EDDINGTON, Maine — A century ago on Sunday, a small group of local boys got together at the Brewer Congregational Church and chartered the first Boy Scout troop for the area.
Brewer Boy Scout Troop 1, originally called Brewer Congregational Scouts, was chartered 100 years ago on Oct. 25, 1909, and predates Boy Scouts of America by four months.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Troop 1 Scoutmaster Rodney Hanson said Sunday at an anniversary party for the troop, held at Camp Roosevelt in Eddington.
Scouting came to Brewer with Frederick Oliver, who arrived in the area from England, where Scouting had begun a few years earlier.
Because Scouting had not yet reached the United States, the Brewer Congregational Scouts were registered first with the Boy Scouts of England and received their Scout badges from England.
A couple of the original blue and red badges with the initials “BC Scouts,” for Brewer Congregational Scouts, are still around today and sat on a table at the birthday party on Sunday. Other memorabilia and photos also lined the tables.
Oliver was in the U.S. on a ministry scholarship through Bangor Theological Seminary that required he work at a local church. He chose to be a student pastor at the First Congregational Church in Brewer.
“Recognizing the potential for extending the principles and practices of British Scouting to benefit the young men of Brewer, this visionary leader [Oliver] started Troop 1,” a history of Brewer Scouts states.
A foundation meeting was held in the church hall vestry 100 years ago and drew about 20 youngsters. Troop 1 still meets at the church, now occupying an upstairs room.
The constitution and bylaws for the Brewer Congregational Scouts were established at that first meeting along with the mission of the troop: “To help the physical, moral and spiritual development of youth connected with the Congregational church” the minutes from that meeting state.
After Troop 1 was under way, Oliver went on to form Troop 2 and Troop 3 in Bangor with those groups meeting at the YMCA, a 1938 Bangor Daily News story stated.
The article also states the Brewer Scouts joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, but local documents to support that claim have been lost.
After a couple of active years, “as was the case with many Boy Scout troops, [Brewer Congregational Scouts] lapsed during World War I, but it was rechartered as Troop 1 in 1916,” the group’s history states.
A framed copy of the 1916 BSA troop enrollment, which lists 16 Brewer youth members, was displayed Sunday at the birthday party.
The group is now part of the Katahdin Area Council.
Katahdin District Director Tim Archer, who joined Troop 1 as an 11-year-old in 1958, said things have changed tremendously over the decades, but honor is something that is instilled in all Scouts.
“The first thing you learn as a Scout is honor thyself and be true,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not easy. Scouting prepares you to make some of these difficult choices.”
Although the Brewer Scouts formed before the Boy Scouts of America, it was not the first to be chartered under the fledgling National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, founded on Feb. 8, 1910, and chartered by Congress in 1916.
“In 2010 the whole Boy Scout program is 100 years old,” Archer said. “It’s a long time.”
The skills learned as a Scout stay with you throughout your life, said Brewer resident Dick Violette, who was a Troop 1 member in 1950 and 1951.
“I loved it,” he said. “I loved all the activities and the opportunity to learn something different.”
Woodworking, carpentry, electric, painting and outdoors camping skills he learned as a Scout, along with honesty and integrity, are still part of his life today, Violette said.
“These are some of the qualities,” he said.
Scouting runs in his family. Two of his sons earned the rank of Eagle Scout and one earned the title of Life Scout.
Numerous local and Scout dignitaries were at the Troop 1 birthday party, including Brewer Mayor Archie Verow, a former member of Troop 15, which was organized in 1917 and is Brewer’s other troop.
A number of awards were given at the event and the crowd of 140 or so listened to the stories of 83-year-old Donn Fendler, a former Scout who at age 12 was lost for nine days in the dense Maine woods while hiking Mount Katahdin with his family.
Over the last century, Scouting has taught young boys how to be true citizens, Hanson said.
And even though Brewer Boy Scout Troop 1 is not the first chartered with the Boy Scouts of America, its long history is a source of pride to all involved with the group, he said.
“Here’s to the next 100 years,” Hanson said.