Friday, April 30, 2021

The Boy Scouts of America History of the Lake County Council (1928–1935).

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 Lake County Council (1928–1935)
A local (Lake Villa) newspaper reported in 1915 that Scoutmaster C.B. Dicks and C.L. Alling with 1st Class Scout Harry Bird, Jr. and 2nd Class Scout Russell Krebs bicycled 50 miles from Chicago to meet with 20 boys in town to discuss “reorganizing the Scout troop that once flourished in Lake Villa.”

On January 17, 1918, the Antioch News reported that “troops of Boy Scouts of America had been organized the previous December with Rev. S. E. Pollack of the Methodist Episcopal Church as Scoutmaster and the Antioch Grade School Principal, Mr. Royal T. Morgan, as Assistant Scoutmaster. The paper fully reported on the activities of the troop. It wasn’t until December 1927 that a troop number is mentioned…” Troop No. 1 of the Antioch Boy Scouts under the leadership of Scoutmaster (Rev.) A.M. Krahl (of the Methodist Church). In October 1928 the paper reports the activities of Troop 81 of the Methodist Church. The article also identifies Dr. Williams as Chief Scout Executive.

As Scouting grew into the northern half of Lake County, it became apparent that the Waukegan – North Chicago Council should expand its horizons and move to consolidate Scouting in the more rural portions of the county.

With this in mind, a special meeting of the Executive Board of the Waukegan—North Chicago council was held on February 7, 1928, to consider expanding its borders to include the communities of Antioch, Fox Lake, Grays Lake, Wadsworth, Wauconda, and the surrounding areas.

Many of these towns, such as Gurnee, Lake Villa, and Antioch already had well-established Troops. The Gurnee Troop 1 started in 1913 and Antioch’s Troop 1 in 1918. The Rev. Harry W. Cordell first organized what is now Troop 677 in April of 1913. The troop was sponsored by the Disciples of Christ Church which became the Gurnee Community Church in 1919. The church has sponsored the troop continuously since 1913. When the first Charter was granted by the Boy Scouts of America, Gurnee, at the time, had fewer than 21 homes and a population of less than 200. The troop started with nine Scouts meeting in troop members’ homes.

“The Rev. Pollock, formerly pastor of the M.E. Church, is commanding a Boy Scout camp on the big hill deck of Smith’s Hotel at Channel Lake. The boys had an excellent band and on Tuesday evening gave a concert on the Smith Hotel veranda. Rev. Pollock moved on to another congregation in Palatine, Illinois, where he became a scout leader. He continued to maintain a relationship with Antioch and Lake Villa troops often camping together with them and appearing at troop events.

In 1924 this report in the Episcopal Church news, “The Boy Scout Camp at Smith’s Hill between Channel Lake and Lake Marie: Rev. Wentworth of Lake Villa was scoutmaster, Rev. Pollock was the mastermind of camp and Rev. Stanton gave all his time to instruction and taking tests.”

And later “Rev. Pollock and Rev. Stanton have been trying to give proper instruction to 35 and more boys every Thursday night. This has proven almost impossible. Mr. Stanton asks that some of the fathers make it a point to come down to the High School some Thursday night and see the work performed. It probably wouldn’t be amiss for a few of them to hoop up in a game of basketball with their sons and show them how they used to play the game.”

“The pastor (Rev. Krahl) returns Friday, June 18, 1926, from Battle Creek, Michigan, where he has been attending the Regional School of the Boy Scouts of America for Camp Directors, for the last week. This course was taken at the request of the Waukegan-North Chicago Council of the Boy Scouts, in preparation to having charge of the County Camp this summer from July 19-31, at Diamond Lake.” The Methodist Church News. 

And later on, the home of Rev A.M. Keahl has become the rendezvous for many boys this past week, all eager to pass the tenderfoot test which will permit them to enroll for the camp. As yet the exact number of boys attending this big camp set up on Lily Lake, Wisconsin, is not known, but Antioch will be represented by several scouts.

The Antioch and Lake Villa troops continued through 1927-1929 with typical activities and adventures that recognized today–camping, hiking, attending a livestock show in Chicago, recruiting new boys, showing off scout acquired skills at shows. One event had as a promotional line “If you wonder why scouting makes real men out of boys, come to this program Sunday evening.”

The North Shore Area Council retained jurisdiction over communities in Libertyville, Vernon, West Deerfield, Moraine, and Shields (except North Chicago) townships.

With the expanded territory it was proposed that the Council name be changed to the “Lake County Council” to more accurately reflect its geographic scope. The decision on the new name was put off until March of 1928. The Lake County Council formed in 1928 on the merger with the Waukegan and North Chicago Council. It dissolved in 1935 when it merged with the North Shore Area Council.

Later in 1929 “the Methodist Church Notes” in the Antioch News talks about Troop 61. Again the pastor is the Scoutmaster (Rev. Phillip Bobi). In August of that year (1929) the announcement was made that “Boy Scout Troop 61, Lake County Council, ceased to exist.”

Apparently, the troop revived because in January 1930 it was announced that the troop (now Troop 81) would be meeting. January of 1934 a Troop 91 was meeting in Antioch and pursuing an aggressive scouting program.

The impetus of the expansion came from the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America which was attempting to centralize administration (such as rechartering non-council affiliated units) and give units a more local headquarters to support, advise and supervise them.

The officers of the expanded council were:

Walter H. Durkin – President
Otto R. Thompson – Commissioner
Warren E. Blogett – Scout Executive

Scouting continued to prosper in the area. In 1930, Mr. Blogett led a small group of volunteers in attending the “University of Scouting," a regional training event in Chicago where James E. West, Chief Scout Executive was a featured speaker. The volunteers included:

Robert T. Wright (Scoutmaster) Troop 43
Arnie Makela (Ass’t Scoutmaster) Troop 11
Walton C. Wedell (Scoutmaster) Troop 3
W.N. Kemp (Ass’t Scoutmaster) Troop 2

In October the big event of the year (1930) was a baseball tournament held at Bairstow Field. (The article does not say where Bairstow Field was or is.) Teams from troops in Waukegan (Troops 1, 5, 15, 18, and 19), Gurnee (Troop 77), Antioch (Troop 81), and Lake Bluff (Troop 42) competed over a three-day series.

In 1933 – The Boy Scouts of Antioch and Channel Lake attended the “Century of Progress” World Fair in Chicago on Boy Scout Day there.

In 1935 the Lake County Council merged with the North Shore Area Council.

NEIC History Project Committee
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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