Boy Scouts: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

The Boy Scouts organization has been active in Faulkner County for nearly 100 years. J. W. James, who owned and operated the James Business College on the second floor of the George W. Donaghey Building at the southwest corner of Parkway and Caldwell streets, organized the first troop in 1919 and the weekly meetings were held at the school.

As scoutmaster, Mr. James spent great time and effort on scouting activities for his twelve to fifteen-year-old boys. Within a few years they had a swimming pool in the downtown area. Evening hikes and wiener roasts were a favorite activity for the scouts in the early years, as were summer camp-outs at Pinnacle Springs. After a few years, the local troop sold their swimming pool to Conway Corporation and bought a ten-acre campsite at Pinnacle Springs.

In 1922 and 1923, a troop sponsored by the Methodist Church was led by Dr. Delzie Demaree of Hendrix College. First Baptist Church sponsored a troop in 1928 that was led by Edgar Parker and Gail Robbins. George Owen, Sr. worked with J. W. James in developing local projects and programs for the Boy Scouts.

The Quapaw Area Council in central Arkansas was chartered in 1921 and includes the Foothills District which is made up of Faulkner, Perry, Conway, Van Buren, and Cleburne counties. The first permanent camping facility for the council was Camp Quapaw, located
west of Benton on the Saline River, which opened in 1925.

The Cubbing program began in Conway and Faulkner County in 1924, when T.M. Boyd, who had moved to Conway from a farm near Leslie, served as cubmaster of a cub pack at the First United Methodist Church. Boyd was a staunch and hard-working supporter of the scouting programs at the church for about fifty years, and many boys in Conway enjoyed their scouting experiences because of his untiring efforts.

The Depression years probably slowed the pace for scouting in Faulkner County, as it did in many places, but the program was revitalized and expanded in the mid-1930s, largely through the leadership of Father Anthony Lachowsky, who in 1934 became the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Father Lachowsky had long been interested in Boy Scout activities, and he worked very hard with the professional scouters of the Quapaw Council to promote the program in Faulkner County. Emphasis was first given to organization of the troops so that by 1936, troops had been formed at St. Joseph Church and in several other places.

Shortly after World War II, Dr. H.O. Weatherly, Sr., cub master of a fifty-member scout pack sponsored by the Conway PTA, the only pack in Conway, asked Ted Hiegel to attend a pack meeting at the armory and assist him. After the meeting, Weatherly asked Hiegel to take charge of the pack for a month while he was out of town. Hiegel ended up leading the pack for six years.

During part of those six years, Hiegel served as cub master for two packs, one at the public school and the other at St. Joseph Elementary School. His wife helped a lot, serving as den mother for that period and for years afterwards. Den mothers contributed greatly to the success of the scouting program in the area.

Scouting in all its phases — Tiger Cubs (age seven), Cub Scouts (ages eight to ten), Boy Scouts (eleven to eighteen), and Explorer Scouts (for boys and girls, fourteen to twenty-one) — was expanded in the county during 1950s and 1960s. Hundreds of boys and adults became involved in the programs.

In 1975, to accommodate more camp activities, the Quapaw Council acquired Camp Kiwanis and purchased over 2,900 acres west of Damascus for the construction of the new Cove Creek Scout Reservation. The Cove Creek Scout Reservation opened as a permanent camping facility in 1976. Camp Quapaw would be closed at this time.

Cove Creek Scout Reservation was renamed the Gus Blass Scout Reservation in 2001 to honor Gus Blass II and his family. They had been big supporters of the Boy Scout program for many years. A portion of the reservation was also renamed in honor of Lt. Gov. Winthrop P. Rockefeller for his support of scouting.

The primary objective of the program was, and still is, to install in all scouts the true meaning of its pledge: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Note: Some of the information in today’s article was taken from an article that Ted Hiegel wrote for Faulkner County: Its Land and People, (1986).