Thursday, 15 October 2020 13:30

Birth of the Boy Scouts - 110 Years Old this Month

By Gene Phillips | History

W.D. Boyce, a wealthy Chicago publisher, encountered a Boy Scout while lost in London.   Impressed by the Scout’s “Good Turn,” Mr. Boyce returned to the U.S.A. chartering the name “Boy Scouts of America” (BSA) in February 1910.  Mr. Boyce never formed a unit nor enlisted a youth in his movement. 

Edgar M. Robinson, Boys Work Secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA, oversaw all YMCA youth programs and summer camps in the U.S. and Canada.  Mr. Robinson travelled to Chicago to meet with Mr. Boyce in May 1910.  Mr. Robinson, a quiet, charming man, not particularly charismatic, but a man of vision and substantial organizational skills, convinced Mr. Boyce to allow the YMCA to serve as the organizational arm of the BSA. 

 Mr. Robinson contacted the heads of all youth (boys) organizations and convinced most to reorganize under the auspices of the BSA.  The national office of the Boy Scouts of America opened in New York City on June 1, 1910.  The first Boy Scout summer camp was held at the YMCA’s Silver Bay on Lake George that summer. 

In September 1910, J.C. Smith, Boys Work Secretary in charge of youth programs at the Saratoga Spa YMCA, travelled to New York City to attend a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria. There, Smith heard presentations by General Baden Powell, Dan Beard and others, and received his appointment as a Scoutmaster. Upon his return, Smith organized a “Patrol” of Scouts at the Saratoga YMCA. 

Smith announced the first nine youth members of the Patrol on Oct. 12, 1910. Because the YMCA was a Protestant organization, many early Patrols were formed at local YMCA’s or Protestant churches across the country. 

Patrols also began in Mechanicville (sponsored by First Presbyterian Church), on Dec. 17, 1910; in Schuylerville, on July 13, 1911; in Corinth, on Oct. 18, 1911; and in Saratoga Springs (First Baptist Church) on Oct. 24, 1911. 

Initially, each city or village operated as its own Council. The “Saratoga County Council” was founded in 1924.  Troop 1 Ballston Spa, chartered to the Ballston Spa United Methodist Church in 1913, is the longest continuously operating Troop in Saratoga County. 

Author Gene Phillips joined the Boy Scouts as a Charter youth member of Pack 24 Wilton in 1955.  During more than 40 years in scouting, Phillips has served as Cub Scout Committee Chair, Scoutmaster, Sea Scout Skipper, Training Chair and Advancement Chair for the Saratoga District of Twin Rivers Council. 

He is currently completing a book on the History of Scouting in Saratoga County, which includes a pictorial of all known memorabilia (patches, neckerchiefs, etc.) issued by Saratoga County Council (District).  Gene is an Eagle Scout (Troop 24 Wilton), as is his son Keith (Troop 24), and grandson Ethan (Troop 2 Ballston Spa).  Gene Phillips can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Gene’s article on the history of the BSA was recently featured by the Saratoga County History Roundtable. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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