Organization of Boy Scouts in DeKalb County

By Louise Van Allen / Published in the Landmarks News, 1994, The DeKalb Legend Volume 1


The Boy Scouts of America had its beginning in DeKalb County in Collinsville when W. M. Beck, Sr., a school teacher and coach, organized a troop in 1930, which met in the Masonic Hall under the jurisdiction of the northeast Alabama Council headquartered in Gadsden.

Among the members of this first troop were Dent Porter, W. G. Hawkins, Jack Hawkins, Chad B. Hawkins, John H. Gilbreath, James E. Box, E. M. (“Munzey”) Box, Charles C. Hall, Jr., and others.

The Gilbreath family owned the wholesale business in Collinsville which furnished the truck, driven by Rex Mitchell, in which the troop was transported to their camp. This troop is still in existence in Collinsville, as part of the Chocolocco Council.

Dr. C. H. Pate, Jr. and Charles M. T. Sawyer, II were photographed in 1982 at Dr. Pate’s office. The painting is of the Boy Scout cabin which was built in 1933 by W. M. Beck, Sr. and Scout Troop No. 24. The property and the timber and rocks for the cabin were donated by Milford Howard. Dr. Pate served as Scoutmaster of Troop 63. He was responsible for establishing the DeSoto Scout Trail on Lookout Mountain and received the Silver Beaver Award, Scouting’s highest honor, and many other awards and recognitions. Charles Sawyer also received the Silver Beaver Award, among others. Dr. Pate, who had served as Scoutmaster for over 20 years, died in January 1990.

When Beck came to Fort Payne from Collinsville in the spring of 1932, he became instrumental in organizing a troop in Fort Payne. Through Beck’s efforts that year Colonel Milford W. Howard became interested in the Boy Scout organization and deeded the local Boy Scout council three and one–half acres of land on the west side of Little River on Lookout Mountain.

Boy-Scouts-of-America-SealBeck and his 22 industrious young men spent three weeks camping in the woods and building a large cabin. The boys were: Wolford Clayton, Duward Crow, J. Paul Crow, Wayne Mann, Fred Raymond, Walter B. Raymond, Bill Shugart, G. I. Weatherly, Jr., Glenn Owen, Leon Riddle, Alfred Hawkins, Richard Hawkins, Cecil White, Hobert Thomas, Jr., John Pendergrass, Allen Ory, W. B. Lowry, Charles Kershaw, Byron Driskill, Billy M. Davidson, Lewis Cross, and Perry Bryant.

Dedication exercises were held on Sunday afternoon, September 25, 1932, with Col. C. A. Wolfes acting as master of ceremonies. The boys of Troop 24 later voted to name their lodge Camp Howatan in honor of the donor of the land.

Col. Howard was to show further interest in scouting by deeding 720 acres of the Master Schools, Inc. land to the Boy Scouts of America in November 1933. In the deed, the grantor expressed the desire that the property be used by the organization to further leadership training and character education. This area contained 850 feet fronting on Little River and should have made an ideal camp site. However, the Boy Scouts were adversely affected by the depression, national executives concluded three years later that they wre paying taxes on land they could not afford to develop. The land was thus deeded back to the Master Schools in October 1936. Exactly three decades later this property was bought back as part of the 1058 acre tract obtained by the Choccolocco Council for $87,450.

The official charter for the Fort Payne troop was issued on April 30, 1933 by the Northeast Alabama Council as Troop 24 (which is now Troop 64), with Beck as scoutmaster. He was also troop committeeman, together with C. A. Wolfes and Ira Houston, who were members of the Civitan Club which sponsored this troop. This troop is part of the Choccolocco Council, which replaced the Northeast Alabama Council.

Beginning with the first troop in Collinsville, the DeKalb County Scout program is one of the most active Scout organizations in the whole council. The DeKalb District has won many awards and was honored by having the Comer Scout Reservation constructed in DeKalb County at a cost of more than $1 million.