In August 1907, Lord Robert Baden-Powell formed the first Boy Scout troop in England. Scouting came to the United States when the Boy Scouts of America were incorporated under laws of the District of Columbia on February 8, 1910.
In 1911, Professor James Sloan, a teacher and principal at Heilwood, gathered 15 boys from the area and organized the first Boy Scout troop in Indiana County. Since Indiana County had no local council, the troop in Heilwood was chartered by the Boy Scout’s National Council. The Indiana County Council of the Boy Scouts wasn’t organized until 1920.
This troop is believed to be the oldest in what is now the Penns Woods Council, which includes all of Indiana, Cambria, Somerset, Blair, and Bedford counties, as well as parts of Armstrong, Westmoreland, and Huntington counties.
The original members of the troop (see photo) included (front row / left to right): Earl Hanna, Morris Ragosin, unknown, Joseph Sellers, Aaron Dowler, Chester Haynes, Professor James Sloan (Scoutmaster); and (second row) J. Blair Muffley, Gordon Yaher, Henry Wissinger, Ellery Hubbard, Ralph Muffley, Joseph Evans, Raymond Wallace. Members who were missing when the photo was taken included Max Bovlin, William Carr, and John E. Davis.
BOY SCOUT ACTIVITIES
Any activities of the Heilwood troop from 1911 until 1923 cannot be located. However, starting in 1924, the troop participated in the following reported activities: camping at Camp William Penn near Cherry Tree (1924); traveling to Pittsburgh to visit the Carnegie Museum, the Heinz Plant, and watching a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game (1927); participating in the Annual Bird House Building Contest (1928), after which the winners traveled to Harrisburg and Gettysburg. In October 1928, the largest and best-attended scouting activity in Heilwood was the presentation of the Eagle Scout Badge to Carl Babiak, the first Scout to obtain such distinction in the Heilwood troop as well as Pine Township.
In the 1930s, the troop participated in the following reported activities: traveling to Pittsburgh for a baseball game (1930); Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge Exposition (1930) (see photo at right); playing neighboring troops (Commodore) in basketball (1931); Boy Scout Camporee in Punxsutawney (1931); District Scout Rally (1932); District Boy Scout basketball tournament (1932); Annual Bird House Building Contest (1933); First Aid Meet (1933); playing neighboring troops (Clymer-Indiana) in basketball (1933); awarded the President Hoover Award (1933); Scout Camporee and Outdoor Jamboree (1933); Annual Bird House Building Contest (1934); Marble Championships (1934); camping at Camp William Penn along Yellow Creek at Dead Waters (1936); Annual Bird House Building Contest (1937).
While participating in the above activities, several members of the Heilwood troop distinguished themselves by winning various awards. In the 1928 Bird House Contest Frank Suhar took 3rd place and Octavius Cicero took 4th place in the Tender Foot Division, and Steve Stupic took 4th place in the 2nd Class Scout Division.
In the 1932 District Scout Rally, Frank Salley took 3rd place in First Aid and Frank Suhar took a 1st place in Compass. Also, Ivan McCullough took 2nd place in Horse & Rider and Joe Suhar/Frank Salley placed in Compass. The Scout Camporee of 1933 saw Pete Mekulsia take 3rd place in string burning along with Suhar and Leis taking 3rd place in Tent Pitching.
Members of the community as well as coal company officials took an active interest in the troop by serving in different capacities through the years. Robert Laing, George Lindsay, J. R. Duncan, Dr. Lyons, W. A. Dinsmore, George Fields, Howard Kuhns, E. J. Barber, Reverend C. Leroy DePrefontaine, Steve Popovich, Boyd Lingenfelter, Carl Babiak, and Don Croyle are some of the individuals who provided service and support to the troop.
Additionally, J. Blair Muffley, an original member of the first troop in Heilwood, became the first Scoutmaster of a Heilwood troop to come under the jurisdiction of the Indiana County Council formed in June 1920. Another original member of the first troop in Heilwood, John E. Davis, became the President of the William Penn Council in 1939. Mr. Davis was the first scout to rise through the ranks to become President of the Council (see photo).
Not only did the scouts in Heilwood and surrounding towns receive support from their communities, they also received support from the Indiana State Teachers College. ISTC conducting Leadership Training Courses in the summer, and offered leaders from the various county scout troops the opportunity to complete an approved course in Scoutmastership, sponsored by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Lisle Learn, Reverend C. Leroy DePrefontaine, J. R. Duncan, and Raymond Lockard, all from Heilwood, were some of the individuals who participated in the Leadership Training Courses (see certificate).
Two meeting places for the Heilwood troop reportedly were the Scout Room in the high school and the community club rooms located on the second floor of the company store. Also, a map of Heilwood from circa 1919 (see below) shows a “Boy Scout Camp” in an easterly direction behind Staff Street. The camp is situated in a direct line with the elementary school and the former teacher’s dormitory building.
Each year, the Executive Board of the BSA required the Heilwood troop to renew its unit charter. In 1947, the charter for renewal was issued to “a group of citizens” from the town (see document), whereby they pledged to provide adequate facilities, supervision, and leadership for a period of at least one year and to make an effort to provide members with a quality program experience.
On July 18, 1950, three members of Heilwood Troop #17 were recognized for saving the life of George Ronchak of Brooklyn, New York, who was overcome while swimming in Yellow Creek in August 1949. After pulling him from the water, Boy Scouts Francis Konchan, Alex Jusko Jr., and John Stupic administered artificial respiration and first aid treatment (see newspaper account). Francis Konchan was awarded the Metal of Merit and Certificates of Merit were given to Alex Jusko Jr. and John Stupic (see photo).