The Boy Scouts of America was started in 1910 and was chartered by Congress in 1916.
The first known Boy Scout troop in Acadiana was organized by the First Methodist Church in New Iberia in September 1913, with the Rev. Albert L. Lutz as scoutmaster. At that early date, there was no unit charter. Rather, the scoutmaster received his commission directly from the national office in New York. Known as Troop 2 of New Iberia, the group operated until it was dropped in September 1917. Scouts who were members of this first troop included Beverly Hebert, Guy Hebert, J.W. Taylor Jr., George Moulk, Dudley Ashley, Earl Nicholson, R.L. Riggs and John Davis.
According to longtime Council Executive B.A. Lang: “The troop that really spread the scouting movement in our Evangeline Country was the second troop to be organized within the council territory by the First Methodist Church of Franklin, with Robert E. Brumby as Scoutmaster in 1914. “This troop was extremely active for seven consecutive years and, through its many activities, encouraged and helped men in a number of communities to organize additional scout troops.
“This growth in the number of troops to about a dozen caused the troop leaders of this section to bring about the organization of the Evangeline Area Boy Scout Council for the services which a council can render, and which each unit could not adequately render itself.”
Robert E. Brumby of Franklin will be mentioned later in connection with the first National Jamboree and first council-wide camporee (1939). He was an attorney and the Sunday School Superintendent at the First Methodist Church of Franklin. “During World War I, Mr. Brumby’s troop arranged for the special train exhibiting the Liberty Bell to stop in Franklin — the only stop it made in a small town on its nationwide tour,” according to a 1960 newspaper article.
Troop 1 of Opelousas also started in 1914. The membership list of Troop 1 included Leo Lafleur, Clayton Guilbeau, Arnold Winsberg, Odel Sanders, Louis Guidry, Nathan Haas, Eugene Littell, John White, Guy White, Dewey Fux, Garland Dejean, Felix Richard, Charles Thibodeaux, James Voorhies, Scott Isacks, Raymond McBride, George Brown, Jack Brenizer, Allie Ventre, Nathan Roose, Donald Browne, Wilbur Sandoz, Campbell Jones, Aaron Lafleur, Sidney Fontenot, Tom Feinberg, Theophile Fontenot, Vernon Gilven, Waldo Jones, Horace Marshall, George Suddeth, Fontenot Cook, Clinton Mornhinveg, Edward Ringrose, Douglas Creswell, Clement Hollier, Harry Bennett, Tom Winfield, Dr. Creswell and Emile Ventre. Photographs show early activities including the Troop 1 band, second annual snake hunt and scout skills practice.
Troop 1 of Lafayette was started in 1915 with “Pa” Davis, who later became the first council president and first Silver Beaver recipient of Evangeline Area Council, as scoutmaster.
Members of Lafayette’s first scout troop were, according to a 1959 Daily Advertiser article: Waldo Dugas, Felix Latiolais, Edwin Butcher, Thomas Parkerson, Harold Town, K. Barranger, Pen Ruger, Alfred Carey, B. Barrangler, Marcus Mayers, Norman LaBois, Lee Bourg, Francis Richard, George Webb, Filix Mouton, Frank Deyeuir, Frank Huval, Capers Curran, J.E. Jay, R.W. Alleman, G.L. Stafford, B.L. Hamate, W.H. Milburn, Dennis Landry, B.G. Hopkins, A. Yandle, Frank Dupuis, Felix Morton, Wagner Ruger, B. Clarke, S. Martin, A. Cary, Roy Schaeffler and J.W. Ramsey.
A troop was started in Crowley in about 1916, according to notes of B.A Lang. He further states: “Several of these Troops carried on year after year for as many as seven successive years, but most of them struggled along for a year or two and then remained dormant for several years at a stretch.”
“Men from this vicinity whose World War activities took them to various parts of the country and world became more familiar with the Boy Scout program because of the many services rendered to them by Scouts in other cities. When these men returned home after the War, they took more active interest in Scouting and boosted the number of troops in this section from five to about 11.”
Other communities which had had troops by shortly after the First World War include Eunice, St. Martinville, Jeanerette, Abbeville, Morgan City, Patterson and Kaplan.
Further information on scouting in New Iberia from note of B.A. Lang, December 11, 1963:
“A Scout Troop sponsored by the Methodist Church in New Iberia was started in March, 1918. The Troop Committee for this Troop was composed of H.W. Pharr, Martin Herbert and Dr. J.W. Shaw. The Scoutmaster of this troop was H.N. Brown. This Troop 1 continued to function until June 1925. “Frank P. Renaud succeeded Mr. Brown as Scoutmaster in June 1922, and Mr. Renaud continued until June 1925, when the troop was disbanded. This troop was known as Troop 1 until 1924, the year Evangeline Area Council was established, and in that year it was gived the number 27.
“The Methodist Church did not operate a troop again until the organization of the present Troop 12 in July 1934, under the leadership of the Rev. B.H. Andrews, pastor. Frank Renaud became the Scoutmaster again and Dr. H.M. Flory, the chairman of the Troop Committee, which consisted of additional members B.R. Falconer, W.J. Bernard, W.D. Reynolds and H. Litton. “Troop 12 has functioned successfully ever since. B.R Falconer served as scoutmaster beginning in 1935. Jacob Hirsch served as scoutmaster in 1936 and was succeeded by F.A. Gallagher in 1938. Dr. H.M. Flory became scoutmaster in 1939. A Sea Scout Patrol for older boys was added to Troop 12 in 1940. Troop 12 expired Aug. 31, 1957.
Formation of Evangeline Area Council
When the Scouting movement began to spread over the nation, after 1910, the national office, located in New York City, could not handle the volume of business. The national Scout leaders soon developed what are now called “local councils” of the Boy Scouts of America.
For a period of 10 years, groups of leading citizens in larger cities were chartered by the national organization to organize local councils that would serve the institutions and other groups of people who wanted to use the Scouting program within the larger cities.
By 1920 the national leaders developed a local council that fitted the rural areas of America.
In 1922 a New York businessman, Mortimer L. Schiff, put up $150,000 that was used to employ a dozen experienced Scout executives. One of them was sent to work out of Memphis, Tenn. His name was Stanley Harris and he came to the Evangeline Country in 1923.
He found out that F.E. “Pa” Davis was an outstanding civic leader in Lafayette at that time and he talked to Davis about the possibilities of organizing a Boy Scout council to serve the institutions, the people and boys of this section of Louisiana. Davis had been a Scoutmaster, so he called a series of meetings for the Scout and other community leaders from New Iberia, Abbeville, Crowley, Franklin, Opelousas, etc.. This led to the organization and chartering of the Evangeline Area Council in April 1924.
The council territory included the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, Lafourche, IbervilIe, St. Landry, St. Mary, St. Martin, Terrebonne and Vermilion.
F.E. Davis of Lafayette served as the first president from 1924 to 1928, and H.F. Cotey served as scout executive from 1924 to 1927.
The parishes of Iberville, Lafourche and Terrebonne were turned over to the New Orleans and Baton Rouge councils in 1928. (From a newspaper article of early February 1939: Some of the men who were actively engaged in the work during this development period from 1913 to 1927 were R.E. Brumby and Charles McCarth of Franklin, Dr. Al Perrault, Sam Moncla, A.L. Dupre, J.P. Barnett, Allen Dezauche, John Thistlethwaite, John Debliux and Leon Haas of Opelousas; F.E. Davis, T.M. Callahan, R.S. Barnett, the Rev. W.D. Wilbanks, J.E. Domengeaux and N.P. Moss of Lafayette; C.W. Lyman, L.A. Williams, J.M. Baker and L.C. Landry of Crowley, C.A. Provost, H.T. Hall, C.M. Bahon, L.F. Lallande, L.J. Porter and A Estorage of New Iberia; F.O. Winduster of Morgan City; A.C. Chappuis of Rayne; A Gaudin, J.J. Burdin and N.D. Olivier of St. Martinville; C.H. Bookshire and O.H. Deshotel of Kaplan; Frank White and Dr. P.O. Landry of Abbeville; C.R. Dupleix of Youngsville; and Earl Bourque of Milton.)
The council functioned very well for about three years and a number of troops were started in many of the communities.
Because of the Mississippi River Flood in 1927, the council became inactive.
Through the courtesy of the Missouri-Pacific Railway, Mr. O.J. Williams, a special Scout executive, maintained the council’s service and helped Regional Executive Harold Lewman and Harley E. Erb, to reorganize the Council in 1928, with L. Kemper Williams as president and Vernon Hammond as scout executive.
A finance campaign was conducted during which pledges were taken to finance the council for a three-year period. In 1929 there were approximately 450 Scouts and 18 troops in the council. This number was increased to about 35 troops with 650 Scouts in 1932.
The stock market crash and the Great Depression slowed the activities of the council, so that by 1933 the national council had to send in a man to help keep things going.
The number of active troops dropped to 15, with 355 Scouts, in February 1934. In 1934 the council was reorganized under the direction of E.V. Dabbs and Harley E. Erb, regional executive of the Boy Scouts of America, with Dr. R.H. Bolyard of Lafayette, a professor at Southwestern Louisiana Institute, elected president, and with L.K. Williams, F.A Godcheaux and Dr. A.J. Perrault as council commissioners, E.A. O’Brien as treasurer, Dr. A.B. Krauss as chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr. W.S. Dearmont as chairman of the Court of Honor Committee, AT. Browne as chairman of the Troop Organization Committee, Paul J. Blanchet as chairman of the Inter-racial Committee and T.M. Callahan as chairman of the Educational Publicity Committee.
Bernard A. “Pops” Lang became the Scout executive in June 1934, when seven district committees were organized.
Two more districts were organized in 1936 and two additional ones in 1942.
District chairmen of 1934 were P.H. Chaffin of Crowley District, J.P. Barnette of Opelousas District, Ray J. Cornay of Lafayette District, R.E. Brumby of St. Mary District, F.G. Parish of Iberia District and the Rev. S.A. Sega of Rayne District.
In 1935 St. Martin District had L.J. Montague as district chairman and Leo J. Bulliard as district commissioner.
In 1936 the Evangeline District was organized with Judge J. Cleveland Fruge (1949 Louisiana Supreme Court Justice) as district chairman and Dr. J.R. Wiggins as district commissioner.
The Vermilion District was organized in January 1939 with Vernon L. Caldwell as district chairman and G.P. Sledge as district commissioner.
Bernard Lang was originally from Minneapolis, Minn. He attended SLI, where he lettered in four sports: football, basketball, track and tennis. After graduating from SLI with majors in education and psychology, Lang became assistant principal and football coach at Lafayette High School for four years. During this period, Lang “… placed a strong emphasis upon intramural sports and tried to bring all of the students into the athletic program. It was in this program that he became aware of the keen interest the boys felt for the scouting program.” (1959 newspaper article).
From Lafayette High, Lang next attended Notre Dame University, where he obtained a masters degree in sociology. He was particularly interested in a graduate course in boy guidance. Upon receiving his master’s degree, Lang accepted the position of assistant council executive with the Boy Scout council in Minneapolis. From Minnesota, Lang returned to Lafayette where he served as council executive for more than 30 years, seeing youth membership increase from about 12 troops with 355 scouts in 1934 to about 210 units with nearly 6,000 youth members at his retirement.
During Lang’s tenure, the district structure was solidified, Evangeline Area Council was placed in good financial position and the development of Camp Thistlethwaite occurred.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — The following is condensed from various notes of Bernie A Lang, scout executive.)
In 1924, Boy Scout troops began camping on the site of Camp Evangeline, located on the high banks of Bayou Cocodrie, four miles north of Washington, in 1924. This site in the past had been used as a camping site by the Opelousa Indian Tribe and, after them, by the white residents as a camping and fishing spot.
The Evangeline Area Council purchased the site in 1924 or 1925 and constructed an all-purpose frame building (dining hall), a water well with a hand pump, and a dry pit latrine.
The camp could accommodate only 35 to 40 scouts per week. Upon the suggestion of Dr A.J. Perrault, council Scout commissioner, the heirs of John Thistlethwaite donated the 125-acre campsite to the council as a memorial to John R. Thistlethwaite, former chairman of the Opelousas District Scout Committee.
At that time the camp was renamed Camp Thistlethwaite.
Since a council camp site must be large enough to accommodate 300 scouts and leaders each week during the summer season, 500 acres of land are needed. The heirs of John R. Thistlethwaite and members of Dr. L. Lazaro family gave EAC permission to use additional acreage.
Under the direction of a Camp Development Committee headed by J.P. Barnett in 1937-44, many major improvements were made at the camp. In 1945 (possibly 1942) a concrete swimming pool, 45-by-105 feet, and a deep-water well with water storage tank were added because health authorities would not approve Bayou Cocodrie for swimming purposes.
In 1953, health authorities would not approve the old dining hall, and a new brick building was constructed. This is the fireplace and foundation for the current Ted Schadd Pavillion.
In 1955 a Quonset-hut type of building was erected and is being used for equipment storage, trading post and as a handicraft shop.
In the spring of 1962, the road was relocated away from the bayou bank to allow the high land to be used for 10 troop campsites and other facilities.
Other Noteworthy History
The first cub pack organized in the Evangeline Area Council was organized by the Parent’s Club of St. Peter’s College in New Iberia, with Mr. Paul Doerle Sr. as Cubmaster. Doerle had previously been a Cubmaster and chairman of the Council Cubbing Committee in Beaumont, Texas.
The first senior scout unit organized in the Evangeline Area Council was a Sea Scout Ship organized by the First Methodist Church in New Iberia. Jamie C. Reed Jr. was the first skipper.
In 1960, Joseph Sinclair, 16-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sinclair Sr. of Crowley and member of Troop 722 sponsored by the St. Theresa Catholic Church, became the first Scout of African-American descent to be awarded the Eagle Award in Evangeline Area Council.
First National Jamboree Participation
The first National Jamboree was scheduled for 1935 in Washington, D.C.
Robert E. Brumby of Franklin, scoutmaster of the second troop in the council in 1914, was selected Scoutmaster for the council contingent. Unfortunately, the 1935 Jamboree was canceled because of an epidemic of infantile paralysis (polio). Brumby took the council contingent to the Ozark Mountains on a camping trip.
The first National Jamboree was held in Washington in 1937. Again, Brumby was the Scoutmaster.
(Information from Silver Beaver nomination … recipient 1936)
First Council-wide Camporee
On Oct. 2-3, 1939, the Evangeline Area Council held its first councilwide camporee at Evangeline National Park in St. Martinville.
The camporee was planned and conducted by Scout Executive Bernard A. Lang and Camporee Chairman Robert E. Brumby. Troops from Patterson (41), Franklin, Jeanerette (16), Weeks Island (4), New Iberia (28), Lafayette (22), Breaux Bridge (25) and St. Martinville (27) attended (from a Boy Scout news story).
A.W. Silverman, assistant camporee director, wrote: “The first object of the camporee was to bring together as many of the scouts as possible from the entire council. It tends to raise the standards of the scouts, both individually and collectively. They attended and camped by patrols, thus learning to take care of themselves in the open. In order to be able to judge their own ability and progress, they were graded on scorecards against a standard at the end of camp, and were allowed to study this card before leaving. “Points were awarded based on … condition of camp, planning menus and preparation of food, patrol spirit, use of time, personal neatness and conduct, observing the Scout Oath and Law, and other points of efficiency in Scouting.” (based on a newspaper account, 17 patrols qualified as standard scout camping patrols).
The campfire program Friday night was under direction of Leo Broussard of Kaplan and was held in the rear of the park on the bank of the Teche. “The weather was perfect, and the full moon shining over the trees on the opposite bank completed an ideal setting. The attendance of spectators at the campfire was very good considering that it was the initial camporee. (One newspaper account records more than 120 Boy Scouts and 200 adult Scouters attended the campfire). Short speeches were made by the Directors and various members of the Council. The Scouts contributed most of the program as each patrol was required to put on a stunt.”
“Something rather new and unique was instituted by … Brumby. He had moving pictures taken of the camp and the historical tours and, although they are of the hand-Kodak type, they will serve as permanent records and enable Scouts, Scouters and others in the distant future to look back with pleasure and pride to the first annual Camporee. More than that, they serve as a basis on which to build bigger and better Camporees in the interest of scouting in the Evangeline Area Council, comprising the communities of South Louisiana.”
(Note: This brief historical sketch is a work in progress.
Much of the information was gleaned from council records and especially from a council history file maintained largely by B.A. “Pops” Lang. Although this information has been compiled from several sources, including newspaper articles and direct writings of Mr. Lang, the information has not been thoroughly “fact-checked” and no doubt contains some factual errors. Please forward corrections to me. The council is also interested in copies of pictures of early Scouts, Scouters and Scout units, Scout activities (especially early), and pictures showing Camp Thistlethwaite).