Early in 1959, Colonel Cecil Hill (retired) began searching for a piece of property to use as a retreat center for service men and women. He was introduced to a piece of property 15 miles from Clarksville, which included 50-acre Lake Cunningham and 250 beautiful acres surrounding the lake.
Thinking the price too expensive, Hill passed up the purchase. However, when the Cunningham family invited him to use the property for his group, he quickly accepted their invitation.
In November of 1959, the two parties settled on an agreeable price, and the property was deeded to Clarksville Lake and Conference Grounds and Forrest Lake University (although the school never came into being). Fifty additional acres, located near the present main gate, were added to the purchase in 1961.
Happy Hill Acres
Under financial pressure from the IRS, Hill began to seek a non-profit group to assume ownership of the property. In December 1975, the property was deeded to Franklin Road Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They changed the name to Happy Hill Acres to honor Colonel Hill and his wife who served as managers of the property.
After a pastoral change, however, the church decided they no longer wanted the property, and in April 1978, the deed was transferred back to Clarksville Lake and Conference Grounds. The move once again attracted the attention of the IRS and prompted another search for non-profit ownership.
The Cumberland Association
When the property was owned by Franklin Road Baptist Church, the primary user was the Cumberland Association of Free Will Baptists. The association began camping ministries in the 1950s, renting state parks for facilities, even purchasing and using Hillmont Camp near White Bluff, Tennessee, before selling it to the National Association of Free Will Baptists. The move left the association in need of a new place to meet, and they turned to Happy Hill Acres.
The timing was perfect. God met the need for a new owner and the association’s need for a new camp facility. In December 1982, the Hills deeded the property to the Cumberland Association of Free Will Baptists, and for more than a quarter of a century, God has faithfully used the facility to impact thousands of lives for Christ.
In 1985, Marion Pettus became the first full-time director of Happy Hills Acres, a position he held until January 1999. Randy Skaggs directed the camp until Jerry Whitworth accepted the position in 2000 and served until August 2003. Stan Coker became the fourth director of the camp in October 2003 and remains in the position at the present time.