Boy Scouts of America has been a part of our history since its official incorporation on Feb. 8, 1910, under the leadership of Chicago publisher William Boyce. Boyce, who had become lost in a dense fog, was aided by a young boy who refused any monetary compensation, explaining that he was a Boy Scout and could not take money for simply doing a good deed. Intrigued, Boyce learned more about the youth education movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell in 1908 and publicized through his book, "Scouting for Boys." Recognizing the value of citizenship and character development coupled with practical survival skills, Boyce brought several smaller groups together and expanded the educational programs. The Boy Scouts of America was born, and the movement quickly spread across the country.
By 1913, the Chattanooga and Knoxville Councils, BSA, had organized and begun sponsoring programs for young boys, often organized through school, civic and church groups. In the mid-1920s, East Tennessee became home to the regional Cumberland Council, Boy Scouts of America, and programs were designed, under the guidance of experienced leaders in Chattanooga and Knoxville, that could be offered across the region in the smaller communities and rural areas.
Then 186 prominent businessmen from Bradley, Polk, McMinn, Monroe, Meigs, Rhea, Bledsoe, Roane, Cumberland, Loudon, Blount, Morgan, Campbell, Scott, Pickett and Fentress counties stepped forward, attended six training sessions for leaders and began recruiting adult leaders and boys to attend the first regional council jubilee. National Boy Scout Commissioner "Uncle" Dan Beard from Lenior City spoke to the jubilee, and within weeks more than 15 new troops had been organized in the rural communities. By 1928, the outreach program had attracted more than 1,000 boys, and several hundred men had volunteered as leaders or as board members and fundraisers. Camp Cumberland was established on White's Creek with plans for four weeks of summer camp where Boy Scouts could attend regardless of their ability to pay.
A review of the adult volunteers reminds readers that community leaders always seemed to find ways to be actively engaged citizens in volunteer projects. In Athens, council officers were W.J. McLendon, Harry Johnson, M.L. Stubbs, Jack Millard and the Rev. N.W. Kuykendall. "Troop 3, Athens, was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club with Gardner I. Horton, scoutmaster, and Troop 4 was headquartered at the Athens M.E. Church since the Reverend Monroe Ball, pastor, served as scoutmaster and chaplain."
Cleveland and Bradley County, with their varied geographic features ideal for nature classes, embraced Scouting immediately. The council officers, including D. Sullins Stuart, P.B. Mayfield, John Milne, the Rev. John Bowman, Theodore Stivers, G.L. Hardwick Jr., James L. Corn, Dr. H.M. Roberson, E.E. Shouse, Charlie W. Marler and Walter Franklin, organized five troops with more than 80 Scouts within weeks. Troop 10 met at the Cleveland M.E. Church with T.J. Marler, scoutmaster, while the Rev. F.B. Wyatt, pastor of the South Cleveland M.E. Church, led Troop 12. Chester Stivers volunteered to organize the Troop 93 at the First Methodist Church, while E.E. Smart gathered the youth near the First Baptist Church to create Troop 94. Charleston boosted its own troop, #8, under the leadership of R.P. Keathly, at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The Copperhill YMCA organized Troop 13, and W.S. Amburn provided leadership both for classroom and outdoors activities, often joining forces with Lamar Weaver, who was scoutmaster to Ducktown's Burra Burra Troop 14 and its 19 Scouts.
Just north, across the hills and streams, the city of Etowah organized three large troops under council leadership provided by M. Sargeant, E.R. Battle, G.W. Bell and G.H. Berry, with assistance provided by "department leaders that included the Rev. G.K. Patty, G.B. Farris, Col. D.B. Todd, F.O. Nichols and A.F. Mahan," who identified locations for troop meetings and supported the local scoutmasters with funding and materials. Troop 15 met at the M.E. Church, South, with Lloyd S. Campbell as scoutmaster, while H. Darril Rule organized Troop 36, headquartered at the First Baptist Church, and his friend, Fred B. McGhee, gathered Troop 37 at the nearby First Methodist Church.
Minutes from the council meeting indicated that a "Sea-Scout troop" and a "Mounted troop" were planned for the next year. Scouting had found a permanent home in Southeast Tennessee.
Linda Moss Mines, the Chattanooga and Hamilton County historian, is regent, Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR, and a former Girl Scouts USA troop leader.