History of the Boy Scout Program
By: Dennis Laffin
How important is Scouting? Well, hopefully the information in the following paragraphs will help give you a better perspective of what Scouting and our troop is all about and how important the program is and has been to our youth. In 1975 General of the Army, Omar Bradley, who at that time was our last living 5 star general, was asked to participate in an Eagle presentation near his home in Pasadena, California for 3 Scouts who were to receive their Eagles. In addressing the group he said: “Scouting is something every boy should want to become a part of. It gives a boy independence, teaches him how to do things on his own. Above all, it helps develop leaders which our country always needs.” Speaking of his service in World War II Bradley said: “All through the war I took it upon myself to fill the gap between un-preparedness and being prepared – a most important part of life itself.” General Bradley’s statements aptly describe several of the goals we try to achieve in the lives of our Scouts. Our Scouting heritage is something we can be proud of. Having knowledge of it makes the program more meaningful, and helps Scouts and adults understand why we do things the way we do. Troop 555 is a traditional Scout troop. The program we operate, the way we camp, the way we are organized, and every aspect of our troop has its origins in the ideas and methods established by Scouting’s founders. The following is a brief history of the program and the contributions and lives of the men who played significant roles in the founding and development of the Scouting program. I have also included information about our troop, its leaders, and local Scout history. You are welcome to send me any questions or comments to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boy Scout program was founded
by Lord Robert Baden-Powell in England in 1907. He was generally
just called Baden-Powell or B-P for short. Baden-Powell became a war
hero after successfully leading the defense of the South African town
of Mafeking during the Boer war in a siege lasting 217 days. At
that time Baden-Powell was a British Army Colonel in command of a force
of 1019 men defending Mafeking. The Boer invading forces were
estimated to number 9,000 men. While commanding the 5th
Dragoon Guards in India in 1898 Baden-Powell had written a small military
training manual titled Aids to Scouting. During the siege
of Mafeking his book was published in England and became popular with
British civilians including youth. That was just one in a series
of providential events that would lead Baden-Powell to founding the
Scouting program. While still serving in the South African Constabulary
he began to receive dozens of letters from youth and youth organizations
asking for advice. He replied to each of those letters in long
hand trying to answer their questions and provide inspiration.
To one boy he wrote: “One thing you must learn before you can be a
good soldier, and that is to be obedient to your superior officer, preparedness,
and devotion to duty (Be prepared to take such a place as duty directs),
cheerfulness (Be happy – for “cheeriness is next Godliness”),
helpfulness (‘Make up your mind to do at least one “good turn”
to somebody every day’).” The ideas he expressed in that letter
eventually became parts of the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan.
On April 30, 1904 Baden-Powell
who was then the Inspector General of the British Army acted as Inspecting
Officer for the Annual Drill Inspection and Review for a British youth
organization known as the Boys Brigade. William Smith was the
founder and leader of the Boys Brigade. After Baden-Powell’s
inspection he turned to William Smith and congratulated him but stated
he believed the Boys Brigade would have ten times more members with
more variety and attraction in its training. Smith challenged
Baden-Powell to develop such a program and that is how the idea of the
Boy Scout program began to take shape in Baden-Powell’s mind.
He began researching and formulating plans for his new program.
A United States citizen, naturalist, and author: Earnest Thompson Seton
had some influence on Baden-Powell’s ideas. Seton was founder
of a youth organization in the United States called the Woodcraft Indians.
He sent Baden-Powell a copy of his book The Birch-bark Roll of the
Woodcraft Indians in 1906.
Baden-Powell was ready to test
his Boy Scout program idea in 1907. He gathered 22 boys from varied
backgrounds in England and held the first Boy Scout encampment on Brownsea
Island off the coast of England from July 29th through August
8th, 1907. He divided the boys into 4 smaller groups
which he called patrols. This was the beginning of what is still
called the Patrol Method of operation in Scouting. Baden-Powell
deemed his Brownsea Island test of the Scouting program very successful.
The program began to spread throughout Great Britain and eventually
to other countries. Throughout his Scouting service Baden-Powell
always emphasized that the patrol method is the best system to use in
operating a Scout troop. He stated: “The formation of the boys
into permanent Patrols of from six to eight and treating them as separate
units each under its own responsible leader is the key to a good Troop.
The Patrol is the unit of Scouting always, whether for work or for play,
for discipline or for duty.”
William D. Boyce is credited
with bringing the Boy Scout program to the United States. He was
born on June 16, 1850. Mr. Boyce was a Chicago publisher and adventurer.
He was also a multi-millionaire and a philanthropist. He was in
London on a business trip in the autumn of 1909. One evening he
was trying to find an address in a dense London fog when a uniformed
boy came up to him and asked if he could help him. The boy helped
Mr. Boyce find the address he was looking for and when Mr. Boyce offered
to pay the lad for helping him the boy refused to accept any money.
Mr. Boyce asked the lad why he wouldn’t accept his tip and the boy
explained he was a Boy Scout and Boy Scouts were not allowed to accept
any payment for a good turn. The boy’s answer intrigued Mr.
Boyce to find out more about the Boy Scouts. The boy told him
General Baden-Powell was the founder of the Boy Scouts and that he had
an office there in London. Later Mr. Boyce went to the Boy Scout
Association office in London and obtained the information he was seeking
on the Boy Scout program. There is some disagreement as to whether
or not Mr. Boyce actually met with Baden-Powell. Mr. Boyce never
got the name of the young Scout who helped him on that foggy night and
the identity of that Scout remains a mystery to this day.
William D. Boyce was so impressed
with the Scouting program that he brought it back to the United States
and incorporated the program on February 8, 1910 in Washington D. C.
The Boy Scout program flourished in the United States as it did in England.
The program soon spread throughout the country and kept on growing.
William D. Boyce served on the National Council of the Boy Scouts of
America. He died on June 11, 1941.
Baden-Powell came to Culver
Military Academy at Culver, Indiana in 1912 to promote the Boy Scout
program. At that time the first National Scout Commissioner, Daniel
Carter Beard was at Culver Military Academy in charge of their Woodcraft
program. The first Boy Scout troop in Plymouth, Indiana was started
on August 21, 1912 by Judge Alvin Marsh who had been trained by Daniel
Carter Beard. I do not have any information on when the earliest
troop was founded in the South Bend or Mishawaka areas. The troop
at Plymouth must have been one of the earliest troops founded in the
In 1910 President William Howard
Taft invited representatives of the Boy Scouts of America to the White
House to report on the status of the Boy Scout program. The tradition
has continued since that date. On June 16, 1916 the United States
Congress granted the Boy Scouts of America a federal charter.
The National Chief of the Order of the Arrow and several other youth
representing the various parts of the Scouting program are selected
each year to present the annual report of the Boy Scouts of America
to the President of the United States.
By 1920 the Scouting program
had spread throughout the countries of the free world and the first
World Scout Jamboree was held that year in London, England. The
closing program of the World Jamboree was held on August 7, 1920.
As Baden-Powell approached the speaker’s stand one of the Scouts spontaneously
proclaimed: “We, the Scouts of the World, salute you, Sir Robert Baden-Powell
– Chief Scout of the World!” Then: “Suddenly, the standard
bearers in front of the dais (speakers platform) dipped their nations’
flags in his honor and from all sides, the cheering of the crowd, of
his Scouts, engulfed him. Chief Scout of the World! B-P
(Baden Powell) hesitated, taken completely aback. As he slowly
raised his hand in the Scout sign, the cheering abruptly ceased.
There were a few seconds of impressive silence before his voice rang
out with its accustomed force to the farthest corners of the building.”
In his closing remarks he stated: “…. If it be your will, let us
go forth from here determined that we will develop among ourselves and
our boys that comradeship, through the world-wide spirit of the Scout
brotherhood, so that we may help develop peace and happiness in the
world and good will among men. Brother Scouts, answer me – will
you join me in this endeavor? A thundering shout answered him:
In Troop 555 we want our Scouts
to realize and appreciate that they are part of this world wide brotherhood
of Scouting – that they are Scouting brothers to all Scouts whether
they are in their own troop, Scouts from other local troops, other states,
or other countries all Scouts and Scouters are part of the Brotherhood
of Scouting and they are all committed to the same Scouting ideals.
Just recognizing and accepting that fact will help to fulfill several
points of the Scout law in the life of the individual Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America created
the Silver Buffalo award which is the highest award the National Council
of the Boy Scouts of America can bestow on an individual. The
first two Silver Buffalo Awards were presented in 1926. The first
award went to Baden-Powell and the second to the unknown Scout who guided
William D. Boyce in the London fog in 1906. The inscription on
the second award reads: “To the Unknown Scout Whose Faithfulness in
the Performance of the Daily Good Turn Brought the Scout Movement to
the United States of America.”
Baden-Powell continued to actively
serve as Chief Scout of the World for the rest of his life. He
died on January 8, 1941 at his home in Nyeri, Kenya and is buried there
in Kenya. His grave is marked by a simple Scout trail sign symbol
meaning: “I have gone home.”
When the Boy Scout program
was organized in the United States the first Honorary President of the
Boy Scouts of America was William H. Taft and the first Honorary Vice-President
was Theodore Roosevelt. The first Chief Scout was Ernest Thompson
Seton and the first National Scout Commissioners were: Daniel Carter
Beard, Adjutant General William Verbeck, and Colonel Peter S. Bomous.
The first chairman of the National Executive Board was Colin H. Livingstone.
James E. West was the first Executive Secretary and James West also
became the first Chief National Scout Executive.
Another man who fulfilled a
very significant and vital role in Scouting for many years was William
Hillcourt. Bill Hillcourt was from Denmark and became a Boy Scout
in 1911 at ten years old. From the date he first became a Scout
through the rest of his life he was very active in the Scouting program.
At the age of 23 he authored his first novel. He came to the United
States in 1926 as a roving reporter for a Danish newspaper. Through
a chance meeting on an elevator with Chief Scout Executive James West
he was asked to write a report on American Scouting. Although
much of his report was complementary of American Scouting he criticized
the American program for not using the patrol method more effectively.
After Mr. West reviewed William Hillcourt’s report he asked him if
he would write a handbook for patrol leaders. William accepted
the job and his book: Handbook for Patrol Leaders was published
in 1929. From that time on until he retired on August 1, 1965
Bill Hillcourt worked on the National Staff of the Boy Scouts of America.
He was responsible for developing program ideas and wrote several Scout
Handbooks. Also, since 1932 he wrote many articles for Boys Life
magazine under the pen name: Green Bar Bill. He retired from the
National Staff on August 1, 1965 but in 1977 he came out of retirement
to write a new Scout Handbook which was published on February 8, 1979.
No other man besides Baden-Powell himself had such a great impact on
the Scouting program. He was called the Scoutmaster to the world.
William Hillcourt died on November 9, 1992 while on a Scouting tour
in Europe. He never really retired form the program.
Another man who was very important
to the Scouting program was Ernest Thompson Seton. He was born
in Scotland on August 14, 1860 and immigrated to America as a youth
in the 1880s. His fascination with the wilderness led him to become
a naturalist, an artist, and prolific author. Through his talents
he influenced both youth and adults. Seton established a youth
organization known as the Woodcraft Indians. His background of
outdoor skills and interest in youth made him a logical choice to be
selected as the first Chief Scout of the BSA in 1910. He wrote
many volumes on Scout-craft and became an integral part of the new Boy
Scout program in the United States. Earnest Thompson Seton died
on October 23, 1946 in New Mexico. The Earnest Thompson Seton
museum is located on Philmont Scout Ranch at Cimarron, New Mexico.
Daniel Carter Beard was another
very important man in the early days of Scouting in the United States.
He was a woodsman, illustrator, and naturalist. He represented
the pioneering spirit of the Boy Scouts of America. He was born
on June 21, 1850 so he was already 60 years old when the Boy Scout program
was founded in the United States. He was the founder of an organization
he called the Sons of Daniel Boone but he merged that group with the
Boy Scouts of America when Scouting was founded. As the first
National Scout Commissioner he helped design the Boy Scout uniform,
and introduced elements of the First Class Scout badge. He was
known affectionately as “Uncle Dan” to Scouts and leaders.
He is remembered as a colorful figure dressed in buckskin and was instrumental
in starting and perpetuating the program in the United States.
Daniel Beard also founded Boy Scout Troop 1 of Flushing, New York which
is believed to be the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout troop
in the United States. He also directed the Wood Craft program
at Culver Military Academy at Culver, Indiana. Earnest Thompson
Seton also helped with the Wood Craft program at Culver. Daniel
Carter Beard died on June 11, 1941.
James E. West was another very
noteworthy individual. He was born on May 16, 1876. He was
appointed the first Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America
in 1911. He was orphaned as a youth and was physically handicapped
but he had the perseverance to graduate from law school and became a
successful attorney. That same determination gave him the impetus
to help build Scouting into the largest and most effective youth organization
in the world. He retired in 1943 and was recognized as the true
architect of the Boy Scouts of America. He died on May 15, 1948.
Waite Phillips should be remembered
for his great unparalleled contribution to Scouting. Waite Phillips
was born on January 19, 1883. He founded the Phillips Petroleum
Company and became very wealthy. Waite owned a large ranch near
Cimarron, New Mexico which he called Philmont Ranch. He also owned
an office building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1941 he donated Philmont
Ranch and his Tulsa, Oklahoma office building to the Boy Scouts of America.
At the time of his donation the estimated value of those properties
was over $5,000,000. Also at the time of his donation Philmont
Ranch covered 127,395 acres. With later land acquisitions Philmont
Scout Ranch now covers 216 square miles and is the largest youth camp
in the world. In speaking of the Boy Scout organization Waite
Phillips said: “I am impressed with the responsibility of this generation
to adequately train its youth – physically, mentally and morally –
to meet the problems they must face in the future. In my opinion,
there is nothing more valuable to this generation than the enlargement
of the scouting program, which develops self-reliance and dependability.
It always has been my belief that the best contribution to that kind
of development is by living close to nature and through learning to
live in the great out-of-doors.” Waite Philips died on January
27, 1964 and his legacy is best summed up by one of his most cherished
epigraphs: “The only things we keep permanently are those we give
This discussion on the history
of Scouting would not be complete without mentioning the Order of the
Arrow and its two founders: E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson.
In the early days of Scouting boys were so eager to become Scouts that
they sometimes set out to recruit their own adult leaders themselves.
That was how E. Urner Goodman became involved with Scouting. One
day a young Scout named Gilson M. Talmadge and a friend came to Urner
Goodman’s house and asked him to join their troop as Scoutmaster.
Urner Goodman accepted the Scout’s offer and became the Scoutmaster
of Boy Scout Troop 1 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 18, 1912 at
the age of 21. E. Urner Goodman was born on May 15, 1891.
When he accepted the Scoutmaster position he was a teacher at Potter
school and was working on his graduate degree. He soon became
more involved in the Scouting program and became a Scout Executive.
Urner was asked to be the camp director of the Treasure Island Boy Scout
camp for the summer of 1915. Carroll A. Edson was appointed his
assistant camp director. Goodman and Edson were both 24 years
old at the time of the founding of the Order of the Arrow.
Urner and Carroll began making
plans for the coming summer camp season and decided they wanted to have
some way of recognizing Scouts who were the most proficient campers
and who best represented the ideals of Scouting. They also wanted
to have a way to perpetuate the traditions of their camp. To accomplish
those purposes they decided to form an honored campers society and decided
the campers themselves would elect those who would be allowed to become
members of the society. While they were making their plans they
had no idea or intention that their honored campers society would spread
from camp to camp and eventually all across the nation. Carroll Edson
attended a meeting where Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton spoke about
the success he had with boys using Indian ceremonies in his Woodcraft
Indians program. Treasure Island is in the Delaware River. The
island and surrounding area had been the land of the Lenni-Lenape Indians,
also called the Delaware, Indians. They decided to use a Delaware
Indian theme for their honored campers society and called the new society
the Wimachtendienk which means brotherhood in the Lenni-Lenape language.
Soon they added two more Indian words to the society’s name making
the full name: Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui meaning: Brotherhood
of Cheerful Service. Those words still describe the guiding principles
of the organization. Along with their Indian theme the arrow,
which signifies leadership, was selected as a symbol for the society
and the organization became known as the Order of the Arrow. Today
the Order of the Arrow is also called Scouting’s National Honor Society.
Urner Goodman continued his career as a professional Scouter and in
1931 he was appointed National Director of Program. He held that
position for more than 20 years. He retired from professional
Scouting in 1951 but continued serving Scouting and the Order of the
Arrow until his death on March 13, 1980.
Carroll A. Edson was born on
December 29, 1891. He was also a teacher and planned to work for
the YMCA but he became a Scoutmaster and became interested in serving
in professional Scouting. He was hired by the National Office
of the Boy Scouts of America in 1916 and was given responsibility for
the Nautical Scouting program which later became the Sea Scouts.
Carroll served in the Army during World War I as a second lieutenant
of infantry. In March, 1919 he was commissioned as a captain in
the Infantry Reserve. In 1921 he became district executive for
the South Shore District of the Chicago Council. Carroll eventually
left professional Scouting and became a manager in the Social Security
Administration. He was called to active duty in the Army in 1940
and served as an instructor at the Army’s Command and General Staff
school. He was released from the Army in 1945 at the rank of Colonel.
He was very active in the Congregational Christian Church. He
continued to serve Scouting and the Order of the Arrow throughout his
life. He died on October 25, 1986 at the age of 94.
The Order of the Arrow was first recognized as part of the Boy Scout program in 1934. At that time the Order of the Arrow was approved for use by all the councils. However the Order of the Arrow administrative structure was not fully integrated into the national Boy Scout administration until 1948 when the National Council decided to make the program fully an official part of the Boy Scouts of America.
From its inception to the present
the Order of the Arrow remains dedicated to its founding principles:
recognizing Scouts who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their
daily lives, promoting Scout camping, and fostering brotherhood and
cheerful service both in and outside of Scouting. The Order of
the Arrow provides many untold man hours of service to help improve
and maintain the council camps. It also provides leadership and
program training to Scouts and adult leaders at all levels from local
to national and provides a forum for fellowship and the sharing of ideas
for Order of the Arrow members at district, council, state, and national
In his speech at the 25th
anniversary national conference Urner Goodman said: “The Order of
the Arrow is a thing of the spirit. …. The things of the spirit
count: Brotherhood – in a day when there is too much hatred at home
and abroad. Cheerfulness – in a day when the pessimists have
the floor. Service – in a day when millions are interested only
in getting and grasping rather than giving.”
There are three levels of membership
(also called honors) in the Order of the Arrow: Ordeal, Brotherhood,
and Vigil. A Scout who is elected or an adult who is selected
for membership in the Order of the Arrow (OA) must complete an ordeal
to become an actual member of the OA so the first level of membership
is the Ordeal level. After an Ordeal member has been in the OA
for ten months he or she may meet certain requirements and become a
Brotherhood member. After a Brotherhood member has served at least
two years at the Brotherhood level he or she may be considered for the
Vigil Honor. Our OA lodge (Sakima Lodge) may select only 7 members
per year for the Vigil Honor. Generally 4 youth and 3 adults are
selected. The Vigil Honor is awarded for outstanding and exemplary
service and leadership to Scouting, the Order of the Arrow, and the
community. The selection is made by a secret Vigil selection committee
composed only of youth. The selections are reviewed and approved
by the Council Scout Executive and then are submitted to the National
Order of the Arrow Committee for final review and approval.
Three members of Troop 555
have been selected for the Vigil Honor. They include: Dennis Laffin,
2003(adult); Zack Dylewski, 2007 (youth) and Joe O’Rourke, 2008 (youth).
History and Council Camps
Prior to April 1, 1972 our
council was known as Tri-Valley Council and our Order of the Arrow Lodge
was called White Beaver Lodge 182. On April 1, 1972 Tri-Valley
Council was merged with the Pottawattomi Council to our West and the
Pioneer Tails Council to our East to form Northern Indiana Council.
Carl Griffin of Michigan City was the first Council President and Robert
Reuter of South Bend was the first Council Commissioner. In 1973
our council merged with the Southern part of the South West Michigan
Council so the Michigan towns of Niles, Buchanan, Berrien Springs, and
Dowagiac all became part of our council and our local district name
was changed from White Beaver district to Algonquian district.
The council name was changed to its present LaSalle Council name and
our Order of the Arrow Lodge name was changed to Sakima Lodge 573.
Prior to our merger in 1972 the Pottawattomi council’s summer camp
was camp Topenebee located South of Michigan City, Indiana and the Pioneer
Trails Council summer camp was Camp Pioneer Trails which was located
5 miles South of Cromwell, Indiana on Gordy Lake. After the merger
for the first year or so all three summer camps were operated.
Camp Pioneer Trails was eventually sold and the council stopped operating
summer camp at Camp Topenebee but that camp still belongs to the council
and is used for weekend camping, training, and other programs.
Our council summer camp is
Camp Tamarack on Wood Lake Scout Reservation which is located South
of Jones, Michigan. Camp Tamarack began operation as Tri-Valley
Council’s summer camp in 1956. I first camped there in 1957
as a Cub Scout. My first year there at summer camp as a Boy Scout
was in 1959. Our council’s summer camp prior to acquiring the
500 acre Wood Lake property was Camp Bryan which was located on Little
Fish Lake about 10 miles East of Dowagiac, Michigan. Camp Bryan
had been the council’s summer camp since 1923. When camp Tamarack
was first dedicated camp staff members carried a torch from the final
campfire at camp Bryan to light the first campfire at Camp Tamarack.
Jim Curtis was one of those torch bearers. Camp Tamarack’s 50th
anniversary celebration was held in 2006 the week my troop, Troop 555,
was at summer camp. Our troop was in charge of the Friday night
closing campfire. We asked Jim Curtis to carry a torch to light
our closing campfire that night in commemoration of Camp Tamarack’s
50 years of operation. He was proud and honored to do it.
Jim has remained active in Scouting all those years.
I would like to give some recognition
for the first ranger of Wood Lake Scout Reservation. His name
was Rene Vanderheyden. He was a real woodsman type of guy and
was always willing to help troops with whatever they needed. He
used to drive around camp in his red jeep. He had a dog named
Gilbert who was a cross between an Irish Setter and a St. Bernard.
Gilbert was a very large but gentle dog. He loved the kids and
the kids loved to play with him. Gilbert was also a very smart
dog. He used to set in the drivers seat of Rene’s jeep with
his front paws on the steering wheel like he was ready to drive away.
One time I recall seeing Gilbert trying to unscrew the top off of a
large water jug presumably so he could get a drink of water. It
was said Gilbert was killed when a hunter mistook him for a deer.
When Rene used to greet the troops arriving to camp at Wood Lake he
would always say to the Scouts “This camp belongs to you Scouts”
and because it belongs to the Scouts he encouraged them to take good
care of it and appreciate it.
Granger, Indiana Troop 555
Troop 555 was first chartered
in 1989 to Harris Civil Township and met at the Harris Township Volunteer
Fire Department on Bittersweet Road. After the new fire station
was built on the corner of Elm Road and Indiana 23 the troop moved to
that location. In 2006 the sponsorship was changed to St. Pius
X Catholic Church however the troop currently meets at Timberland Bible
Church just south of the intersection of Cleveland Road and Indiana
23. Troop 555 evolved from Troop 515 which was chartered to St.
Monica’s Catholic Church in Mishawaka. Our troop has never been
very large. We have generally operated with three patrols.
The names of Troop 515’s three patrols were: Bear, Snake, and Raccoon
patrols. However, toward the time we transferred the troop we
were down to about five Scouts and basically only had one patrol which
I believe was the Raccoon patrol. It had become hard to recruit
new members in the St. Monica’s area and we learned of an opportunity
to move the troop to Granger so we decided to transfer the troop there.
Troop 515 had existed for many years at St. Monica’s. I remember
knowing Scouts from Troop 515 when I was a Boy Scout in the early 1960s.
Troop 515 had a two color neckerchief which was sky blue and white.
The white part was in front of the Scout and the blue part was against
his back. When we transferred the troop to Troop 555 we changed
the neckerchief but we decided to keep the sky blue color from the 515
neckerchief. We decided on a single color sky or turquoise blue
neckerchief. We also have a T shirt of the same color which we
use for our class B uniform. Tim Richardson created the signal
tower design on the front of the T shirt in 1993. Soon after we
began wearing those T shirts at summer camp the camp staff began calling
our troop members smurfs and the name has stuck so we are affectionately
known as the smurf troop.
When we first moved the troop
to Granger we started out only with the Raccoon patrol but we soon recruited
enough new members to form a second patrol. The name Bob Cat was
chosen for that patrol. About 1991 the Bob Cat patrol name was
changed to the Bat patrol. It appears that Joe Smith was the first
Patrol Leader of the Bat Patrol but he soon became Senior Patrol Leader
and Bryce Cone then became Patrol Leader of the Bats. Bryce is
credited with having written the Bat’s patrol call which is still
in use today. The Raccoon patrol was started when we were Troop
515 and Ora Lane was the first Patrol Leader. By September of
1993 we had enough Scouts to form a third patrol so Paul Richardson
told the kids they had to pick an animal name for their patrol.
The Scouts of the new third patrol chose Hell Benders as their patrol’s
name. At first there was some objection to the Hell Benders name
but the Scouts showed us a Hell Bender is a type of lizard, shown in
the Scout Handbook so the name was accepted. Nick Austin was the
first Patrol Leader of the Hell Bender patrol. A Troop roster
from May, 1995 shows we had a Weasels patrol. The Raccoon patrol
name was apparently changed to Weasels but I could not find a record
of the date. The Weasels patrol name was changed to the Fighting
Ferrets patrol by January, 1997. That is the earliest date of
the roster I have listing the Ferrets patrol name. C. T. Ewald
was the first Patrol Leader of the Fighting Ferrets.
Side Summer Camp Operation
For several years when we were
still troop 515 we used to operate a self-reliant camp on the South
side of Wood Lake for our troop’s summer camp. The South side of Wood
Lake is almost entirely undeveloped woods. We did all of our own
cooking there instead of eating in the dining hall on the North side
of the lake. There was an artesian well near the lake and that
was our water source. The water from the well was always cold
and pure. We had our own waterfront on the South side and made
a pioneering pier out into the lake. We also made canoe and paddle
racks and we had a large wooden flag pole close to the lake which was
probably at least 50 feet tall. We ran our own troop swims over
there. We also worked on a lot of basic Scouting skills in our
campsites. Our Scouts would canoe across the lake to participate
in program and campfires on the North side of the camp. We had
developed a number of small patrol sites back in the woods and we had
a separate leader’s site for the adult leaders. Our Scouts
really liked that style of camping. Eventually the council declared
the South side of Wood Lake a “wilderness area” and would not allow
on the ground wood fires to be built there so we stopped camping on
the South side of Wood Lake and went back to the North side for summer
camp where we eat in the dining hall with the other troops.
Paul Richardson’s Service as Scoutmaster
Paul Richardson was the first
Scoutmaster of Troop 555. He became the Scoutmaster of Troop 515
in October, 1970 when his son Lee Richardson became old enough to join
Boy Scouts. Prior to that Paul had been active as a committee
member in Cub Scout Pack 515. Paul retired as Scoutmaster in 2006
after 35 years of service as Scoutmaster. Paul continues to serve
the troop on the troop committee and still uses his pickup truck and
trailer to help us haul the troop’s camping gear. Paul decided
before becoming Scoutmaster that he needed to learn exactly how a troop
should be ran and organized so he took all the basic leader training
and even took Wood Badge training in August, 1970. Wood Badge is the
most advanced adult leader training and when Paul took the course back
in 1970 it was a week long outdoor training experience. The course
provided good training for him in outdoor camping skills, scout-craft,
patrol method, troop organization, and leadership skills. Robert
Reuter was the Course Director of Paul Richardson’s Wood Badge course.
Bob Reuter was a highly knowledgeable and respected Scouter in this
area for many years. He served as director of several Wood Badge
courses and served as Council Commissioner. Paul’s Wood Badge
training had a great amount of influence on his service as Scoutmaster.
Aside from serving as Scoutmaster
Paul served Scouting in several other capacities. After completing
Wood Badge he and his fellow course members were challenged to use their
newly gained knowledge for the benefit of the Scouts of the council.
They decided to do that by forming a youth leader training committee
and run a youth leader training program to train patrol leaders and
senior patrol leaders for all the troops in the council. They
called the new training program the Brownsea Adventure. Irv Olsen
a professor from Valparaiso University wrote the first training manual
for the course. The manual was revised several times and eventually
the course used a National Council issued training manual. The
first Brownsea Adventure training course was held at Wood Lake in 1971with
49 training participants. The course was run for a total of 13
years and Paul Richardson served actively on the Brownsea Committee
for all those years. He was the chairman of the committee for several
years. During the years the Brownsea Adventure course ran approximately
680 Scouts were trained in leadership and outdoor camping skills.
Paul also served as the Scout Roundtable Commissioner. He has
also done unit leader training and has served either on committees to
plan camporees, or as the chairman of camporee planning committees.
Paul is a World War II Army infantry veteran who was in combat in Germany.
For his distinguished service to Scouting he has received the District
Award of Merit, the St. George Award and the Silver Beaver Award.
He is also a member of the Order of the Arrow.
Throughout his service as Scoutmaster
he was always and still is committed to the principles of boy leadership,
and the patrol method in the operation of the troop. He believed
the troop should be a year around all weather self-reliant camping troop.
He believes our troop’s patrols should camp in distinctive patrol
sites in the woods separate from the other patrols and the adult leaders.
He also believed the patrols should cook their meals on wood fires in
their patrol sites. All of that is part of the Patrol Method of
operation which was so strongly advocated by Scouting’s founders.
We have always camped where there is plenty of firewood and where wood
fires are permitted. Paul always set high standards for the troop.
He has been an inspiration to many Scouts and other adult leaders over
the years and is highly respected by other Scout leaders all over the
in the Troop
Pioneering skills have become
almost a lost art with many troops these days but pioneering has always
been one of our Scouts favorite activities and our troop is known for
its high level of skill in pioneering. Pioneering is basically
making things by lashing poles together. We use pioneering skills
to build things such as signal towers, bridges, monkey bridges, gate
ways, tables, Chippewa kitchens, and catapults just to give a few examples
of some of the things our Scouts have built. Pioneering was one
of Paul Richardson’s favorite activities for the troop and it has
been mine as well. When I was on the camp staff back in the early
70s at Camp Tamarack I was responsible for much of the scout-craft and
pioneering programs of the camp. We have always felt pioneering
has many benefits for the Scouts. It requires a coordinated group
effort to accomplish a large pioneering project. This gives our
boy leaders a good opportunity to exercise their leadership and planning
skills. Also, the Scouts learn how to work together during the
project. They are able to make use of many basic skills they have
learned in order to construct something impressive, useful, and that
they can enjoy. If we just teach Scouts, knots, lashings, and
how to use woods tools but don’t give them opportunities to use those
skills they will soon become bored and disinterested but when you give
them the opportunity to build something big and real they have a sense
of accomplishment and pride and their interest remains high. Doing
things such as pioneering projects has been one of the reasons for our
success. We are basically following a method taught by Bade-Powell
at the first Brownsea Island Scout camp. He would tell the Scouts
a story and demonstrate a skill to them. The Scouts were then
given the opportunity to practice the skill and to use it in some competition
or activity that required proficient use of the skill.
While Paul Richardson was Scoutmaster
we used to build signal towers, monkey bridges and other pioneering
projects at camporees and Scout Shows. After seeing another troop
try unsuccessfully to run a zip-line off a tower they built we decided
to try it ourselves. Our zip-line worked well and the kids had
a lot of fun with it. Once we even built a zip line which extended out
into Wood Lake when we used to camp on the South Side of Wood Lake for
summer camp. Later we attached plywood to the side of our tower
and used it as a rappelling wall and that worked well too. We
heard the council was considering building a climbing wall at camp Tamarack.
That got me thinking about building a climbing wall and attaching it
to the side of one of our signal towers. Gene Dylewski was a Scout
at that time and was very handy with wood working. I told Gene
about my idea and asked him if he thought he could build a climbing
wall with hand hold blocks made out of wood. Gene took up the
challenge and built a climbing wall 24 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
He also made the hand and foothold blocks and attached them to the wall.
He and his Dad, Gene senior, designed the wall so it could be attached
to our pioneering signal tower. We ordered climbing helmets, mountain
ropes, carabiners and other equipment to be able to safely operate a
climbing wall. We tried out the climbing wall and it worked very
Then we got the idea of running
the zip-line off one side of the tower and attaching the climbing wall
to another side and to set all those things up along with a few other
pioneering things at the Granger town festival. The other things
included a swing set, rope climb, sea saw, cargo net climb, and a merry-go-round
all lashed together and made with pioneering poles. We set up
at the Granger town festival for several years and charged kids a nominal
fee/donation to go on those things with our Scouts and several adults
supervising and making sure they were doing everything safely.
Eventually we moved to the Mishawaka town festival and set up there
for several years. This was a big attraction for our Scouts.
They enjoyed building the 30 foot tower and all the other pioneering
things. They also enjoyed going on the zip-line and climbing wall
themselves and helping other kids do those things. That was our
main money earning project for several years. We almost always
attracted media attention when we were setup at either the Granger or
Mishawaka festivals. Our troop was either on TV, in the newspaper
or interviewed on the radio or a combination of those things about every
time we were setup. I went to Philmont in 2000 to take the COPE
instructor and inspector course to gain more knowledge and a certification
to run those kinds of things. Eventually insurance restrictions were
tightened and we were not able to get liability insurance so we were
no longer able to setup at the festivals like we had been doing.
In 1999 the council held a
council wide camporee at Grissom Air Force Base near Peru, Indiana about
80 miles or so from our troop’s location in Granger. They asked
us to bring our signal tower and climbing wall to the camporee and run
it as part of the program. We pre-built most of the tower in top
and bottom sections so we could haul it to the camporee. Our Scouts
had the tower assembled, set up and ready to operate in just a few hours
time. We also set up several other smaller things for activities
there. Our climbing wall tower was a big attraction at the camporee
and about 500 Scouts climbed it there.
After Paul Richardson’s Retirement
After Paul Richardson retired
as Scoutmaster in 2006 Greg Olson became Scoutmaster and served for
several months. He had been an Assistant Scoutmaster prior to
becoming Scoutmaster. Greg remains active on the troop committee and
has always been very supportive of the troop. Greg works for A
M General Corp. and was able to borrow a military training Hummer for
use on our campouts. While serving as Scoutmaster he maintained the
high standards the troop was accustomed to under Paul Richardson’s
leadership. Greg is also a member of the Order of the Arrow.
Gene Dylewski became the Troop’s
Scoutmaster in 2007. Gene had been in the Troop as a youth.
During his time in the troop as a youth he served as Patrol Leader of
the Bat patrol and he served as the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader.
Gene was an outstanding Scout and was awarded his Eagle Scout badge
on October 21, 2001. Gene was well prepared to assume the Scoutmaster’s
duties and he is doing a great job. He has always been interested
in Pioneering and scoutcraft skills. He is also very skilled in
working with wood. After he turned 18 and left the troop he earned
a degree from Purdue. Gene remains committed to the same ideas
of self-reliant patrol method camping and boy leadership that has been
the hallmark of our troop for many years. Gene is a Brotherhood
member of the Order of the Arrow.
Our troop has been blessed
with variety of talented people who use their talents to help the troop.
One of those individuals is Tim Richardson. Tim is Paul Richardson’s
son. He was a Scout in Troop 515 and was still a Scout when we
made the transition to Troop 555. Tim was Patrol Leader of the Snake
Patrol in Troop 515 and became Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 555 after
the transfer. Tim was awarded the Eagle Scout rank on September
7, 1991. Tim was always very artistic. After he graduated
from high school he earned his degree in theater from Indiana University
at South Bend. Tim serves the troop as an Assistant Scoutmaster.
His avocation has been as an independent film maker. He serves
as the troop’s skit master helping the troop with the skits or more
accurately, mini-plays that the troop performs at the Friday night closing
campfire at summer camp or at camporees. He usually provides the
scripts, props, costumes, and art work. He also coaches the Scouts
as they practice for the skit. Our Troop has been asked several
times to organize the campfire program at district and council camporees.
Tim and several of his friends who help him with his movies have been
very helpful in preparing for those campfires by helping to organize
the campfire, preparing the stage area and operating the sound and lighting.
Finally, I’ll tell about
my own Scouting history and experience. In 1971 I was discharged
from the Army and resumed work on completing my Psychology degree at
Indiana University at South Bend. As summer was approaching I
began looking for a summer job and saw an advertisement for a job with
the Boy Scouts. I went over to the Scout office to see what the
job was about and was told they were looking for someone to serve as
a Camp Commissioner at summer camp. I interviewed for the job
and was hired. The council sent me to National Camp School to
learn the Camp Commissioner’s job. I served on the camp staff
that summer and in the summers of 1972 and 1973 as a Camp Commissioner.
Since that time I have volunteered several times to serve on the camp
staff for a week or two at a time. The Camp Commissioner’s job
has changed from what it was when I served as a Camp Commissioner.
In the years that I served on the staff for the whole summer the Camp
Commissioners were responsible for the Program Director’s function,
counseling all the scout-craft related merit badges, helping young Scouts
with lower rank requirements, doing campsite inspections, and generally
helping Scouts and adult leaders have a fun and successful summer camp
experience. We also organized and lead outpost hiking, camping,
and canoe trips. There were two other Camp Commissioners
besides myself. We had a lot of work to do but it was the most
enjoyable job I ever had.
I met Paul Richardson at summer
camp in 1971. I was favorably impressed with Troop 515 and how
well they ran and used boy leadership. Paul invited me to their
court of honor after summer camp and later to go on campouts with the
troop. That’s how I got started working with Troop 515 which
later became Troop 555. After summer camp in 1972 the council
hired me as a Para-Professional. My responsibilities included
organizing Cub Packs and Scout Troops in the inner city areas of South
Bend. I also helped with training of newly recruited adult leaders.
I recruited several of our camp staff members and Eagle Scouts to help
me with running programs for the new units we organized. We were
somewhat successful in organizing the units but the adult leaders didn’t
stay active very long so most of those units were short-lived.
I became active on the district
commissioner staff and served in a number of positions. Eventually
I served as the District Commissioner and I served part of a term as
Acting District Chairman for the White Beaver district because the elected
District Chairman resigned after serving only for a few months.
I served on the Browsea Adventure youth leader training committee for
12 years beginning in 1972. I think it was toward the mid to late
70s when I became an Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 515 and I continue
to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 555. For several
years we ran high adventure programs almost every year for the troop
and I was responsible for organizing and leading those trips.
Most of those trips were canoe camping trips in Canada but we did one
hiking trip in the North Cascades in Washington State. I have
also served on camporee planning committees for district and council
camporees and I served as committee chairman for a district camporee.
I completed Wood Badge training
in 1977. I completed the COPE instructor and inspector’s course
at Philmont in 2000. I believe, it was in the year 2000 that I
became more involved with the Order of the Arrow when I was appointed
Chapter Advisor for White Beaver Chapter. I believe it was in
2001 that I was appointed as the Lodge Leadership Development Training
Advisor. I attended the National Order of the Arrow Conferences
held in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and have taken training courses at each
of those conferences in subjects such as: train the trainers, advanced
leadership seminars, and running shows. I served as our lodge’s
contingent leader for the National Order of the Arrow Conference in
2004. In 2003 I attended the National Order of the Arrow’s
Indian Summer program. In 2005 I attended the Carolina’s Indian
Seminar sponsored by Eswau Huppeday Lodge and I also attended the 90th
Anniversary Celebration of the Order of the Arrow at Treasure Island
Scout Camp. I was on the first boat that went over to the island
with all the national youth officers on board.
I have received the following
awards for my work in Scouting: God and Country (as a youth),
District Award of Merit, the George Award from the Mishawka Enterprise-Record
newspaper, Silver Beaver, the OA’s Leadership in Service Award, the
Vigil Honor in the Order of the Arrow, and the Order of the Arrow National
and Benefactors for the Troop
Over the years our troop has
benefited greatly from the good will and help from a number of sources.
The parents and family members of our Scouts have always been very helpful
providing transportation for the Scouts and helping with special projects
from time to time. Several people who I believe wish to remain
anonymous have helped the troop financially from time to time.
Some of those people are former troop members and some are business
owners or retired business owners who have been favorably impressed
with our troop and the accomplishments of our Scouts. All of their
support is greatly appreciated and encouraging to us as we try to bring
the best and most meaningful program we can to our Scouts.
Our former Scouts who are in
college or are working visit us occasionally and we some times ask them
to help with certain activities or projects. They are always glad
to help us out when they can and we are always glad to see them.
If we need a large trailer
and truck to haul our pioneering tower or a load of pioneering wood
there are people who will help us do it. We appreciate the help
and cooperation of the many people who have helped make things possible
for our Scouts.
The Sherwoods of Edwardsburg,
Michigan have allowed the troop to camp in the woods on their farm property
for many years. We are always grateful to them for the use of
Z. B Falcons Conservation Club
has been another great resource for the troop. Z. B. Falcons Conservation
Club is a 180 acre property located at the corner of Roosevelt and Myrtle
Roads, South of South Bend. The club has allowed our troop and
all other Scouting groups to camp on their property free of charge for
many years. We have also ran camporees, Cub Scout day camps, Klondike
derbies, and training programs at Z. B. Falcons. Scout groups
who want to inquire about camping at Z. B. Falcons can contact Mike
Wegenka at 574-287-9580. Z. B. Falcons has allowed our troop to
develop several patrol campsites on their property. Our troop
also tries to keep the trails and access roads open at Z. B. Falcons.
After bad storms there are sometimes fallen trees so some of us adults
use our chain saws to cut the fallen trees out of the way. Our
Scouts help by stacking wood and making brush piles. A couple
of our Scouts have done their Eagle service projects at Z. B. Falcons.
The club has honored Paul Richardson by naming a campsite after him.
It is called Camp Richardson. Thank you, Mike and Z. B. Falcons,
for all your support of Scouting and our troop for many years.
You and the club have made it possible for hundreds of Scouts to have
a lot of good and memorable camping experiences.
Over the years we have also
used the council owned Rice Woods Camp property because it is a good
place to do self-reliant camping using the patrol method. Rice
Woods is located near Koontz Lake, Indiana. Clarence Shively has
been the caretaker of that property for years and has always been very
helpful and supportive of our style of camping. Clarence cuts
a lot of fire wood at Rice Woods and has it disbursed around the property
for the benefit of troops camping there. One of his big projects
has been establishing the Boy Scout History display at the Marshal County
Historical Museum. Clarence often visits us when we camp at Rice
Woods and updates us on his progress with the Scout Museum display.
He is very knowledgeable about Scouting history in this area and we
always enjoy visiting with him. Unfortunately, another of Clarence’s
big concerns over the last year or so has been to keep Rice Woods from
being sold since the council has proposed selling the property ostensibly
for the purpose of establishing a camp maintenance fund for the remaining
council owned camp properties. Troop 555 regards the Rice Woods
property as a very desirable and an important camp resource for our
troop’s camping program. Scout groups may contact the local
LaSalle Council Scout Service center at 574-289-0337 to arrange to camp
at Rice Woods. For more information about Rice Woods or the Marshal
County Museum Scout History display you may contact Clarence Shively
at: 574-936-9495. Thank you, Clarence for all your efforts and
hard work at Rice Woods and the Scout History display at the Museum.
Omar Bradley: Scouting Magazine,
September, 1975, Baden-Powell: Baden-Powell The Two Lives of a Hero
by: William Hillcourt, Footsteps of the Founder, compiled and
edited by: Mario Sica; First troop at Plymouth, IN: A paper on Local
Boy Scout History and a copy of an article titled Unfurling the Colors,
Reminiscences of General Leigh R. Gignilliat both articles provided
by: Clarence Shively; First officers of the BSA: Boy Scouts of America
Handbook for Boys: 1911, Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard,
James E. West, and William D. Boyce: Wikipedia; William Hillcourt: www.scouting.org.; Waite Phillips: Beyond the Hills,
The Journey of Waite Phillips by: Michael Wallis; E. Urner Goodman
and Carroll A. Edson: The Brotherhood of Cheerful Service, A History
of the Order of the Arrow, Third Edition by: Ken Davis, Council
History: various newsletter copies and other papers and articles.