Sunday, January 11, 2009

First State Scout Encampment, Cooperstown, NY 1911

As the 100th Anniversary of the BSA and our Troop 1 BSA Unadilla, NY fast approaches, and the Centennial Committee begins staging a suitable event to celebrate, our thoughts turn back to the First State Scout Encampment, held July 12-18, 1911 at Cooperstown, NY. A great gathering of boys in the new Scouting movement had not been attempted before (the first National Jamboree didn't happen until 27 years later). The prospect of a Boy Scout encampment on the shores of James Fenimore Cooper's Glimmerglass drew great enthusiasm and a few concerns in the newspapers of the day.

Scout Encampment Matters.

"Last week's issue of the Otsego Farmer, Cooperstown, contained an article bearing on matters pertaining to the Boy Scout encampment soon to be held near that village, from which the following parts are excerpted for the perusal of local Boy Scouts and their parents."

"The program for the State Boy Scout Encampment on Otsego Lake, July 12 to 18, 1911, will be issued in a few days. The Rev. J.A. McQuaig is now in Cooperstown and is in charge of the preliminary arrangements for the camp."

"It has been deemed advisable in this initial encampment to lay down certain rules which will tend materially to limit the number of boys in attendance. This limitation is not through any shrinking in the spirit of hospitality but through foreboding lest the great gathering of boys originally proposed should result in injury to some or even loss of life."

"The executive board of the national committee of the Boy Scouts of America has forwarded the invitation of the citizens of Cooperstown to the Scout Masters throughout the country to attend the camp, and while the board will not exercise any official supervision over the encampment, the request has been made through James E. West, Executive Secretary, that every precaution be taken to safeguard the health and safety of those attending."

"In this connection it was pointed out that any untoward event would reflect upon scout encampment work in general. It was at national headquarters that not more than from seven to ten boys should be in the charge of any one adult; that to exceed the number of ten would entail too much risk."

"A proposition has come from the boy scouts of Fort Plain extending hospitality to scouts disembarking at that point for the tramp to Cooperstown. Tents will be provided at Fort Plain and enroute."

"During the past week a part of both troops of the Unadilla Boy Scouts have received the regulation scout uniforms recently ordered. They are of the khaki style and lend quite a

Rev. Yale Lyon and the five original charter members
of Troop 1 pose in their new Army-type Boy Scout uniforms.
A.E. Pixley Postcard View, June 1911.

distinguished and business-like appearance to the wearers. Last Saturday afternoon the St. Matthew's scouts thus attired passed down the street to the home of A.E. Pixley where they were photographed. Scoutmaster Lyon looked the biggest boy in the troop. It is understood that when the Unadilla scouts start for the Cooperstown encampment they will take a train as far as Oneonta, from which city the cover the remaining twenty odd miles on foot."

"It is to be regretted that President William H. Taft finds it impossible, owing to the demands made upon his time by pending important legislation now under discussion by Congress to visit the encampment on the opening day and address the scouts. The president recently granted an interview with Dr. McQuaig, expressed great interest in the movement, wished it every success, but found it impossible to attend. The committee has hopes that ex-President Roosevelt will dignify the encampment with his presence."

Troop 1 Unadilla at First State Boy Scout Encampment, July 1911.
Rev. Yale Lyon and his boys strike a pose amid tents and tepee, makeshift camp furniture.
A.E. Pixley Postcard Photo, Troop 1 Archives, courtesy Bruce Bard.

Unadilla Scouts Will Join in the Cooperstown Movement.

"During the late winter months, a city divine, the Rev. Dr. McQuaig lectured at Cooperstown and while there he became charmed with the natural scenery of the place and the historic lore the locality had inherited from the writings of J. Fenimore Cooper. He conceived the idea of making Cooperstown the headquarters of a Boy Scout movement encampment, put his ideas into practice with the result that the plan has been statewide in its acceptance among the Scouts and seems destined, in time, to spread over the country."

"To get the movement started plans have been perfected, with the hearty cooperation of the prominent citizens of Cooperstown, to hold the first encampment this year during the week of July 12 to July 18 and at this date it is believed that from 2,000 to 5,000 Scouts will participate in the outing. They will rendezvous from all sections of [the] state and some are expected from Pennsylvania. The first patrols of both the St. Matthew's and the Christian Endeavor troops of this village will go for a week, and it is being arranged to take the younger members of both troops in automobiles to the camp for at least one day. Accordingly the hearts of local Boy Scouts are on the qiu vive for a good time ahead."

"The attendance of a speaker of national reputation is being sought, among the names under consideration being President Taft, ex-President Roosevelt and Governor Dix. It is also hoped that the committee will be successful in arranging with Major J. Swaddling to attend with his wireless telephone section. Troy expects to send a bicycle corps of fifty boys, who will cover the distance from that city to Cooperstown by wheel."

Off For Scout Encampment.

Unadilla Times, Unadilla, NY, July 11, 1911. "Taking the earliest train out of Unadilla on Wednesday morning went Scoutmaster Rev. Yale Lyon and five of the St. Mathew's Boy Scouts, their destination Cooperstown, where the state encampment of Boy Scouts is being held. The local scouts going were Cecil and Neil Stearns, Charles Hildeth, Thomas McKay and Glen Whittaker, not as many as expected, but all fully accoutered to spend a week in the open on the shores of Otsego Lake. Earl Hoyt of Oneonta joined the party at that city. The plan of hiking the trail from Oneonta to the campsite was abandoned. They may walk back part way. The boys are obliged to prepare their own food, shelter themselves and in other ways imitate true scout life. Today and tomorrow the scouts are to go on expeditions over the territory made famous by J. Fenimore Cooper in the Deerslayer and the Pioneers. A rally is planned to be held on the Clark estate grounds in Cooperstown on Sunday afternoon. Several interested friends of the scouts from here intend to visit the encampment during the weekend. The Vitagraph company has sent a force of operatives to Cooperstown for the purpose of making a motion picture of the scouts, which will be viewed by the patrons of theaters all over the land within a few months."

"The daily press are giving many columns in support of the movement and the Times clips the following from two city newspapers:

"The site chosen for the encampment is located on the west side of Lake Otsego, about two miles from Cooperstown, immediately opposite "Point Judith," in the neighborhood of Leatherstocking Falls, and not far from the trail leading to the scene of the daring rescue of the Indian girl by Chingachcook and Deerslayer, where the latter was taken prisoner. Every inch of that trail is redolent of pioneer days. Boys of two generations will be fired by the prospect of traversing the ground over which Chingachcook, Uncas and their white ally stalked and fought."

"The shade of J. Fenimore Cooper will be invoked to give success to the undertaking. With his spirit pervading the atmosphere of the spots made romantic and immortal by the fascinating first book of the Leatherstocking Tales, the Deerslayer, youthful imagination will see in the broken twigs of the forests Indian signs; and across the glades in the shadow shapes that can not be other than crafty redskins stalking with stealthy shapes to the relief of a friend or the destruction of a foe."

Scouts Back From Encampment.

"The first annual state encampment of the Boy Scouts at Cooperstown came to an end on Wednesday, and while it was far from being as largely attended as expected, only about 200 scouts participating, the ends of the project were gained and in coming years the effect of this year's encampment will be evidenced by greater enthusiasm and larger attendance. Tents were struck and the Unadilla scouts reached home the next day. Field Secretary Orwig of the new National Council Office, New York City, accompanied by the former president Theodore Roosevelt, arrived at the camp last Thursday, and the boys given signal practice, taught bed making, cooking and the art of making Indian springs, besides given instruction in lifesaving and resuscitation. The storm of Sunday made it necessary that the exercises in Cooperstown be held in the Presbyterian church, where the scouts were addressed by Hon. Daniel Frisbie, speaker of the Assembly, Brigidier General Edgerly of the U.S. Army, Vice Admiral Savoy of the British Navy, and Dr. J. Aspinwall McQuaig, the latter being the person who conceived the idea of the encampment and was in the main responsible for bringing it to pass."

"The encampment was visited on Monday by eight members of the C.E. Boy Scouts of this village attired in their uniforms, who had originally planned to spend the entire week in Cooperstown, but instead went into camp above this village. With them went Marvin Teed, Harold York, and Raie Benedict."

--Yale Lyon scrapbooks, Vol. 1 (July 1910-March 1914), pg. 45-49, Unadilla Times, June-July 1911.

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