Friday, April 30, 2021

The Boy Scouts of America History of the Libertyville Council (1921–1923)

Since the history of the Boy Scouts is well known and documented, it is not appropriate to repeat it in this more localized history except as a backdrop or as scene-setting for what happened in the suburban area north of Chicago.

By 1908 the “Hero of Mafeking” (1900) had become a hero to boys in England who were devouring his little book “Scouting for Boys” based on his experience as a British military officer and his concern for the character development of British youth.

Borrowing heavily from various youth movements in England at the time, Robert Baden Powell had published his book in serial form. It was being taken seriously throughout the British Empire and beginning to be noticed in the United States. Independent “Boy Scout” units were being formed based on the content of the book.

The following year, 1909, a Chicago area publisher, William Boyce, was introduced to the Boy Scout model while on a trip to England. He brought the idea back to the United States and legally incorporated the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in February 1910 in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

That same year, Baden Powell, now a Lieutenant General and peer of the realm, retired from the Army and began to concentrate his time and efforts on the Boy Scout movement full time.

In May 1910, the well-known and politically connected publisher, William Randolph Hearst, formed the more militaristic American Boy Scouts (ABS). He incorporated the organization in June in the State of New York. Thus ABS became a serious rival to the BSA and they began to compete for membership and support national wide. Wherever Hearst had a newspaper, including Chicago (The Examiner & American), there was an ABS office. Before the year was out, Hearst had resigned from the presidency of ABS in a dispute over financing and the use of his name. ABS continued under various names until around 1920.
History of the Libertyville Council (1921–1923)
The published and archival history of the Libertyville Council is meager. National records do indicate that Earle Morgan of Troop 1 earned his Eagle in 1921.

The Libertyville Independent reported in August of 1913 that local Troop 1 with five Scouts camped at Long Lake near Fox Lake with the Reverend Edward S. White as Scoutmaster.

Most scouting-type programs for boys under 12 were sponsored by local churches using a variety of names, such as “Junior Boy Scouts”, “Pioneers”, “Ranger” and in some cases adopting the British nomenclature of “Wolf Cubs”. The earliest documented in the press mentions the “Junior Boy Scouts” of the Libertyville Presbyterian Church in 1915. As was common in the period these junior organizations were preparatory to becoming full-fledged Scouts and joining an established Troop. The adult leader was frequently the pastor of the sponsoring church or in a larger congregation his assistant or a leading layperson.

On November 9, 1920, members of the Troop and other interested persons met to discuss the formation of a council to “guarantee the proper supervision of all the work of Scouting … and lend dignity to the movement”.

Officers were elected with Mr. James H. Swan as President and Reverend E. C. Morgan as Commissioner. The “jurisdiction” of the Council was most of Libertyville Township. The group did decide to hold off on a formal application to the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America until membership was raised from twenty to “at least twenty-five”. This target was met and a charter was granted the following year in 1921. Also in that year, Libertyville had its first Eagle Scout, Earl Morgan, of Troop 1. The Council did not recharter in 1924, so was dropped in 1923.

Scouting in Libertyville continued to live a vigorous life with several other units being formed and the Libertyville Scout Cabin becoming a focal point for area events. Rev. Morgan continued in the movement as a Scoutmaster.

Current Troop 71 of Libertyville was formed in 1924 and is among the oldest troops in Lake County. Troop 72 was first chartered in 1927.

According to the Evanston Review of April 16, 1936, Libertyville Troop 59 won the Sectional Red Cross First Aid meet held in Evanston, Illinois.

While not strictly a Libertyville Council camp, a camp did exist for Boy Scouts near Libertyville … Camp Doddridge. The property originally was owned and operated by the Episcopal Church. In 1936 the church “loaned” the 80-acre site to the Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts for a two-year period with an option to renew the rent-free lease for up to another 10 years.

The property is variously reported to be “one and a half miles northwest of Libertyville” (Chicago Daily Tribune of September 30, 1936) or later (Chicago Tribune of May 30, 1937) as being “three and a half miles northeast of Libertyville”. The Tribune also reports the camp as being along the Des Plaines River. This would place it more northeast where the present Independence Grove Forest Preserve is located.

In 1940 the Episcopal Diocese transferred Doddridge to the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago Youth Organization use and the Chicago Council stopped using the property.

The Evanston Review of May 12, 1938, reports training courses for Cubbers and Scouters, sponsored by three councils including the Evanston-North Shore Council, were held at Camp Woodridge. 

There is no record of Libertyville scouts using the property, however, there is an item in a July 1939 issue of The Lake Forester of a Lake Bluff troop led by Robert McClory from Lake Bluff camping overnight there and an earlier report of Troop 8 from Evanston camping there.

NOTE: The merger of Evanston and the North Shore Council did not occur until 1969.

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