The Birth of the Boy Scouts: An Oklahoman Odyssey
Boy scout. That phrase automatically conjures up images of khaki and tan uniforms, of courageous young men, and of humble and loyal traditions. Like our forefathers before us, these young men seek to explore the world through high adventure and constant learning. They yearn for knowledge, and are exhilarated by the learning. None of this would have been possible except for one resolute man from Oklahoma.
Origins of the Boy Scout Tradition
The Boy Scout tradition has been around for just slightly over one hundred years. It has inspired over 15 million young people in nearly 120 countries. In the United States alone, there are over 4 million young men in the Boy Scouts.
In 1907, the same year that Oklahoma officially became a state, Robert Baden-Powell of Great Britain founded the Boy Scouts. His humble nature and desire to serve others was what led him to organize an experimental youth camp on Brownsea Island.
The first Boy Scout camp contained twenty boys, but that was enough for Robert to begin a long tradition. During that first year, the he laboriously laid the foundations of modern day Boy Scouts. Robert believed that all young men should put their faith in God, country, and into one another. These same principles are the hallmark of the Boy Scout tradition today.
One year after the first Boy Scout camp was established, Robert published the first Boy Scout manual. In this manual, the cornerstones of a morally right and mentally healthy life were laid out. He expanded on his basic principles and urged all young men to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. He believed that all of these things were the trademark of a long and prosperous life.
The Scout Oath
“On my honor, I will do my best:
To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law
To help other people at all times.
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
The Boy Scouts arrive in America
In England, Reverend John Forbes Mitchell was a highly respected priest in the Church of England. After hearing about the experimental camp that Robert Braden-Powell was running, Mitchell became highly intrigued. He offered his services to Robert, and Robert readily accepted; the experimental camp now had a worthy Chaplain to help guide the young men.
The reverend’s position didn’t last long. He had barely served for two years after the camp was founded before the Church of England sent Rev. Mitchell overseas. In 1909, he arrived at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
The small church accepted him without fault, and he quickly laid out plans to continue the camp experiment. Along with his personal possessions, Mitchell also brought along a bag full of Boy Scout literature. He believed that all boys were the same regardless of race or nationality, and believed that there was an important place for an organization of this kind in the country.
Having served as Chaplain to Lord Braden-Powell, Mitchell had an intimate knowledge of Robert’s ideals. Since the Boy Scouts were native to Great Britain, Mitchell organized the first Boy Scout troop under English charter, completely equipped with English uniforms and manuals.
For the first year, like Braden-Powell, Mitchell laboriously worked to promote the new Boy Scout ideals. Generally, those first scout gatherings ran smoothly, if somewhat humorously. To begin the gatherings, under the British charter, the group would sing out the British anthem, “God Save the King.” One can only imagine the puzzlement as those soft boyish strains emerged from inside St. Thomas Church.
People quickly began to take notice of this new British institution. One year after Mitchell had gathered his Boy Scouts, the Boy Scouts of America was officially founded.
The charter members of the troop were: Douglas Foote, Jack Hutchings, John I. Johnson, Robert MuGuire, Lee Copeland, Cliff Ferguson, Thomas Leahy, Walter B. Johnson, Tom Leahy, Joe McGuire, Clyde Wilson, Dick Millard, "Spider" Hinkle, Clemmer Curtis, Roland Blanc, Alex Tinker, Jack Coffey, Rogers Leahy, and Roland McGuire.
The early days of this troop are remembered in a local Bartlesville paper. The paper recorded a visit by this troop to Johnstone Park in 1911, noting that they hiked from Pawhuska to Bartlesville to show the Scouting program to the local youth.
An Established Institution
Since those early days in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the Boy Scouts of America has expanded into every state and providence. People can still see the Boy Scouts active everywhere, and still, the same principles that governed them in their early days remain their driving force today.
Recently, the Senate gave full acknowledgment to the first Boy Scout Troop founded in the United States. Lawmakers unanimously approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 24, which officially recognizes the 1909 Pawhuska troop as the first Boy Scout troop to be founded in America.
The Osage County Historical Museum
The museum, located on U.S. 60 towards the east edge of town, occupies the building that once served as the old Santa Fe Depot. Within the Osage County Historical Museum, one will find a vast array of artifacts that trace the history and development of the area.
Among the artifacts when will find generous information and eye-catching exhibits that outlined the importance of the wealthiest Indians in the country, the Osage Indian. The Osage County historical Museum also follows the County's history from when the Osage Indian were first moved to this 1.5 million acre tract in 1872, through the oil boom of the 20th century, up until present times.
A life sized bronze statue stands as a silent testament to the impact that the Boy Scouts of America have had on this country. The statue honorsReverend Mitchell and the 19 charter members of the first scout troop who were organized here under English charter.
Inside the Osage County Historical Museum there is a large room devoted to honoring the early years of the Boy Scouts. This exhibit features not only information about the Boy Scout Troop started under the English charter, but also features many facts about the Boy Scouts of America's involvement in Pawhuska.
Included among the exhibits is a page from "Scouting for Boys," the manual Mitchell brought from England. There is also a list of the many Eagle Scouts from the community from 1923 until the present.
When the Cherokee Area Council of Boy Scouts was formed in Bartlesville, Pawhuska’s troop was numbered 33, even though they were the first troop in the United States. However, the Senate Concurrent Resolution 24 confirmed that the Boy Scout Troop in Pawhuska was, in fact, the first troop within the United States. There is a certificate on exhibit in the Osage County Historical Museum.
700 N. Lynn Ave. ~ Pawhuska, OK 74056 ~ Phone: (918) 287-9119
© 2010 Eric Standridge