100 Years of Guilford Boy Scouts
They hiked for miles to hold meetings, did good deeds, and learned to be good citizens.
In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouts in Guilford, the Courier checked in with Troop 474's Peter Ott, a Guilford High School sophomore who's researched the program's history.
"It's just sort of an interest for me," said Ott, 15, who comes from a family of history lovers including his dad David (a troop leader) and uncle Joel Helander, Guilford's town historian.
In addition to culling through hundreds of Scout records and photos, including many in the Guilford Keeping Society collection, Ott said one of his favorite efforts was hiking out into the Guilford woods to see the remnants of a log cabin built the Scouts (see a photo of the cabin at www.zip06.com/guilford). The cabin, off Three Mile Course, was built as the new meeting site of the Scouts in 1928. It burned down in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
"My uncle brought us to go see where the Boy Scout cabin was before it burned down, and the site of its chimney," said Ott, who started out as a Cub Scout in 1st grade and has been a Boy Scout with Troop 474 since 5th grade.
As soon as the weather cooperates, Ott and his uncle are planning to hike into the woods with members of all three current Guilford Boy Scout troops (Troops 474, 471, and 472) to view the cabin's remains. Other plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of scouting in Guilford include all troops marching together in town parades and gathering information from past scouts or their family members to share with present-day members, said David Ott.
"We're descendants of Troop 1 and we want to start off the year by bringing the three troops together. This is a great opportunity for all three troops to come together in celebration this year. As time goes on, all three troops will be marching together in town parades, and over the course of the year there's going to be information that's put out on the history. For instance, at the Strawberry Social on the Green, we'll share pictures of Troop 1," said David Ott.
In doing his research, Peter Ott was also able to gather interesting information from a past member, the late Len Hubbard, who wrote a memoir which included a chapter titled "Scouting Days." During Hubbard's boyhood (1920s and '30s), scouting was "a big item in a youth's life. It was about the only thing they had going until Little League sports came into the picture," wrote Hubbard.
Hubbard's boyhood troop won area competitions for proficiency in knot-tying and starting fires by friction and with flint and steel. Hubbard remained active in Guilford Scouts for some 50 years and lent his family's land for the Boy Scouts to build their cabin in the woods.
In his memoir, Hubbard also notes the decline in Guilford scouting after World War I and its reconstitution in the early 1920s. For Peter Ott, one of the most interesting facts he learned about the original Troop No. 1 was of the dedication the young men showed just to get to a monthly meeting in the era between 1913 and the beginning of World War I.
"Back then, they didn't really have cars, and cars would get stuck because there weren't paved roads, so they would hike to West Pond for meetings. They would hike five miles from the Town Green, where the YMCA was, to West Pond, which is West Lake today. Even for regular meetings, they would hike five miles," said Ott.
Another interesting fact Ott found concerns one of Guilford's first Eagle Scouts, Boynton Beckwith.
"His good deed was writing the word 'Guilford' on a barn roof, to help pilots with navigation, back when they didn't carry charts," said Ott.
Ott also likes the history of the Guilford Troop and Madison Troop interacting.
"They would meet up to play basketball or learn first aid, and hike to places like Mulberry Point and Lake Quonnipaug and West Pond. They'd do things like cooking, swimming, and boating. It's kind of like what we do; we'll do things like canoe trips and a few hikes around Guilford, but for camping we go to places like Massachusetts now, which was just too far away for them back then."
Records Ott found from the very first meeting of Guilford Scout Troop No. 1, show it was held on March 29, 1913 at West Pond. The newly formed troop elected Leslie Norton as president, Howard Dudley as secretary, and Lawrence Clayton as treasurer. The troop also voted to pony up 25 cents a month to help pay expenses.
Ott found some similarities still exist between Guilford Troop No. 1 and today's Guilford Boy Scouts, while other things have changed.
"A couple of the ranks are still the same today. They've added a few more, but still the ranks are the same order," he said, adding, "It was a fairly small group compared to my troop now. There were probably about 15 to 20 kids then and just in my troop, we have about 40 to 50."