Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rev. Yale Lyon, Centennial Scoutmaster

After serving a short time as a Housemaster at the Albany Diocese's Hoosic Boys' School and studying for a year at Magdalen College, Oxford University to complete a Masters in divinity, the young Yale Lyon accepted a charge call on July 13, 1910 from the vestry of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Unadilla, New York to become its new rector.

From the very first, it was evident that the new rector had a special place in his heart for the youth of his parish and his adopted community. He soon started a boys' club with a program of outdoor skills, citizenship, games and advancement he had found Robert Baden-Powell developing throughout England. The original patrol of five boys--Tom McKay, Charles Hildreth, Cecil Stearns, Neil Stearns and Howard Morse--were officially recognized as Troop 1 BSA, Unadilla, NY on September 7, 1910 when Yale Lyon received the troop's first charter from the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in New York City.

Scouting in Unadilla proved to be very popular, and the troop expanded rapidly in the next few months; by the time Yale Lyon was making plans to attend the next year a statewide encampment in Cooperstown, NY the troop had nearly 15 members.

In 1915, Yale Lyon published an open letter detailing the accomplishments of the fledgling troop:

"It may be of interest to Scoutmasters living in small villages, or to men contemplating starting a troop of Boy Scouts in rural communities, to know what a small group of boys has done during the last five years. Our troop was organized in September 1910, with 10 boys, and since that time has never had more than fourteen boys in its membership. But it has been able to accomplish certain definite things, which are within the power of any group of ten or twelve boys working together."

The list that followed included regular weekly meetings, monthly hikes in the autumn and winter, sports and games, strict attendance at church, service projects in the community on "clean-up" day and at holiday celebrations, and attending a long-term camp each summer--a proven program not much different than what Scouts in Troop 1 experience today.

The popularity of Scouting in rural Unadilla today and the troop's near-100 year unbroken charter record can be directly attributed to the Rev. Lyon's lifelong leadership and community spirit. His twenty-seven year "little experiment with a community project for boys" has proved a resounding and enduring success.

The Reverend Yale Lyon retired as Scoutmaster of Troop 1 in 1937 and, in failing health, from the active ministry in 1942. However, he continued to influence the life of his parish and his community, and to champion the Boy Scout movement, until his death in 1945. The troop he founded at the dawn of Scouting in America has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the ever-changing patterns of family life and technology. Today, the troop still meets regularly, still goes on camping, hiking and canoe trips, still conducts community service projects, and counts nearly 2,000 men among its alumni.

"They still exert their sway long after they have ceased to speak and toil."
---Unadilla chronicler Francis W. Halsey, St. Matthew's Centennial Celebration, 1909


  1. Hey Don, this is a great blog! I'm glad to see you're still keeping Troop 1 alive. I was in your troop in 84?

    Dave Saunders

  2. Great hearing from you, Dave! The troop, the Otschodela Council and your Lyon Patrol alumni association have great plans to celebrate the troop's and BSA's birthday in 2010! Send me an email at

    with your name, email, mailing address and we'll sign you up for the Lyon Patrol Report, the alumni newsletter that'll keep you up on all the troop doings.

    PS We just got confirmation that President Teddy Roosevelt will be in town again for the Statewide Boy Scout Encampment, May 14-16, 2010. You don't want to miss the occassion!