History of Comanche Trail Council and Camp Billy Gibbons

James C. Rominger and Mrs. John W. Gibbons

Picture at right shows historical plaque located in front of the dining hall at Camp Billy Gibbons in memory of Billy Gibbons.  Shown in photo are James C. Rominger, Breckenridge, Council President, and Mrs. John W. Gibbons, wife of the son of Billy Gibbons. 

Here is the speech presented by John R. Wood at the Dedication Program for the Historical Marker for William Henry Gibbons (Uncle Billy Gibbons) Saturday, November 3, 1979 at Camp Billy Gibbons during a Fall Fellowship of the Order of the Arrow:

January 1927

The Eastland Council Boy Scouts of America was organized. Ernest Voss, Deputy Regional Executive met with Guy N., Quirl and stayed several days assisting in the organization. W. W. Housewright of Eastland was chosen as President of the Council. Training courses for leaders were held in Eastland, Ranger and Cisco for three months. Four troops were organized in each of the three towns. In April 1927 Troop 103 of Eastland and Troop 101 of Cisco were organized and have been in continuous operation since that time.

The latter part of 1927 or early 1928, Stephens County was added to Eastland County. The Name was changed to the Oil Belt Council with the offices being maintained in Eastland with desk space in the Chamber of Commerce. The first summer camp was held in Stephens County on Big Sandy with about sixty scouts in attend-ance for one week. The Scout Executive, with the aid of board members of the two county council decided to move the summer camp to an area where there was running water. Alex Clark, with the Arab Gasoline Corporation, was president of the Council at that time, Joe Perkins of Eastland, geologist for the same corporation and the new executive secretary, was formed as a committee to seek such a site. One was located in Mason County on the Fritz Martin Ranch, sixteen miles from the town of Mason, some 150 miles from Eastland. The permit was for "free" plus the $500.00 mess hall, which was used for a camp for the next five years. Planks were sold for a dollar each to area citizens to raise money for building the mess hall. The camp was named Camp Martin, named for the owner, Mr. Fritz Martin.

1928

In early 1928 a Boy Scout Council was organized in Brownwood, Erath, Comanche, Brown, Mills, San Saba and Lampasas counties comprising the new council named "Pecan Valley Council." Jack Brumgardner was named the new Boy Scout Executive with offices in the old American Legion Hall, which was located in the basement of the Brown County Court House. Some of the members of the council were Dr. Tom Taylor, Dr. O. E. Winebrenner of Howard Payne College, J. W. Wilkes of the Brownwood Hardware Company, Dr. R. A. Ellis, Bert E. Weatherby, all of Brownwood, and Earl Fairiman of Goldthwaite, Lynn Ward of San Saba, Dr. N. D. Taylor of Lampasas, L. W. Phillips of Stephenville Chamber of Commerce. Pecan Valley Council showed growth until the crash in 1929.

1929

When the "Crash" came in 1929, all of the banks that held the Council Funds closed. So the little council struggled along until 1932;, The first camp for the Pecan Valley Council was
held on the Ellis Ranch in San Saba County on the San Saba River and was named Camp Ellis. This council also had diffi-culties until 1932. At this time C. L. Pouncey, a Brownwood business man and scoutmaster took over as Executive of the struggling council.

1930

This summer the Pecan Valley Council held its summer camp near the town of Barksdale, Texas and carried the name of Camp Barks-dale.

1931

In 1931 a summer camp was held near the mouth of Brady Creek on the Gibbons Ranch. C. L. Pouncey, acting Scout Executive, was the camp director that year.. Uncle Billy Gibbons was owner of the ranch and the scouts had permission to hike and explore over the some 50,000-acre ranch. The camp was a tent camp and had no permanent buildings of any kind. There was a brush shelter put up for the cooks to use to prepare meals and a tent to eat in. Uncle Billy Gibbons said he would give a ninety-nine year lease of this spot for a summer camp area to the Pecan Valley Council for free. There were some 100 scouts and leaders attending this camp. An old "Poppin Johnny" gasoline engine and pump supplied water for the camp from Brady Creek.

1932

Because the Pecan Valley Council was having to struggle and was quite heavily in debt, and the Oil Belt Council was having its problems too, James Fitch, regional scout executive, called the two boards together and organized a new council. This was done and the name selected was Comanche Trail Council and is comprised of eight counties, Brown, Eastland, Stephens, Erath, Comanche, Mills, San Saba and Lampasas. Guy N. Quirl was selected as the First Boy Scout Executive for the new council with offices in the basement of the Brown County Court House. Guy Quirl was assisted for a while by C. L. Pouncey, acting executive of the Pecan Valley Council but resigned his post in the fall of 1932. Will Tolbert of Brownwood was selected to assist in getting the finances of the council in good con-dition, and by the end of the year, all debts of the council were paid off. At the end of 1932 Mr. E. J. Weatherby of Brownwood set up a "Chuck Wagon Breakfast" to start a drive to set up machinery to finance the new Council. This breakfast was attended by some 100 men who voted to move all the summer equipment from Camp Martin to Camp Billy Gibbons at the mouth of Brady Creek. Dr. Jewel Daughtery was name the first president of Comanche Trail Council.

Camp improvement was started at once. C. L. Pouncey headed a crew of ten Boy Scouts and a cook by the name of Dan Gill went to camp and built a small dam across Brady Creek to make a good-swimming hole. John Gibbons loaned a wagon and a fine team of mules to haul sand and gravel to the dam site and haul supplies from Richland Springs. John R. Wood was selected as "mule skinner." The dam was completed in about two weeks and a temporary mess hall was set up. The team of mules was used at summer camp, handled by Wood, and was the last time that a wagon and team was used at the camp.

1937

All went well with the camp until the summer of 1937 when the "Big Flood" hit the camp. Much of the equipment and buildings were destroyed or damaged to a degree. A few boys including Guy Quirl, Charles Rutherford of Rising Star, scoutmasters and several boys were stranded at the camp for several days. Finally they escaped through Brady, Santa Anna and Brownwood.

1938

Before new buildings were erected on the campsite after the flood, a twenty-five year lease on the campsite was secured from the Gibbons Ranch. Then, a new rock mess hall for a while and then a concrete floor was poured with volunteer labor. This site was used until 1945.

1945

Jake Hammondís interest bought this part of the Gibbons Ranch and cleaned out all the trees that made the campsite attractive. It became apparent that the camp would have to move. John Gibbons and his family offered a new site some seven miles up Brady Creek near Old Blue Hole on the north side of Brady Creek. The scout executive and representatives of the Board looked over and approved the new site for Camp Billy Gibbons. Here a good concrete and rock dam has been constructed with all the good qualities that the 103-acre site can offer.

Other improvements are the good rock and concrete mess hall, canteen and crafts building, o. A. building, shower buildings and a good building for the cooks to live in. There are also an improved rifle range and improved necessary health facilities at each troop campsite. These are some of the assets that make Camp Billy Gibbons the best wilderness camp in the country.

1979

This year we ran three weeks of camp and provided 230 boy scouts with summer camp from some twenty-two units and a camp staff of some eighteen people.

The following is a statement that was included in the deed of this camp site to The Comanche Trail Council in 1947:

"The gift and grant of the lands hereafter described is being made by John W. Gibbons and his wife Jennie May Gibbons, because of their interest in boyhood and the future citizenship of this nation and because they fully understand and appreciate the high ideals, training and program of the Boy Scouts of America, and they verily believe that this gift and donation will be of much encouragement to the Boy Scout program, which after all has for its purpose the teaching and training of young boys in self reliance, courage, honor, patriotism, good sportsmanship, loyal citizenship and many other kindred virtues. Then too, the said John W. Gibbons is anxious that this camp be established on lands now owned by him, and formerly owned by his illustrious father, W. H. (Uncle Billy) Gibbons, to the end that the Gibbons name might be forever linked and identified with the great and noble program. John W. Gibbons verily believed that his father would be pleased with this gift and after all that is said and done, this act on his part constitutes nothing more than lengthening the shadow of the noble life of Uncle Billy Gibbons."



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