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BOY SCOUTS

BOY SCOUTS. Texas and the Southwest projected the idea of its rugged, picturesque frontier life on the imaginations of the Boy Scout movement's founders, who relayed it to the youth they hoped to influence. In the serialized book that introduced scouting in 1908, Scouting for Boys, British lieutenant general R. S. S. Baden-Powell told tales of Red Indians and army scouts. As a child playing in a London park, he dreamed of living with the Indians on the Texas plains and shooting buffalo. American author, illustrator, and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton wrote to a Panhandle Scout troop in 1915, "Some of my best days were spent riding in the Panhandle. It is a glorious country, one of the best in the World for Scouting." The boys of Texas (and adults interested in their well-being) responded eagerly to the new movement. Based solely on the popularity of Baden-Powell's book, and before a national organization had been started, groups of boys began Scout activities in troops and small groups in 1908, 1909, and 1910. The claims of several troops to be the first organized in Texas, whether before or after the incorporation of the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910, are difficult to verify. BSA archives do show that the thirty-seventh registered scoutmaster in the country was a Texan, Rev. George W. Sheafor, of Comanche, in 1910. Community leaders recognized the benefits of scouting and organized local councils throughout the state. By 1928 Scout councils in the following cities, organized in the years shown, covered Texas: San Antonio and Austin, 1912; Houston and Colorado City, 1913; El Paso, 1917; Paris and Port Arthur, 1918; Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston, and Texarkana, 1919; Wichita Falls, 1920; Amarillo and Brownwood, 1921; Abilene, Lubbock, Sweetwater, and Tyler, 1922; Sherman and Waco, 1924; Eastland, Harlingen, San Angelo, and Uvalde, 1926; Pampa, 1928.

From earliest days, boys of all races and creeds found scouting available to them in Texas. Black youth formed a troop in Port Arthur as early as 1916. The BSA report to Congress for 1930 named Dallas as one of the southern cities in which scouting was growing in the black community. A special training course for Scout leaders was held that year at Prairie View. Hispanic boys were also active in scouting, often in units with non-Hispanic boys. Jewish youth had been active in scouting in San Antonio for many years before a synagogue sponsored a troop for them in 1924. Texas business and civic leaders have strongly supported Scouting, including Frank W. Wozencraft (the "Boy Mayor" of Dallas), Lloyd Bentsen, Dolph Briscoe, H. Ross Perot, and Harold Hook. Long one of the most active Scouting states in the nation, Texas had 308,179 youth and 81,573 adult members in Texas as of 1994. The BSA national office, employing some 550 people, was moved to Irving in 1979. Camp Strake, near Conroe, is the most used Scout camp in the world; more than 40,000 people spent at least one night there in 1994.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Minor Huffman, History of Region Nine, Boy Scouts of America, 1920–1967 (1968). Minor Huffman, Sam Houston Scouts (1985). Frank Hilton, Panjandrum: A History of Scouting in the Concho Valley Council, 1911–1941 (1990). Robert W. Peterson, The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure (New York: American Heritage, 1984).

Nelson R. Block

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Nelson R. Block, "BOY SCOUTS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vzbsh), accessed August 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.