Sakima Country Club is a direct descendant of the DuPont Men’s Club, organized in 1916 by supervisory personnel at the DuPont Company’s Chambers Works, in Penns Grove, Salem County, New Jersey. As we’ve already seen, DuPont top management in the early decades of the century readily endorsed the establishment of clubs for the benefit of employees. The initial slate of officers included J. Clayton Ziegler, president; Joseph P. Little and Edward Daley, vice presidents; William G. Baugh, financial secretary; Samuel H. Sayre, recording secretary; and Reginald A. Ford, treasurer.
First on the new club’s agenda was the construction by the company of a two-story frame clubhouse (bowling alleys, pool tables, library, kitchen, dining room), smack on the Delaware River, at Helms Cove. At first only supervisory personnel were permitted to join, but later the rolls were opened to the rank and file as well as to men who did not work for DuPont. The initiation fee was $2.00; dues were $1.00 per month. Dues collection became so lax that one early report contained the names of the only three members who were not delinquent! Women were first admitted to membership in 1927.
Golf had entered the picture seven years earlier. It was in 1920 that a group composed mainly of DuPont Men’s Club members took steps to bring the game to this corner of Salem County. Electing J.C. Radcliff, Jr., as president, and setting a $25 initiation fee and $35 annual dues, they organized the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Golf Club, leased a tract of land from the DuPont Company, and laid out six holes on what is the site of today’s course. The membership, which included some young clerical personnel, plant executives, and local business and professional men, pitched in to help with the landscaping. The course opened for play in July, 1920. Within a few years it was expanded to nine holes.
In 1929 the DuPont Club (no longer the Men’s Club), the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Golf Club, and the Tennis Club, which had been organized in 1918, merged to form the DuPont-Penns Grove Club. Annual dues were pegged at $20 for social membership, $45 for social and golf, with an additional $5 for tennis privileges. Named to the board of directors were: William S. Calcott, Earl L. Duke, C. Albert Leisinger, George H. Schuler, William C. Brothers, James K. Reed, John M. Skilling, Andrew S. Yount, James W. Cowan, Chester M. Scott, Albert F. Meschter, and Edwin M. Johnson. William Calcott was named president.
On January 24, 1936, fire completely destroyed the clubhouse. Six months later the DuPont Company undertook the construction of a new clubhouse on the east side of the golf course. It officially opened on December 11,1936, with a formal dinner-dance that saw a number of prominent DuPont Company executives from corporate headquarters in Wilmington on hand.
With the new clubhouse as the chief attraction, membership doubled, from 170 in October, 1936, to 339 exactly a year later. Over the next two decades it would climb to nearly 500.
It was in 1960 that the DuPont Company decided to sell the clubhouse to Salem Community College and to end its formal association with the club. This triggered the dissolution of the DuPont-Penns Grove Country Club and the founding, early in 1961, of a new club. A name was needed. The Lenape Indians had roamed these lands hundreds of years earlier, and it was felt that an Indian name might be appropriate. “Sakima” was chosen; it means “Indian chief.”
Even more important than a name, however, was enlisting members in a club which had a golf course but no clubhouse. A drive got underway. Its goal was 150 golfing members and 85 social members. The campaign was successful, and the board authorized $91,174.30 for the construction of a clubhouse and a swimming pool. To keep costs down, a lot of the work was performed by the members. The final report showed an over-budget figure of just $1,611.19.
Today Sakima Country Club owns its clubhouse and pool and the land on which they are situated. The DuPont Company continues to own the land over which the nine holes (3,077 yards, par 36) are routed, and leases this property to the club. The majority of members today are DuPont employees or retirees. In a very real sense, then, the partnership between club and company, which can fairly be said to date back more than 80 years, is still ongoing.