Troop 58 History

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Troop 58 has been serving the youth in the Town of Bethlehem for over 100 years. We were chartered on November 28, 1919, making us one of the oldest troops in Albany County. The troop was formed as “Troop 1 of Elsmere” under the leadership of Scoutmaster Kenneth Swallow and met at the old Elsmere school house. According to official records, the scouts went on two five-mile hikes in their first year!

Mr. Swallow moved away in the spring of 1920 and the Troop continued under the leadership of Carl Wehrle. According to a story in the Albany Evening Journal of October 12, 1920. 

Plans are on foot by the citizens of Elsmere to give a reception of some nature in honor of Elsmere Troop No. 1, Boy Scouts of America, of this village, who were winners of the championship of Fort Orange Council at the rally in Washington Park last Saturday afternoon. The winning of the rally by the local troop demonstrated what constant training and excellent leadership will do along these lines. The troop is also the youngest in Fort Orange council, being organized only a little over a year ago, and has only a membership of 12, but these 12 are always at the regular meetings and have their mind always on Scout affairs.

The story added,

Mr. Wehrle intends to launch a campaign to more than double the membership of his troop during the coming winter months. The quota of the Elsmere troop in the present campaign to raise funds for the budget is $50 and it is expected that this amount will be oversubscribed. A meeting in the interest of the Scouts and also to report on the progress of the campaign for the $50 will be held in the Elsmere school house tonight.

The troop’s first re-chartering application was dated November 5, 1920. The group responsible for the scouts was given as “community troop”, operating under the supervision of the recently organized Fort Orange Council. An Albany Evening Journal story from June 27, 1921 reported that, The Elsmere Boy Scout troop, in command of Scoutmaster Carl L. Wehrle, encamped on the farm of Erastus C. Hill on the picturesque Normanskill over Saturday and Sunday. There were 10 tents to set up and the boys had an enjoyable time swimming, fishing and in other outdoor sports. Assistant Scoutmaster Henry Lawrence was chef, and prepared some tasteful dishes.

The troop continued to be sponsored by the Elsmere community throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. The scouts were led by Troopmaster Leonard Walter through the remainder of the 1920’s, competing in council competitions as part of Division 6, which included the Tri-Village area, Voorheesville, Guilderland and Altamont. Annual contests among troops included competition in drill, bugling, knot tying, Morse signaling, fire by friction, and many other categories. The scouts were divided into the Eagle and the Wolf patrols. During the 1920’s and 30’s, the troop had many summer trips to the council's Camp Hawley, which was located on Kinderhook Lake. It held an annual dinner in the spring at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

During the 1920’s and into the 1930’s, our Scouts would receive their merit badges and rank advancements at what was known as the “Suburban Court of Honor.” Articles appearing in the Altamont Enterprise and Albany Times-Union in late 1920’s reported that the Court was a permanent group of adult leaders that oversaw troops in Elsmere, Delmar, Slingerlands, Voorheesville, Ravena and other areas. The group apparently also acted as the board of review and held examinations for rank advancement. We remained “Troop 1 of Elsmere” until 1928, when we became “Elsmere Troop 58”. Prior to this, newer Boy Scout troops had been given numbers that made no reference to their community while older troops had clung to their traditional number-community identification. This meant that there was a “Troop 1 of Voorheesville,” “Troop 1 of Slingerlands,” “Troop 1 of Delmar,” but also troops only identified with numbers, such as “Troop 6” or “Troop 44.” The uniform system imposed in 1928 renumbered all the old “Troop 1 of....” Perhaps this was less confusing, but it meant that older troops such as ours lost the pride of place of their lower numbers.

In the 1930’s, Troop 58 attended camps and council jamborees at the Altamont Camp Grounds, Big Moose Pioneer Camp and a Caroga Lake camp, both in the Adirondacks, Camp Hawley in Columbia County, Camp Gorton on Lake Waneta in the Finger Lakes, and starting in 1938, Camp Boyhaven in Saratoga County During these years, the troop was led by Scoutmaster Seton R. Droppers and was a part of the council’s Bethlehem-New Scotland district. In 1934, members of the troop were asked to assist the New York State Conservation Department in erecting emergency game bird feeding stations over a seven-mile area to assist birds which were starving due to unusually heavy snowfall.

From the time of the troop’s founding, meetings had been held at Elsmere school buildings, first at the old Elsmere community school and then at the new Elsmere Elementary School, which opened in 1928. In those years, the Elsmere community was listed as the sponsor of the troop. For example, a 1938 the Times-Union reported that a number of individuals – including Scoutmaster Droppers, several Assistant Scoutmasters and members of the troop committee – were the group applying for a renewal of the troop’s charter.

A more formal sponsorship system seems to have be adopted by the Boy Scouts sometime in the next few years. By early 1941, the Nathaniel Adams Blanchard American Legion Post #1040 had become our chartering sponsor, although the troop continued to meet at the Elsmere school. Then, as now, the troop took part in the Memorial Day Parade on the route running from the Legion building to the cemetery and on to the Veterans’ Memorial Park. The Troop also had the honor of participating in the wreath-placing ceremony at the grave of Nathaniel Blanchard. For the next several decades, the Post would have an annual charter presentation ceremony, where the Post commander would give the troop its annual charter. The Post also hosted Christmas parties for the Troop and from time to time conducted formal

troop reviews.

During the Second World War, Troop 58 took part in many drives for scrap metal, paper, and curiously, metal typewriter spools, which according to one report “have become a war scarcity.” The scouts sold the spools to an Albany typewriter company and used the proceeds to support their summer camping in the Helderbergs. Members of the troop also took odd jobs to raise money for the Red Cross War Fund and helped distribute War Fund posters. During these years, the troop was led by Scoutmaster Carl Christensen.

During the 1950's and 60's, the troop was part of the Helderberg District of the Fort Orange- Uncle Sam Council. The scouts took part in many of the Nathaniel Blanchard Post’s flag activities, helping to distribute flags, promote correct flag use, and dispose of old flags respectfully.

Our troop eventually grew so large that we split into two units. The second unit, Troop 85, was organized in 1954 and was sponsored by the Men’s Club of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. An Albany Times-Union story from March 23, 1962 noted that the troop had “the unique honor of having 13 active Eagle Scouts in the 43-member troop,” almost half the Eagle Scouts in Fort Orange Council. However, Troop 85 ceased to exist in the late 1970’s, leaving Troop 58 the sole Elsmere troop.

In 1963, Fort Orange Council merged with two councils serving Columbia and Rensselaer counties to form the Governor Clinton Council. Increased environmental awareness in the early 1970’s led to the creation of the Elsmere School Community Organization, which worked with Troop 58 to develop a nature trail and study area near the Elsmere Elementary School. Scouts cut a loop trail through woodland, marshland and the hill behind the school. The scouts were organized by one of their own, Eagle Scout candidate Dan Cassidy. The project was one in the long history of service projects organized by the troop’s Eagle Scout candidates.

In 1974, and as a result of the nationwide energy crisis, the Bethlehem Central School District could no longer provide us with a meeting place because it had become too costly to heat the building after school hours. We were offered a temporary meeting place at the Delmar Coffee House on Adams Street. This “temporary” arrangement lasted almost six years, until the Coffee House closed in 1980.

For the following three years, we held our meetings in the gymnasium of the Bethlehem Town Hall on Delaware Ave (formerly the Delmar Elementary School). But as the building saw greater use over the years, scheduling conflicts with other organizations increased, making us realize we needed to move again. In 1983, we returned to the gymnasium of the Elsmere School, and in 1984, we also acquired the use of the school cafeteria, as well as some storage space in the school basement for our equipment.

Our scouts took an unusual trip in 1980, when they went on a week-long voyage on a brigantine sailing Lake Ontario. In 1982, Troop 58 celebrated its 63rd anniversary with ceremony presenting the troop’s old 48-star flag to past Scoutmaster Kenneth Bauer. According to the story in the Spotlight(March 22, 1982), Mr. Bauer was affectionately known as “K.B.” and had counselled over 250 scouts since 1964. The story added that, often called “the camping troop,” Troop 58 schedules an outing each month of the year, including a ‘long term’ trip by canoe. Last year, members spent seven days travelling from Blue Mountain Lake through Raquette Lake to Forked Lake and back.

Our scouts have continued this tradition with wilderness trips to remote central Quebec in 1986, the Maine National High Adventure Canoe Base in 1990, the Northern Tier High Adventure Base in Minnesota in 2012, Florida Sea Base in 2013, and the Philmont Ranch in 2014 and 2019, to name a few.

In 1990, another council merger took place, this time with our council joining those serving Saratoga, Schenectady counties and the Sir William Johnson Council to form the Twin Rivers Council. The council grew again in 1998, with the addition of Washington and Warren counties. Meanwhile, the troop celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1995, one year late!

In May of 2007, after the school district began to charge us for use of the school facilities, we moved our meetings to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. And most recently, the Troop has been holding our regular weekly meetings in the parish hall of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, directly across the street from our sponsor, the Blanchard American Legion Post.

As the 21st century opened, we addressed an issue that had long troubled to better organize and store our equipment. In 2003, as the result of generous donations from troop members, alumni, and a special grant from Verizon, we were able to buy the trailer we needed. Now the question was where to safely store the trailer when it was not being used. In 2004, we began discussions with the Post and the town about constructing a garage on the Post property in Elsmere. The project was spearheaded by Scoutmaster Paul Supple. Following significant fundraising efforts, and substantial contributions from the Standish Foundation, Hanifin Builders, Curtis Lumber, and many other donors, the garage became a reality in 2006, and a formal dedication ceremony was held in May 2007. Ironically, we no longer own the trailer since the garage suits all our storage needs.

Some of our recent adventures include: Skiing and snowboarding in Vermont and the Adirondacks. Canoeing and rafting on the Batten Kill, the Delaware River, and on Adirondack lakes. Hiking on the Appalachian Trail, in the Catskills, and in the Adirondacks. “Mystery trips” to Washington D. C., New York City, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg. And visits to the halls of government.

Our troop has seen many good times. Our numbers have swelled to over 60 scouts, and at other times as few as 12. We congratulate all those who achieved the Eagle Scout rank, and who now look back on their years in Troop 58 with pride.

There are good reasons to take pride in our troop.


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