Scouting History of the Southeast Texas Area, by J. Glenn Cummings
The earliest known scouting activity in our area was in Beaumont. Beaumont Troop 1 was organized Saturday night, September 16, 1911. The meeting was held in the parlor of Holland Photographic Studio. The first Scoutmaster was Tom Holland and the first Assistant Scoutmaster was William Holland Campbell. Later meetings were in the basement of the First Methodist Church.
Early Troop 1 activities included the first wearing of the scout uniform at the Southeast Texas Fair in October, 1911, a hike to Spindletop Springs in January, 1912 to take a Troop Photograph, and a hike from Beaumont to Rollover in the summer of 1912. It was reported that 55 scouts participated in the Rollover Hike but only 10 walked the entire distance. (About 140 miles)
The Troop quickly filled nine patrols and had a waiting list. This would indicate the boys of Beaumont were eager and ready for this new boys organization. It is known that other Troops were organized in Beaumont and surrounding towns as the new movement became known and supported.
From the beginning of the BSA in 1910 until 1919, there was not much formal regional or national organization to Scouting. Help came mainly through Troop leaders corresponding directly with national Headquarters. The first efforts to organize the country into Districts began as early as 1913-1914. In the fall of 1919, Regions were set up and James P. Fitch was appointed the first Regional Executive of Region 9 including Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
In 1918, the Rotary Club in Port Arthur organized the Port Arthur Council. Harold A. Taylor was the first Scout Executive. The Beaumont Rotary Club organized the Beaumont Council in 1919 with Howard O. Hunter the Scout Executive. In January 1921, Orange County became a new Council with J. P. Mestrezat the Scout Executive. The name of the Orange Council was changed to Sabine Area Council in 1921. In 1928 the Sabine Area Council and Port Arthur Councils merged keeping the Sabine Area Council name with the Council office in Port Arthur. The Beaumont Council expanded over the years to include a large area of surrounding counties and the name was changed to Trinity Neches Council in 1941.
On March 1, 1970 the Sabine Area Council and the Trinity Neches Councils merged. Harry Marr, Council Executive for the Sabine Area Council retired. Bob Shoemaker, Council Executive of the Trinity Neches Council transferred to Texarkana, and Johnny Atkins was hired to lead the newly formed Three Rivers Council with offices in Beaumont. Bob Sontag was the first Council President of the new Three Rivers Council.
Scouting was very prominent beginning in the 1920s. Beaumont Scouts attended Camp Mitigwa (maker of men) near the mouth of Beech Creek and Village Creek in Hardin County beginning about 1923. The Scout Oldtimers Association Scouting Museum at the Clifton Steamboat Museum in Beaumont has photographs from early Camp Mitigwa. Prior to Camp Mitigwa, camps were held at a camp on Village Creek. Each summer the Camp was named for a local boy who was lost in World War 1. (Camp Farrell Minor, Camp Carroll Smart)
It is not presently known when Camp Bill Stark became the Council Camp for the Sabine Area Council. Camp Mitigwa was phased out and replaced by Camp Urland at Woodville in 1948.
The Beaumont Scout Oldtimers Association was first begun in the early 1920s as a Scout Leaders Club. By the early 20s, there were about 14 Troops in Beaumont. A Scout Alumni Association, probably a spinoff of the Scout Leaders Club, started the tradition of having an annual meeting during the Christmas Holidays that former scouts home from college could attend. As many of the young scouts aged, the group at some point became the Scout Oldtimers Association. The long time stalwart of the Oldtimers Association was W. T. Bill Buckley. Mr. Buckley joined Beaumont Troop 7 in 1923. He became an Eagle Scout in 1926 and had the distinguished honor of having his Gold Eagle Palm presented by Dr. James E. West, then Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. Bill was the 47 th Silver Beaver recipient in the Beaumont Council. He was the long time Historian for the Oldtimers Association and we are indebted to him for a wonderful legacy of scouting photographs beginning in 1923.
Scouting in the area has a rich heritage. For example in 1929, a group from the area went to the World Jamboree held at Arrowe Park in Birkenhead, England. This group was led by Scoutmaster H. P. Jirou. They left Beaumont via train to New Orleans where they boarded the SS Dixie for New York. In New York, they boarded the SS Berengaria for Paris. In Paris, before going on to England, they were entertained by Mr. Sam Park, formerly of Beaumont and then Vice Consul at Biarritz, France. The return was on the SS Caledonia. Aboard the Berengaria, the scouts met and befriended Dr. James E. West and none other than Daniel Carter Beard. From the H. P Jirou collection at the Tyrell Historical Library, we have a postcard from Dan Beard to the Beaumont Scouts. It is a photograph of Dan Beard and handwritten is "Happy New Years to H. P. Jirou and Beaumont Jam Scouts." Signed Dan Beard - National Scout Commissioner.
One of the scouts in the 1929 Jamboree Contingent was a boy named Brinkley Bass. Brinkley was a 1938 Annapolis Graduate and a Pilot. On August 20, 1944, Harry Brinkley Bass was flying a Navy Gruman Hellcat Fighter Plane supporting the 7 th Army invasion of Southern France. He was shot down and killed by anti-aircraft fire. Mr. Bass was honored by having a Navy Destroyer (built in Orange, Texas) named for him in 1945.
A scout from Beaumont named Arthur Owen was a part of the Ronne Expedition to the Antartic in 1948 aboard the ship The Port of Beaumont .
Beaumont Troop 1 in 1911 had a young scout named J Rucker Newberry. Rucker Newberry grew up to become Council Scout Executive in Beaumont from 1922-1925, He was the Camp Director at Camp Mitigwa. Mr. Newberry became infamous after a run in with a Constable in Silsbee. The offence,- - He wore the new Scout Uniform with short pants to town to pick up the Sunday newspaper. This story appeared in the Beaumont, Galveston, and New York City papers. Mr. Newberry went on to a very distinguished career as a professional scouter in the Charleston S.C. area. Perhaps his most distinguished accomplishment was his work in compiling the first Order of the Arrow Handbook. Bill Buckley and Rucker Newberry remained lifelong friends and scouts. Mr. Newberry's book, Scouting Memories is full of stories of scouting happenings in our area in the teens and twenties.
A major landmark of the Three Rivers Council was the wonderful donation of the land, building, and furnishings for the new Scout Office (the Dishman Center) by Herb and Kate Dishman in 1976.
The Three Rivers Council and it's predecessors have a fabulous history and heritage. Anyone having information on the history of scouting in our area is urged to contact Glenn Cummings, President of the Scout Oldtimers Association.