Boy Scout Beginnings

on December 1, 2010 in Nostalgia, Scouting

August 1, 1907 – Lord Robert Baden-Powell, author of the book Scouting For Boys, took a group of boys to Brownsea Island for a camping event. Thus, the Scouting program was born.

February 8, 1910 – William Boyce incorporated the BSA, and was later granted a charter by the United States Congress. Thus, the Boy Scouts of America was born.

March 9, 1911 – Mr. Dale of St. Paul, the northwest organizer of the Boy Scouts, arrived in town to talk to community leaders. Thus, Scouting began in Melrose, Minnesota.

The Boy Scout program has come and gone many times over the decades in Melrose. I was a Boy Scout during the early to mid 1970’s, but after three and one half years the troop folded due to lack of adult leadership. People have told me there were also Melrose Boy Scout troops in the 1960’s, the 1950’s, and the 1940’s. Each troop lasted for a few, or several, years and then died out.

Recently, Herman Lensing, a reporter for our local newspaper, the Melrose Beacon, was looking through some early editions of the newspaper as he did research for a sports article. He came across two articles from March 1911 editions which describe the formation of two Boy Scouts troops in Melrose. He took a couple pictures of one of the articles and emailed them to me.

I was shocked and surprised when I read the article. I had thought the 1940’s was the earliest that Scouting had begun in Melrose. Here was proof that the program came to town in 1911, only thirteen months after the formation of the Boy Scouts of America.

The articles also included the names of the adult leadership and the boys who would form the two new troops. One troop was sponsored by the high school. The other was sponsored by St. Boniface Church. The two troops had a combined total of ten patrols. Each patrol had five to eight members. The patrols of the St. Boniface troop were named Blazing Arrow, Lion, Pathfinder, Stag, Red Raiders, and Wolf. The patrols of the high school troop were named Stag, Pathfinder, Young Mohawk, and Blazing Arrow. One difference between today’s Scouting program and Scouting of 1911 is that instead of the current Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader offices, the boy leaders were called Leaders and Corporals, according to the article.

I called my district executive to ask him how far back the council kept records. He asked me why I wanted to know and I told him about the two articles. He surprised me when he told me the council was created in 1918 or 1919. The Melrose troops were formed before there was a Central Minnesota Council!

The timing of this historical find could not have been timed much better. The year of celebrating the BSA’s 100th anniversary comes to an end this month. December is also the 31st anniversary of the formation of the current troop in Melrose. (It hardly seems like 31 years have already gone by.) To tell the truth, I think it would be fun to do a little more digging and put together a better history of the Boy Scout program in Melrose, Minnesota.

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    One Response to “Boy Scout Beginnings”

    1. Nick Wood says:

      What a fascinating find Steve.
      Do the high school and church still exist? If so maybe they have some information in their archives about the Troops.
      A very interesting area to discover the history of Scouting in your own area.



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