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Family of Shocco Springs pioneer returns to campus

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Shocco Springs

From left, Jennifer Bagley McCracken with daughter Kylie, daughter Brookly and husband Kyle.

Jennifer Bagley McCracken has heard heartfelt stories about Shocco Springs from her father and grandfather her entire life.

So when she brought her church group, husband Kyle and daughters Kylie and Brooklyn to campus this summer, it felt like coming home to her. Jennifer is the Minister to Preschool & Children at Parkway Baptist Church in Auburn.

In 1947, Jennifer’s grandfather, George Bagley, was serving as the State Training Union Secretary for the Alabama Baptist State Convention. When he visited Shocco as a prospective rental venue for that summer’s annual Training Union assemblies, he found the owner to be interested in selling the property. Bagley successfully lobbied for the State Convention to purchase Shocco’s original 40 acres, three hotels, and 14 cottages.

When Hobson Shirey, the original manager/administrator, left Shocco at the end of 1954, George Bagley filled the position from March 1955 until March 1956. During his tenure, the new dining hall was built, construction of Crestview Hotel was completed, and Shocco’s property was increased by an additional 154 acres.

Jennifer’s father, James Bagley, also has a rich history with Shocco Springs, beginning with his family’s arrival on campus when he was a child. The whole family quickly became deeply committed to Shocco Springs, even naming their family dog, a cocker spaniel, “Shocco.” James returned to campus in later years to serve as resident summer staff, and a few years later met his future wife at a single’s conference held at Shocco.

In 1976, James was one of the architects hired to design a new building with office and meeting space that would connect the new dining hall/administration building with Springview Hotel. It wasn’t until after the completion of the project that he learned that they had designed “Bagley Center,” the building that would be named in honor of his father. Additionally, at Dr. George Ricker’s request, James designed Shocco’s iconic entrance sign.

This summer, Jennifer’s father James was happy about his granddaughter Kylie attending camp at Shocco. His letter he sent to her at camp reminded her that Shocco was a second home for him and that he hoped she loved it, too. Kylie, who is 8, loved her camp experience.

For Jennifer, returning to campus was a moving experience.

“Being at Shocco and seeing what all it has become, moved me almost to tears," she said. "As we drove around campus, it was as if my grandparents were right there alongside us. I could imagine their happy faces with big smiles, pointing with excitement at all the changes that have taken place over the years.”

Leaving campus, armed with Shocco T-shirts and memorabilia, Jennifer remarked, “I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the entire staff at Shocco Springs for their commitment to providing a place where groups can gather to learn and grow together in their walk with the Lord. Thank you for carrying on the vision of Shocco that my grandfather and many others before you, had and believed in so strongly.”

In George Bagley’s “Oral History Memoir”, he shared his thoughts of Shocco Springs: “Of all the things we have done in this convention, the one thing that has had the most impact, in my thinking, is what we have done at Shocco Springs.”

Shocco Springs is a Christian camp and conference center located in Talladega. It touts itself as an all-inclusive venue with numerous lodging, dining, and recreation options. They are open to non-profits, churches, schools, and civic organizations.