Harlan County’s long history of scouting is now highlighted on a Kentucky Historical Highway Marker which was unveiled and dedicated on Tuesday on the lawn of the First Presbyterian Church in Harlan.
Marker #2413 highlights and honors the rich history of more than a century of scouting in the community.
The sign reads: “A Boy Scout troop was organized by Will Ward Duffield and chartered by the National BSA Council on June 20, 1912 at the Harlan Presbyterian Church. The troop’s first camping trip was featured in Boy’s Life. One-hundred years of scouting in Harlan was celebrated at Camp Blanton on June 23, 2012.”
Mason Miller, a Life Scout with Troop 149, saw his Eagle Scout project come to fruition when he was joined by longtime scout leader and supporter Dr. Murph Green to uncover the sign for those gathered on the church lawn for the occasion.
Harlan Attorney Sid Douglass was the first Eagle Scout in the original group which was previously called Troop 1 prior to changes by the scouting organization to Troop 501 and now Troop 149.
Green spoke briefly about his scouting experiences and some of the local history. He joined scouts when he was 12.
Douglass gave an abbreviated keynote address due to the frigid air that moved into the area earlier in the day.
“One of the earliest Boy Scout Troops in Kentucky was organized by Will Ward Duffield in Harlan in the spring of 1912 and chartered by the National Boy Scouts of America on June 20, 1912,” said Douglass.
Duffield realized southeastern Kentucky offered one of the most promising fields for development of the Boy Scout movement and was appointed commissioner of the Harlan Council by the National Council of Boy Scouts. A charter was issued to the Harlan troop on June 30, 1912.
“The troop started with 57 boys and grew to over 100 boys,” said Douglass, calling of numerous names of those charter members. He said Tom Ward Jr. was the first Scoutmaster. “The troop meetings were held in the Kentenia office on the second floor of the First State Bank building … the boys took their first camping trip in August 1912. The scouts hiked from Harlan, up Catrons Creek, crossing Catrons Gap and camped for 10 days at Smith.”
For the first 75 years, the troop associated with the Presbyterian Church was known as Troop 1. In the 1980s it was changed to 501, before later receiving today’s number of 149. David Howard is the current scoutmaster.
Mason’s father, Will is the assistant scoutmaster. He served as the emcee for the marker dedication.
Becky Riddle, historical marker program director, took part in the program
The historical marker program is administered by the Kentucky Historical Society in cooperation with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.