This past summer, like every summer for the past hundred years, young men and adult leaders across the country prepared for Summer Camp. This summer, the summer of 2010, saw the Centennial Celebration of the Boy Scouts of America (founded in Chicago in 1910 by William Boyce, based on a program begun in England by British General Robert Baden-Powell); a summer filled with activities, outings, and other events across the nation. In our neck of the woods, to turn a phrase, Scouting can trace its history back to those beginnings. The Greater St. Louis Area Council (based in St. Louis, Missouri) has long since been one of the largest councils in the nation, with a large amount of young people attending summer camp each year, since 1913, in one location or another. In the early days some land donated by an early local Scout Leader gave city kids the opportunity to camp in the country, which eventually became part of the legendary Camp Irondale (Irondale Scouting Reservation), this area served the St. Louis Council until the mid-1960s, when, after forty-five years of use, Camp Irondale was closed in favor of the newest addition to the St. Louis Area Council, S Bar F Scout Ranch.
I had the opportunity to attend Camp Outs at S Bar F Scout Ranch the past few years. As a Cub Scout Leader with five years experience, I had attended Graduation and Arrow of Light Ceremonies and two subsequent Webelos Mini-Camps at S Bar F Scout Ranch. The two Webelos Mini-Camps (three day camp outs with Webelos (Webelos is a rank in the Cub Scouts) dens) took us to Swift Base, one of four camps inside S Bar F Scout Ranch. I didn’t think too much about the names of the individual camps. I had already learned some of the history of the Scout Ranch, being an amateur historian, by doing research locally. I am lucky that our home town is less than twenty miles from S Bar F Scout Ranch. This summer I was lucky enough to accompany my son and the Boy Scout Troop he recently joined, having completed his years as a Cub Scout, to Summer Camp. A trained Cub Scout leader, I was interested in becoming a trained Boy Scout Leader in order to provide more leadership to our neighborhood Boy Scout Troop. Training was being offered during the Summer Camp schedule and I took advantage of the opportunity. The first day we were informed that Adult Leaders receiving Training would gather at the Greenbar Training Area behind the Commissary and Trading Post building. It was this instruction, to meet at Greenbar, which set the creative juices in motion and forced my inner historian to the surface. Our Troop Scoutmaster asked me why it was called Greenbar, and I decided to ask.
Cody, the young 18-year old Eagle Scout and member of the Summer Camp Staff, began classes the next morning at 9AM and the first question I had was, “Why is this area called ‘Greenbar’,” to whit he replied that it was named after an early Boy Scout leader who wrote many of the books on Scouting. The area was given the unofficial name of Green Bar (not Greenbar as I had thought) due to this man’s nickname. That was all the information Cody had for me, but it was enough to satisfy me only at the time. I was more interested in my training and focused on that, but in the back of my mind I knew I would leave the woods of southeastern Missouri and make my way back to my computer and access to my other research materials and I would get my answers. But now, the question wasn’t just who was Green Bar, but also who were all the other Camp Sites named for? Each of the individual camps inside S Bar F Scout Ranch, and there are four (Camp Famous Eagle, Camp Sakima, Camp Gramble, and Swift Base), have camp sites within them. Maps are available from the Greater St. Louis Area Council’s website, and those maps show that the camp sites have names like Beckman, Thayer, Osage, and Pratte. Who are these people? How did they earn a name on a camp site? Why were they given a camp site named after them? I wanted this to be a learning experience, and it was, not only for me but also for the Boy Scouts in our Troop. With the Centennial Celebration of 100 Years of Boy Scouting in America, it is important, in my opinion, to remember our shared history, to recognize the leaders; the men and women who devoted their time and sacrificed portions of their lives to help others see their potential and succeed. My journey to learn the history of these names sent me down the entire history of not only the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the BSA, but the history of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) itself.
According to information gathered from officials at the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, many of the camp sites at S Bar F Scout Ranch were originally named for explorers or Indian tribes. Over the years, the names have changed and many camp sites are now named for people who were influential in the Scouting movement in the St. Louis, Missouri area.
Inside S Bar F Scout Ranch there are four different Camps; Camp Famous Eagle, Camp Sakima, Camp Gamble, and John S. Swift Base. We’ll begin by examining the camp site names at Camp Famous Eagle. The first camp site whose name origins I was able to locate was Rottmann; named after Joseph E. Rottmann who received the Silver Beaver Award in 1966. The Silver Beaver Award is a council level distinguished service award of the Boy Scouts of America given to registered adult leaders who have made an impact through service. The camp site Hungerford was named for Clark Hungerford, a member of the Greater St. Louis Area Council Executive Board, as was Ehrhardt, which was named for Willis Ehrhardt, and Wenzel; which was named for Fred W. Wenzel, Executive Board Member, Distinguished Eagle Scout Award recipient in 1975 and the former President of Kellwood Company. The West camp site was named for Robert C. West of Sverdrup and Parcel, a former Region President and National BSA Board member. The Capps camp site was named for George Howard Capps, who received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 1973 and the Silver Beaver Award in 1974 and was President of Volkswagen of Mid-America, Inc. The Livingston camp site possibly got its name from Colin H. Livingstone who was the very first National BSA President from 1910 until 1925. The Chambers camp site drew its name from Maurice R. Chambers, who served as Greater St. Louis Area Council President beginning in 1975. Edward J. Schnuck, former Executive Board member and past Council President, lent his name to the Schnuck camp site. And, finally, Thayer camp site was named for Harold E. Thayer, Council President from 1970 to 1972. Through all the research, however, I was unable to locate the origins of three camp sites at Camp Famous Eagle; Stark, Backer, and Simpson, although I have not given up my research on the subject. The camp itself, Camp Famous Eagle, received its name in honor of Morton D. May, who served as Chairman of the Committee to develop S Bar F Scout Ranch. Morton May (1914-1983) was Chief Executive Officer of the May Department Store Company, which owned the Famous-Barr Store chain. S Bar F Scout Ranch gave the name Famous Eagle in honor of the Famous-Barr Stores and the Eagle Trading Stamps, which were a store promotion at that time. Camp Famous Eagle was the first camp inside S Bar F Scout Ranch to open in 1966, its inaugural year.
Camp Sakima was the second camp to be built and it also opened in the summer of 1966. It was named for General Leif J. Sverdrup, who served as Council President from 1963 to 1965. General Sverdrup (1898-1976) was born in Norway but emigrated to the United States in 1914, serving the with United States Army in World War I and studied civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. He founded Sverdrup and Parcel engineering firm, which specialized in bridge construction. He also served as General Douglas MacArthur’s Chief Engineer in the Pacific Area of Operations during World War II. General Sverdrup headed the campaign to raise funds for S Bar F Scout Ranch to be built and the second camp was given the name Camp Sakima for an Indian name for Chief, which was General Sverdrup’s nickname, after concerns that young Scouts would be unable to pronounce his last name. The camp sites inside Camp Sakima are currently also named for people influential to the local Scouting movement. The Linn camp site is named for Russell Edwin Linn, Silver Beaver recipient in 1972. The Hobbs camp site drew its name from Roscoe C. Hobbs, who served as Council President from 1948 to 1949. The camp site Wetzel got its name for C. E. Wetzel, the long-time Scout Master of Troop 362 and recipient of the Silver Beaver Award in 1952. Andrew Craig, another former Council President, lent his name to the Craig camp site. Edward Whitacre, who worked for Southwestern Bell and was a former Council President and National BSA President (1998-2000), had the Whitacre camp site named for him. Sam Fox, another former Council President, has the Fox camp site at Camp Sakima named for him. Originally my research seemed to point to Louis B. Eckelkamp, who received the Silver Beaver Award in 1962, as the inspiration for Eckelkamp camp site, but officials at the Greater St. Louis Area Council instead insist the camp site was named for his son, L. B. Eckelkamp, Jr., who served as Council President and a National BSA Board Member. The final camp site whose name I could trace was Dilling, which was named for Kenneth E. Dilling who received the Silver Beaver Award in 1964. Two of the camp sites, Grovier and Silveria were named for explorers, although my research was limited on learning much more of those two individuals. Several camp sites at Camp Sakima have their origins still shrouded in mystery, although somewhere out there is someone who knows; Waldheim, Mack, and Reiner.
The John S. Swift Explorer Base also opened in 1966. Its namesake was much more obvious than all the other Camps at S Bar F Scout Ranch. John S. Swift was the owner of the Swift Printing Company and believed so much in the value of Scouting that when we was approached for funds to help create the Ranch, he donated the total amount of money needed to build the Explorer Base. The camp sites at Swift Base received many of their names from former Scout Executives including Beckman (for Earle W. Beckman, Scout Executive from 1921 to 1935), “Thompson” (Henry C. Thompson, Scout Executive from 1911-1912), Simmons (for Major H. H. Simmons, Scout Executive from 1913 to 1920), Wright (for John D. Wright, Scout Executive from 1936 to 1945) and Keith (Jack J. Keith, Scout Executive 1946-1958). One of the original camp sites, Hart, was named for Russell J. Hart, another former Scout Executive, but that camp site has been converted to house the horse corral.
The final Camp at S Bar F Scout Ranch, Camp Gamble, was named for Theodore R. Gamble. Theodore Gamble was the President of the Pet Milk Company and served as President of the St. Louis Council until his untimely death. The camp was opened in 1970 to face the growing need for space as a result of the Post World War II baby boom. Thomas Jacobsen of Mercantile Bank and a former Council President, has a camp site named for him (Jacobsen). The camp site Kelso was named for Charles A. Kelso, who received the Silver Beaver Award in 1932. “Bucky” Kelso served in Scouting for over fifty years. According to my contact inside the Greater St. Louis Area Council the camp site Pratte was one of the original camp site names, named for an explorer. My research suggests it was possibly Bernard Pratte (1803-1886), the 8th mayor of St. Louis, Missouri and the very first native born mayor of the city. He was originally a fur trader who traveled with Pierre Chouteau up the Missouri River by steamboat to the mouth of the Yellowstone. Another original camp site name, DeSoto, also draws its name from a famous explorer, Hernando de Soto (1496-1542), a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was the first European to document having discovered the Mississippi River. Other Silver Beaver Award recipients lend their names to camp sites at Camp Gamble; Charles J. Francis, Jr. (Silver Beaver in 1962) has Francis camp site named for him, S. L. Wisebart (Silver Beaver in 1944) has Wisebart named in his honor, Erwin H. Hubeli (Silver Beaver Award in 1951) has Hubeli, and Dickson is named for Leon M. Dickson, who served Scouting for forty-eight years and was awarded the Silver Beaver Award in 1948. The Busch camp site was named for August A. Busch III, from Anheuser-Busch, who served as Council President. Charles F. Knight, Emerson Electric and former Council President, had a camp site named for him (Knight Camp Site), was did Ron Morie, a former camp staff member and Scout Master of Troop 305. One camp site, Osage, was an original camp site name given for the Osage Nation, a Native American Indian Tribe that began in the Ohio Valley and migrated to Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The only mystery camp site at Camp Gamble is Weisman, which my research was unable to locate a namesake.
Several other places and buildings at S Bar F Scout Ranch have their name origins in the Scouting movement. S Bar F Scout Ranch hosts the largest man-made lake in the state of Missouri, an essential part of the Scout aquatic program. The widow of Eugene D. Nims donated $55,000 to begin creating the lake and water treatment facilities. Eugene D. Nims was at one time the President of Southwestern Bell Company who was elected Council President after the death of Clarence Howard in 1931. To this day, Nims Lake provides thousands of Scout each year with a place to earn their Swimming and Lifesaving Merit Badges. The Rand Building on the Ranch property was donated by Norfleet H. Rand of the International Shoe Company and his family, although my source at the Greater St. Louis Council claims it was donated by two Rand brother, one of which was named Frank C. Rand. My information, which came from “The Spirit of Scouting ’76” by William J. Brittain, a book published in 1976 by The St. Louis Area Council to honor the 65 Years of St. Louis Area Scouting, which shows that Norfleet Rand and his family donated the building, which serves as Camp Headquarters. The Pet Health Lodge was donated by Pet Milk Incorporated and Theodore Gamble. There is also the W. H. Danforth Chapel, named for the founder of the Ralston Purina Company William H. Danforth (1870-1956), and the Astronauts’ Hall, which was named for the original seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA, the only group of astronauts who have flown on all classes of NASA manned spacecraft (Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and thanks to John Glenn in 1998, the Space Shuttle). The seven astronauts were Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (1923-1998), Virgil Ivan (Gus) Grissom (1926-1967), Walter Marty (Wally) Schirra, Jr. (1923-2007), Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. (1927-2004), Donald Kent (Deke) Slayton (1924-1993), Malcolm Scott Carpenter (born in 1925), and John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (born in 1921).
The history of Scouting, especially Scouting in the St. Louis area, is embedded in S Bar F Scout Ranch. Most Scouts who visit the Ranch never know the history. Many of them are busy working on Scoutcraft, earning Merit Badges, or just enjoying the 5.200 acres of beautiful scenery. However, the history is there for them, in the names of the buildings, in the names of the camp sites. You may have noticed that I still haven’t mentioned the origin of Green Bar. Although not an official camp site by any means, my source at the Greater St. Louis Area Council insists there is not a Green Bar camp site at Camp Famous Eagle, and he is correct. There is not a “camp site” with that name. Instead, the area was used for the training of new adult leaders and does not appear on any camp maps. The site, though, was named for William Hillcourt (1900-1992). William Hillcourt began in Danish Scouting in 1910, earning Danish Scouting’s highest honor, Knight-Scout, in 1918 at the age of 17. In 1926 he came to the United States and worked for the National BSA until he retired in 1965. He was very involved in the woodcraft portion of Scouting and advocated the troop and patrol structure. He wrote the Scoutmaster’s Manual in 1934 and attended the very first Wood Badge training in the United Kingdom in 1936. In 1976, after his retirement, he was approached to write the updated Boy Scout Handbook. He was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award on May 19th, 1978 and in 1980 was presented with the Silver Buffalo Award, a national level award that has only been presented to 687 people since its creation in 1926. William Hillcourt’s nickname was Green Bar Bill, where the training site got its name from. But that does not solve the mystery for me. What did Green Bar mean? How did William Hillcourt get the nickname? Hillcourt was a regular, major contributor to Boys’ Life magazine, a magazine serving Scouts since 1911. Hillcourt’s column would feature his signature over two green bars, which are the symbol for a Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts of America, which lead to his nickname as “Green Bar” Bill.
My search for history took me many places and through tons of old Scouting records. I want to thank my source at the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Assistant Scout Executive Tim O’Donnell, and the other organizers and historians of Scout history. Old Scout records seem to get lost to time. This year celebrates a hundred years of history and hopefully, a hundred years from now, Scouts will continue to look to their shared history for inspiration.
List of Sources:
“The Spirit of Scouting ’76” by William J. Brittain, 1976: The St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
E-Mail Interview with Tim O’Donnell, Assistant Scout Executive of the Greater St. Louis Area Council.