Friday, January 2, 2009

Unadilla Troop One...Two...Three...Forty-Eight? Ready, Set and Go!

Although it was from the very first a Boy Scouts of America policy to make Scouting available to any boy regardless of church affiliation, occasionally religion was a barrier. Troop 1's membership was limited to the first five charter members and other youth of the St. Matthew's Protestant Episcopal Church, though Yale Lyon admitted he allowed a few Roman Catholics and

St. Matthew's Church (right) and the mansard-roofed Rectory (left), Unadilla, NY, c.1912.
In the early years, the troop met in the rear upstairs recreation room of the Rectory.

some "out-of-town" boys on his roster. Glen Whitaker, an admitted infrequent Catholic, rebuffed as not being "one-of-us" when he showed up to join at an early troop meeting, resolved the problem by immediately joining St. Matthew's Church.

Other boys in Unadilla formed a second troop under the leadership of a Miss Sarah Polhemus, the daughter of the Presbyterian minister. This second troop, at first referred to as the "Christian Endeavor troop" and later as Troop Two when it received official recognition in 1916, frequently shared camping and hiking activities with Troop 1 and were friendly rivals in sports and Scout skills competitions. Newspaper accounts show both troops were active as early as 1910 but the second troop apparently suffered from a lack of male leadership.

Miss Polhemus (later Mrs. H. Lee Ward) complained, "We tried to have the troop registered in 1910 but there was not a man leader and I could not find one until Amasa Teed took over as Scoutmaster." Registered officially in 1916, the troop's charter lapsed in 1920, was reinstated in 1922, and lapsed again for good in 1925.

The second troop had originally planned to participate in the first State encampment at Cooperstown in 1911 with Troop 1, but at the last minute instead camped on the banks of the Susquehanna above the village. The encampment was to be held in Cooperstown on July 12-18, and although the promoters had planned that some 2,000 to 5,000 Scouts would participate, only a few hundred actually showed up for the event.

Newspaper accounts of the time reported that the first patrols of both the St. Matthew's and the Christian Endeavor troops planned to go for the entire week; arrangements were made to take the younger members of both troops to the camp for at least one day.

Another BSA policy limited membership in the Boy Scouts to boys 12 or older. To extend camping and outdoor skills to younger boys in Unadilla, Yale Lyon devised the Lion Patrol for boys aged 10-12 years. Members of the Lion Patrol were registered with the Pioneers of America, another Scout-like organization started in 1915 by students and faculty at Hamilton College and for which Lyon sat on the Board of Directors (see article Rev. Yale Lyon and the Pioneers of America elsewhere on this blog). Yale Lyon also by 1918 was using Baden-Powell's The Wolf Cub's Handbook in unofficial Wolf Cub programs for his younger boys that continued
as late as 1929.

Daniel Carter Beard's confusingly named Boy Pioneers of America, also initially accepted younger boys but had merged with the new Boy Scouts of America movement by 1916; the Pioneer Division of BSA continued to serve young rural boys after the merger until the mid-1930s when the Cub Scout program was instituted.

The Presbyterian Church in Unadilla sponsored yet another troop, Troop Three, in 1924. Otschodela Council records show Troop 3 was organized for more than five years before it officially registered with the BSA with a Rev. J. Graydon Brown as Scoutmaster. Short-lived, it was dropped from the council's roster in 1926.

Due to the fact that many of the boys of Scout age lived out of town, a school troop was formed in 1938 under the leadership of Mr. Glen Harris, the school principal, Mr. Charles Schultz and Mr. August Kehr. The troop met in the Unadilla High School during the "activities" period, went on hikes and camping on holidays and weekends, and attended the highly publicized Otschodela Council Camporee and Circus in Walton that year. School Troop 48 averaged about 15-20 boys, changed leadership often (Charles Schultz was Scoutmaster in 1939, William Cunningham in 1940, and August Kehr in 1941.) In 1941, the school troop membership was chartered with Troop 1, and though it continued under the leadership of teachers and faculty of the Unadilla School throughout the war years, it ceased to exist as a separate troop.*

*School Troop 48 registration records in Troop 1 archives; Otschodela Council registration records were lost during the council office flooding in 2006. Unadilla Central School yearbooks for the years 1938-1940 provide a good insight into school-sponsored Boy Scout activities during that period.

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