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Earliest units and how chartered; finding validations.

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As I continue to probe for historical bits and pieces for our local area Scouting, I have discovered one seemingly fairly common thing.  Most of the earliest units were formed at churches and often in conjunction with the Y.  Since our council did not exist until 1921, tracking down records is pretty hard, though we have found a few through National.  Ironically, we know that we had a unit at the Congregational church in 1910, and that it was there in some manner until 1914.  But, other than the newspaper notice of its formation in 1910 and some records of the church officially dropping it in 1914 we can find no National verifications.  Similarly, other than newspaper mentions of at least a couple dozen various "scout groups" in the period from 1910 to 1921 when we started our council, there are few found items in National, so we do not know for sure about those early groups.  Furthermore, while we can validate our first council Eagles in 1921 and 1922, we cannot validate other rank issues prior to the council.  With the number of charter scouts when the council began, and that the first two Eagles happened almost immediately, one would think a possibility is there that someone might be lost in the maze of the early records.  But, National has declined my request to have access to the Eagle files that were the basis of the great CD compilations that they issued that were the result of serious work by dedicated people.  But, based on the duplications in our files, and also just the fact that many early registrations were small rural locations that have literally fallen off the map, there is the strong possibility one or two even earlier Eagles could be sitting in limbo in an undetermined file.  Also, confusion with current councils and the many defunct ones surely caused some misdirections or simply unknowns.  It the unknowns that I wish I could see.  I hope those records are still actually properly stored.  It is odd how few news articles actually designate awards to the earliest scouts, but only talk about courts of honor generally and Tenderfoot tests.  Lots though on outings and such, which is great.  Just figuring out what units of the time were there is more difficult, as it often just mentions names or towns.  Fun and games working on our centennial next year.  The most common CO's in those early news accounts are the Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Catholic Churches, along with the Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and LDS, though it is rarely noted, even though became official for them in 1913.  Our area may not have had enough members for the early scout units, since it was mostly agricultural.  

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My experience is very different.  My best sources were the newspapers.  Houston's COH newspaper articles give a complete listing of earned merit badges and scout ranks (two attached).  For Houston scout meetings, the troop scribes wrote up each week's meeting to be printed in the paper (one attached).  Very cool to know exactly what happened at my troop's meetings from 1914 to 1924. 

Never asked my local council for anything because they donated 45 linear feet of historical records to the Public Library Archives.  Most helpful were the Eagle scout records and the Annual Reports.  Council records were not especially accurate.  Council records state that Peg Melton became Houston's first Eagle scout in 1916; newspapers report that he earned his Eagle in 1918.  Council records report a particularly gruesome 1922 summer camp drowning; newspapers report this happened in 1925 -- for an entirely different scout.  For council records, trust but verify.

George E. Kepple owned the newspaper and helped bring boy scouting to Houston.  No wonder that Houston newspapers wrote so much about the boy scouts.  Everyone knows the country's population was moving from rural to city, and boys with "nothing to do" were a problem.  Rather than stand around to play mumblety-peg, the boy scouts gave boys a constructive outlet through service, do a good turn daily, respect for the flag, sell Liberty Bonds, remind people to vote, install Houston's first street signs, march in parades, etc.  Scouting activities in Houston got a lot of newspaper coverage because scouting kept boys out of trouble and helped serve the community.

Sounds like you are in a more rural area, where the newspapers did not give as much coverage to boy scout activities.  Many early newspapers have been digitized and can be searched online.  On occasion, I have found what I needed online by widening my search to include newspapers of nearby towns.  For the 1925 drowning referenced above, the online Houston newspaper archive ended at 1924, while the nearby town newspaper included 1925 and they ran the same story.   Do not limit yourself to newspapers.  Public libraries, and libraries at colleges and universities have collections that include "boy scout" items.   Search for "boy scouts," you'll get  a lot of hits.




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Yes, we were far more rural in the earlier days.  I am hoping to find more now that I have added Newspaper.com to my list.  They have actual Ventura papers, but not all the way back to 1910.  It is that first couple of decades that is so sparse.  I stumbled across the first apparent unit in 1910 just scanning through microfilm.  Have yet to find anything more on that unit, other than the Congregational church minutes officially terminating the group in 1914.  I suspect it was not overly active during that period, or it would have shown up a bit.  No names of even the leaders.  Good news is that I have been contacted by the local museum to start working with them, once they can let me in again.  I just wish I could find a bit more help with the digging.  Funny things pop up though; 


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