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Exploring Hudson's Legacy in Upper Midwest Scouting

A group of St. Paul boys gathered at what is now YMCA Camp St. Croix in 1910; Hudson's Troop 140 is one of Northern Star Council's oldest continuing troops, chartered in 1929.

While the bronze “The Boy Scout” statue in Lakefront Park commemorates how Upper Midwest scouting started in Hudson, a closer look reveals a rich local legacy, including landscaping around the statue and benches donated by local Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs.

“Hudson is the birthplace of scouting in the Upper Midwest as a result of a camp that was held at the YMCA Camp St. Croix in 1910,” says Charles Huntley, who served as Troop 140 Scoutmaster from 1997 to 2004 and is president of Boys Camp of Hudson Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of local scouting. “A recent book documents the history of the Northern Star Council and this first camp, which was something of an experiment.”

David Kenney, author of Honor Bright, A History of Scouting in Northern Star Council, published in 2009 by the Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America with the North Star Museum of Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting, writes in the introduction: “Although the exact dates of scouting’s arrival in Northfield [Minn.] and other Upper Midwest communities may forever remain shrouded in historical fog, it’s clear that Boy Scout units were forming in Minnesota and Wisconsin by the early fall of 1910.”

In chapter one, Kenney secures Hudson’s place in scouting history: “The man in charge of the Minnesota experiment was Ernest Fagenstrom, an employee of the St. Paul YMCA who held the title ‘boy’s work director.’ Working with the blessing of executives from the national YMCA, Fagenstrom and several assistants planned to turn their summer camp on the St. Croix into one of the nation’s first Boy Scout camps.”

Boys Camp of Hudson facilitated the application and installation of the Lakefront Park statue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts in 2010 and Hudson’s role in early scouting. Hudson was among six cities in the Northern Star Council to receive “The Boy Scout,” the famous bronze statue designed in 1937 by sculptor and University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie, said Huntley.

Local Eagle Scout Legacy

Troop 140, Hudson’s oldest Boy Scout troop, was officially chartered in 1929, making it one of the oldest continuously operating troops in the Indianhead Council (formerly known as the St. Paul Area Council and now known as the Northern Star Council). Other local Boy Scout Troops include 148, 168, 213 and 905.

Its records date back to 1947, and since then more than 116 Troop 140 Eagle Scout endeavors like history projects, signage, kiosks, landscaping and more have left a lasting imprint on Hudson, not to mention the thousands of hours of community service and other projects performed by the local troops.

The 116 Eagle Scouts of Troop 140 have surpassed the national average of about 2 or 3 percent, says Huntley. A former Boy Scout and Explorer Scout himself, Huntley’s three sons earned Eagle Scout.

“We’re probably at 10 percent or higher,” Huntley says. “It has a lot to do with the longevity and the leadership. As a result we have had a good program for the boys, and we’ve always had trained leaders.”

In the last year, Troop 140 has recognized nine members who earned Eagle Scout, says Scoutmaster Bob Maline.

“This year’s Troop 140 Eagle Scout projects have included a playhouse at the Trinity school playground, an archway at the trailhead behind River Crest Elementary, information kiosks at Hudson Middle School behind the ball fields and in Glover Park, a ‘bus stop’ waiting area outside St. Pat's Catholic School, benches at the high school tennis courts, a play set at a small local park and moving the library shelves from the old site to the new one.”

Maline says his goals are to keep building on Troop 140's history of boy leadership.  “No matter what changes occur in the world there will always be a need for adults who are capable and confident doers and leaders,” he says. “The best way to grow those leaders is to provide expectations, guidance, and direction, and then turn the boys loose.”

The ‘First’ Scout Camps

Just two weeks before 86 St. Paul boys gathered at what is now YMCA Camp St. Croix on a late August day in 1910 to learn about a new adventure, the first “official” scout camp had wrapped up in upstate New York.

The inspiration for Boy Scouts had come from the mother country. William Dickson Boyce, a millionaire publisher from Chicago, was visiting London on business and became lost in its foggy milieu. A boy helped him find his way, and when he offered the youth a tip, the boy politely refused, citing his good turn as a boy scout.

Boyce was impressed and intrigued with this boy scout idea and queried the youth, who told him of Boy Scout founder and Scoutmaster Robert S.S. Baden-Powell. Boyce then brought the idea of boy scouting back across the ocean. 

Huntley takes on the persona of Baden-Powell for scouting and other community events.

“I have a little gig telling the history of scouting through the eyes of Baden-Powell,” he says. “Baden-Powell was a military hero in England in the late 1800s, and he noticed that many of the men did not have training in scout-craft skills such as tracking, compass use and fire building. He wrote a book to help with training, and later discovered that boys were reading this book. As a result he invited 21 boys to a camp in 1907 to develop the same principles of leadership, service and character-building. It was so successful that he resigned his role as general to devote full time to this program.”

Early Days of Troop 140

According to 70- and 75-year anniversary articles in the Troop 140 newsletter, the original meeting site for the first troop was at Bethel Lutheran Church. Within two years, the troop doubled its size and Mt. Zion Lutheran Church joined Bethel as a chartered partner; both relationships continue today.

Like other early scouting troops across the country, outdoor activities were a cornerstone. Troop 140 still uses the YMCA camp where regional scouting unofficially began in 1910, as well as the Fred C. Andersen Scout Camp on the St. Croix at Houlton and camps owned by Boys Camp of Hudson called Krattley Springs in the town of Hudson and an 80-acre parcel in the town of Warren called Weitkamp Woods, named for local teacher Alvin Weitkamp, who served as Troop 140 Scoutmaster from 1947 to 1964.

From 1937 to the mid-1950s, the ‘Scout House’ was located at what is now Ferry Landing Park in North Hudson. It was purchased by local supporters who in 1937 formed the predecessor of Boys Camp of Hudson Inc. The organization no longer owns the North Hudson site.

This summer Troop 140 embarked on the annual week-long campout at Tomahawk Scout Camp near Birchwood. “I think it is important to continue the troop's practice of a weeklong high adventure trip each year,” says Scoutmaster Maline. “The rhythm the crew gets into—leading and performing—is stronger on a week-long trip than you can ever get on a weekend.”

Maline says he is often surprised by scout-picked outings. “I tell the boys they owe me four brand-new outings each year; many times they turn out different than I would have chosen, but they own it, not me. Last year's highlight, a tour of Lambeau Field, came from a conversation with a scout. One of our best trips this year came from a suggestion from a scout that we visit the Spam Museum.”

Mary Stanik July 12, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Great story for anyone who was a scout or was related to one (I had two brothers who were scouts).

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