17 of Claude, Texas has had the reputation locally for being the ‘Oldest
Troop in the West’. However, history may require revision of that
claim. Big Springs, Texas, Troop 1 lays claim to being the oldest continuously
chartered unit west of the Mississippi. According to records, it
appears that Troop 1, Big Springs, received its first charter from the
Boy Scouts of America, dated September 30, 1911 and aside from years 1989
- 1993, has been continuously chartered and is still active today.
A Troop in Dallas, sponsored through the YMCA, claims to have been chartered in 1910. The first Scoutmaster in Texas to be registered with the BSA was Rev. George W. Sheafor, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Comanche, Texas, in 1910, but that troop did not last more than a couple of years. Troop 258 in Corsicana claims to be the oldest continuously chartered’ with a date of 1915. We have no way of knowing which troop is the "oldest continuously chartered west of the Mississippi" as the BSA does not keep records on such. Suffice it to say, Troop 17 of Claude, Texas was among the first Boy Scout troops to be organized and chartered in Texas. For more information on the first Texas Boy Scout Troops, a website: www.westtexasscouthistory.net, lists as many as have offered their stories.
Claude, Texas, Boy Scout Troop 17, known as the “Lone Star Pioneers”, was organized by Dr. W.A. Warner in 1912. As Dr. Warner’s drugstore unfortunately burned several years later, and all records destroyed, no original Troop 17 Charter documentation exists. Of course, the Troop maintained that they were the “Oldest Troop West of the Mississippi”, however unsupportable the claim. Perhaps the assertion recruited boys to the Troop? What with records-keeping and communications resources back then, it is no wonder that several groups claimed the same title. What boy could resist being a member of a such a historical Troop?
Troop 17 membership was about 30 boys and they met upstairs over Dr. Warner’s drug store. Dr. William Warner was the founder and 1st Scoutmaster. In the early years, W.W Hood was also involved as a Scout leader. In years following, Bert C. Woolridge, Cecil Waggoner, Jimmy .L. McFarland, and Wayne Blodgett, Mark Thomas, and Jerry Bowen have served as Scoutmasters. Michael Stavenhagen is currently Troop 17 Scoutmaster. Dr. Warner, Cecil Waggoner, Jimmy McFarland, and Michael Stavenhagen are Silver Beaver recipients, Scouting‘s highest award for outstanding service to the BSA. During Cecil Waggoner’s long tenure, there were as many as 40 Boy Scouts. There were many campouts and activities for those Scouts to remember, as Mr. Waggoner was Scoutmaster for many years.
Claude’s Troop was rev’ed up under Wayne Blodgett’s leadership, in the late 70’s. Troop 17 is active and currently sponsored by the American Legion, Post 344, with a membership of approximately 7 Scouts and half-a-dozen leaders.
Former Troop 17 Scouts have many fond memories to share. A former Boy Scout and Explorer Scout, Sam Stewart, recalls his times with Troop 17 began in 1944. There wasn’t a Cub Scout Den at that time, but he was really keen on joining the Scouts. There were about 18 boys in the Troop at that time. Cecil Waggoner was his Scoutmaster, and was the longest-serving Troop 17 Scoutmaster so far. Bert Wooldridge was also involved, and the two of them continued to serve as Scout leaders in spite of their tours of duty in the Second World War.
In 1950, Sam attended a National Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. His brother, Wallace Stewart, had attended the First International Scout Jamboree in France in 1937. Sam recalled that Troop 17 was known by the nickname the ‘Lone Star Pioneers’. The Lone Star Pioneers had a colorful silk-screened neckerchief that featured a border of lightning bolts, a Connestoga wagon with the number ‘17’ in a star and ‘Claude Tex.’ at the bottom. “Oldest Troop in the West” was also printed over the name: ‘Lone Star Pioneers’. Sam said he traded about 40 of these colorful and wildly popular neckerchiefs at the Jamboree with other Scouts from all-over. Who wouldn’t want such a neckerchief even today? In fact, if any readers happen to have an original, the Claude Scout leadership would be very keen on copying it for the 100th birthday of Troop 17 in 2 years.
Other Scouts from Claude’s Troop 17 include Bill Forbes and Ben Ballard, among many others. Ben Ballard recalls being in a Cub Scout den in the early 1950‘s, soon after Cub Scouting was created as a part of Boy Scouts. His Den Mother was Icy Chapman. At that time, there were about 12 Cubs in 3 dens. Ben recalls using a giant tarp for a cooking fly, with a bus to support it, on camping trips to Colorado Springs, CO, Aguilar, NM, and Cimmaron Canyon, NM. Highlights of his Scouting experience: an 80 mile hike through Philmont Scout Ranch also near Cimmaron, NM (that’s a hike!); a canoe trip in Minnesota in 1955; and attending a National Jamboree at Philadelphia, PA in 1956.
Troop 17 of Claude has a long, proud history. With hopes for many more years of prosperity and Claude’s support, Troop 17 joins in the celebration of 100 years of Boy Scouts of America and in 2 years, its own 100th birthday!
We want to thank John E. Forbis, Nondestructive Testing & Evaluation, Amarillo College, for providing us with this sotry.