The Club also hosted guest lecturers such as world-renowned badminton star Ken Davidson and whitewater canoeing authority Neil Douglas. Throughout the 1940s the Club held dances, parties, ski weekends and dorm song contests for students. The original cabin was destroyed by fire in January 1958. The summer after the fire, the Mount Holyoke Board of Trustees purchased property for a new cabin. The new cabin, located at the eastern end of the Holyoke Range between Hadley and South Hadley, was built in December 1960.
From 1966 through the early 1970s, Mount Holyoke women greeted Dartmouth canoeists at the South Hadley marina as they made their annual trip from Hanover, New Hampshire to Saybrook, Connecticut; a reenactment of John Ledyard’s six-week journey in 1773. In the spring of 1968, the trip turned coed when Mount Holyoke students participated in the last three days of the trip. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the Club experienced variable participation and the level of activity fluctuated.
The Club never disappeared; during busy years trips to Martha’s Vineyard, backpacking in the White Mountains and hiking trips were planned. In the early 1990s, the Club experienced a decline due to the amount of energy and work required to maintain it. In recent years, however, attempts to revive the Club have been made. The Club’s cabin and equipment in storage were cleaned and inventoried fall 1998 and seasonal trips were planned for a club with a membership of around 150 students.
–From the Mount Holyoke College Archives.