By Mark Simonson
Area Boy Scouts will celebrate Uniform Day today to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America.
While troops across the country will mark this milestone, Troop 1 in Unadilla has a special connection, as it is the oldest continually chartered Boy Scout troop in the nation.
Troop 1 Scoutmaster Brian Danforth said the celebration got under way in early 2009 and will continue throughout this year.
The troop formed a Centennial Celebration Team of Scouts, calling itself the Lyon Patrol. The five Scouts had special 1910 replica uniforms made, and each Scout has a name tag representing the original five boys.
The Lyon Patrol has participated in numerous parades, flag raising ceremonies and other community activities.
"Those uniforms have been very well received in the community," Danforth said. "We've been having a lot of fun with it."
Scouting in the United States can give credit to Chicago newspaperman and entrepreneur, William D. Boyce, who was determined to train and educate the army of newsboys who delivered his papers. Legend has it that, while visiting England, Boyce got lost on a foggy street in London when an unknown boy came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. Boyce offered the boy a tip, but he refused, explaining that he was doing his duty as a Scout.
England had a program called Scouting for Boys at the time, started in 1907 by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Boyce met with Baden-Powell during this visit in 1909. Boyce returned to the U.S. and started the process for incorporation papers for the Boy Scouts of America. It was completed Feb. 8, 1910.
From the start, Boyce focused the Scouting program on teaching self-reliance, citizenship, resourcefulness, patriotism, obedience, cheerfulness, courage and courtesy "to make men."
The Rev. Yale Lyon had a somewhat similar experience as Boyce while in England. Lyon studied for a year at Magadelen College of Oxford University to complete a master's degree in divinity. Lyon saw the work of Scouting for Boys and was impressed.
Lyon came back to the U.S., and first served as a house master at the Albany Diocese Hoosic School. He then accepted a call from the vestry of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Unadilla.
Lyon had an idea for a community project for boys as he arrived in Unadilla based on his experience with Scouting in England. Lyon applied for a warrant to start a troop in April 1910, but the Boy Scouts of America headquarters of New York had a growing number of applications. Out of about 4,000 charters issued to scoutmasters in 1910, Lyon's application was No. 166.
The charter was finally issued Sept. 7, 1910. Troop 1 in Unadilla began with five boys. The first troop of any community was designated as Troop 1.
Lyon served as Scoutmaster from 1910 to 1937, and after his death in 1942, Unadilla residents were determined to keep Troop 1 going.
What differentiates Unadilla's Troop 1 from all the others nationwide is its continuity. Each year, a troop has to file paperwork to renew its charter, and Unadilla has never missed a deadline, earning it the distinction of the oldest continually chartered Boy Scout troop in the United States. There are 25 boys in the troop.
Don Tuttle, former Troop 1 Scoutmaster and historian for Troop 1, said: "I think it was Yale Lyon's influence. He was an important community figure, and the people always felt that Unadilla would have a Boy Scout Troop."
With the centennial under way, both Tuttle and Danforth said they hope that alumni Scouts will get in touch and participate in upcoming activities, not only in Unadilla, but throughout the area covered by the Otschodela Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
There are plenty of events coming up in the next weeks and months. The Otschodela Council Scouters will have a 100th Birthday Party, with dinner, dancing and awards from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at The Holiday Inn Oneonta. Reservations are required and are due by Friday. For details, call 432-6490.
On May 14, Troop 1 will host a Centennial Alumni Banquet at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Unadilla. This dinner is open to all Boy Scout alumni. There will be a retirement of the original troop charter and presentation of a new centennial Charter to Troop 1, a scouting musicale and more. Special "guests" include former President Theodore Roosevelt and Sir Robert Baden-Powell. For reservations, call Tuttle at 369-7323 or e-mail email@example.com
That same weekend, all are welcome as Unadilla hosts the Boy Scouts of America 100th Anniversary Encampment. The event will emulate the first New York State Boy Scout Encampment held in Cooperstown in 1910. Activities will include a Skill-o-Rama Midway and Circus, Scout Museum exhibits, a Main Street parade, bonfires and fireworks.
For more information and encampment registration, Scout units may contact the Otschodela Council Inc. BSA at 432-6491 or www.otschodela.org.