Seton at Silver Bay

The Boy Scouts of America organizers planned an experimental long-term camp from August 16 to September 1, 1910. This is considered the first BSA summer camp.

115 young men from various groups around the country were invited to participate in an encampment that was officially described by the BSA as America’s First Scout Camp. There were twenty groups of approximately six boys each.

The camp was held at the Silver Bay YMCA facility on Lake George in Silver Bay in the Adirondack region of upstate New York. The Silver Bay YMCA is still known as the Silver Bay YMCA Conference and Family Retreat Center.

William D. Murray served as the camp director, while Ernest Thompson Seton was selected to organize and lead the camp program, assisted by Edgar M. Robinson, a YMCA official instrumental in the launch of the BSA. They led a camp program similar to Seton’s existing Woodcraft camps.

The young men who were invited to participate came from many different groups in different cities, some were Seton Indians, some were involved with Dan Beard’s Sons of Daniel Boone and others in fledgling Boy Scout troops that had been set up in various locations before the BSA was organized, using the British scouting model.

In a sense, the camp was a demonstration of the various elements and ideas that were melding into the Boy Scouts of America.

Robinson was quoted as describing the camp this way: “In camp at Silver Bay, the pot was boiling, and certain ingredients from the English Scout Movement manual were mixed with the program ideas of the Woodcraft Indians, Sons of Daniel Boone, and Y.M.C.A. groups. A certain “Boy Scouts” flavoring was added to the original plan – but neither Seton nor Beard at that time had anything that could be called troops of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Various dignitaries visited the camp while it was in session. According to some reports, James E. West was a visitor to the camp. A few months later, he became the first Chief Scout Executive and a dominant force in the growth of the BSA for over 30 years.

Dan Beard visited the camp and demonstrated axe-throwing, somewhat to Seton’s chagrin as a result of the damage to trees.

The original campfire site at Silver Bay fell into disuse. In 1947, the Boy Scouts of America constructed a new council ring on the site as a gift to Silver Bay and to commemorate the significance of this first American Boy Scout camp.

Boys of Baltimore Group at Camp Silver Bay (B&W)
Baltimore Group Campsite at Silver Bay
Around the Council Fire Seton Camp at Silver Bay (B&W)
Council Ring at Silver Bay (1910)
Silver Bay Boy Scout Invitation
An Invitation to the Silver Bay Camp
Boy Scouts of America at Camp Silver Bay
Ernest Thompson Seton at Silver Bay Camp
Boy Scouts of America at Silver Bay YMCA Camp

Dedication of Silver Bay Council Ring (1947)

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