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Forest E. Witcraft (1894 - 1967), a scholar, teacher, and Boy Scout administrator.


It appears what he left behind was a great essay in Scouting magazine, a grainy photo, and an inspiration to countless folks to serve youth by the liberal use of his quote. Other than that, there's nothing to be found. I imagine National/Scouting magazine may have more if you contact them.


Interesting the impact a single thing you say can make in the world, even if you're otherwise relatively anonymous. There's probably a Scoutmaster Minute in that somewhere...

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Here's what I have found:


According to census records, Forest Emerson Witcraft was born Aug 23, 1894 in Wisconsin to Thomas and Rosa Devorse Witcraft. By 1900, the family is living in Haddon Indiana and includes Forest's younger sister Vivian and his Grandfather Daniel Devorse as well as his parents. His father is listed as a day laborer and his mother does not work. In 1905, the family is back in Wisconsin and his father's occupation is listed as barber.


In 1920, (there is no available census for 1910), Forest and his sister are living with just their mother in Chicago, IL. His mother is listed as the housekeeper for a college fraternity. Forest, now 25, lists no employment. I would guess that he was student though this is not listed. On June 19, 1921 Forest marries Rose Winifred Whipple in Illinois.


By 1930, Forest is living in Hastings Nebraska with his wife Winifred and an infant daughter named Carol. His occupation is listed as college professor. There is a college in Hastings Hastings College founded in 1882.


The first connections I have found with scouting are articles in the Newark Advocate, Newark Ohio. An article dated April 3, 1936 states: "With the final decision of the officials of the Licking County Council, Boy Scouts of America, to conduct summer camping activities for 1936 only on a troop camping basis, the training committee felt the need for conducting an intensive training course in troop camping, under the direction of Brandt Hervey and Professor Forest Witcraft of Denison University, who compose the training committee."


In September 1936, an article states that "Training in the Principles of Scoutmastership will begin Sept. 24. This course is one of the required courses in the five-year progressive training for scoutmasters and will be under the direction of Prof. Forest Witcraft of Denison University and Brandt Hervey, who compose the council training committee"


Winifred dies Feb 9 1942 in Sioux Falls, SD. In 1943, Forest remarries. He married Neva Elizabeth REPLOGLE on August 11. In 1944, they are still living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where he is listed in the phone book as Assistant Scout Executive. His widowed mother, Rosa, is living with them. However, a February 1944 newspaper from Huron SD refers to Forest as the executive of the Pheasant Council Boy Scouts. The scouts were conducting a salvage paper drive. From 1945 - 1947, Forest is in Huron South Dakota where he is listed as the Scout Executive for the Central South Dakota Council. Interestingly, his office is located in the basement of City Hall.


I know that Witcraft's social security card was issued in 1951 in the state of Minnesota. According wikipedia, thought I cannot yet verify this, Forest was "Charlie Guide" at the Sommers Canoe Base in Ely Minnesota about 1950-51.


From at least 1963 - 1966, Froest, who is now referred to as Dr. Witcraft is the Resident Administrator at Salem College in Salem West Virginia.


Forest Witcraft died in West Virginia in 1967.






I'll keep digging. I would like to find out a little more including more about his children and what he taught.


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Minor update:


Forest Witcraft graduated from the Univeristy of Chicago in 1917 with a bachelor's degree. In 1920, the alumni magazine reported that: Ex Forest Emerson Witcraft, A.B. 17, is a student pastor at Lawrence, Kansas


Forest published 3 theses while at Univ. Chicago:


A contribution to the interpretation of mysticism‎1920

The elements of the mana-concept‎ 1920

A critical analysis of the theory that theism is essential to moral motivation 1927


I believe the last was his doctoral thesis.


In a Feb 6, 1930 NYTimes article it is reported that Dr. Forest Witcraft was the head of the sociology department at Hastings College, a Presbyterian school. Apparently he and several others were resigning in support of a colleague who was being forced to resign because he was too liberal.

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Actually I can source it all. Just have it in note form at the moment but could put it all together with sources.

Would just need to know how they want it sourced source notations like a genealogist?


BTW Forest got his Bachelor of Divinity from Univ. Chicago in 1920 and his PhD in 1927

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  • 1 year later...

This is great work, I took several classes from Forest at Salem College and when I later returned to Salem as the American Humanics administrator, I continued connection with Niva, his widow. Forest lived in Great Neck when he worked at 2 Park Avenue (Nat'l Scout Office prior to New Brunswick). I was destined to become the District Executive M/M of the North Shore District that encompassed Great Neck. Due to a heart attack and his work on the Scout Executive Manual circa 1958-59 his post retirement arrival at Salem was delayed 2 years. Both he and his predecessor Weaver M. Marr had worked closely with Joe Brunton prior to Joe's elevation to Chief Scout Executive. Because the BSA didn't know what to do to promote Forest in the old Region X, they dug into his file and learned of his Ph.D. That led to his becoming Editor of Scouting magazine...and his move to New York.


I'd sure like to see the same workup done for Weaver Marr who had an equally interesting background following a Master's Degree I believe from Duke in 1911. Served in Europe during WWI -- Supt of Schools in High Point, NC. Entered BSA as Deputy Regional Ex responsible for establishing new BSA Scout Councils -- Scout Executive in Jacksonville, FL (introduced Negro Scouting) and later in Atlanta (Ties with MLK). I believe Weaver personally blazed a reconstruction of the Cherokee Trail of Tears from NC to OK. He led the US jamboree contingent to the first World Jamboree following WWII (in France?) and became Interracial Director (Relationships Division) BSA National Staff. His work on Indian reservations and to advance Negro Scouting was significant. Both Weaver and Forest were giants of ethical living and served well as role models for college students. Both were named as Chairmen of the Faculty at Salem College during the quest for accreditation.

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I notice elsewhere that there was reference to a change in Forest's essay... that being the original last word "boy" changed to "child". After Forest's death I approached Neva Witcraft and asked if I might have permission to make that minor change in keeping with Forest's change of employment/focus from Scouting to American Humanics.


I sought to print the full text of "Within My Power" as part of our retreat manuals that were focused on young people preparing for careers within all 8 of America's largest national youth organization. Neva granted my request.


To the best of my knowledge neither the BSA or Neva ever approved of any other changes in the essay.

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