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May 5: Boy Scouts in North Dakota

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In August 1907, General Sir Robert S. S. Baden-Powell of England organized the Boy Scout Movement, to motivate, teach skills, and give agency to local boys. It didn’t take long for this idea to spread across the world. In the spring of 1910, a newspaper reported that the Young Men’s Christian association scouts had formed in Springfield, Massachusetts “Clad in khaki suits, golf hose, belts, and rakish slouch hats.”

Reports and opinions about the “Boy Scout movement” swept the country. One letter published in the Washburn Leader opined, “The boy scout movement should have a nobler destiny than most fads of the kind. Of course, it is a fad, and after the novelty is worn off, will be likely to degenerate into mischief or hoodlumism unless a mark is set for something nobler than mere pastime.”

Most saw it as a positive experience for youths that could keep them from degradation. For example, The Dickinson Press noted that the organization was being backed by anyone “interested in the development of boys into honest, manly men, rather than into a race of flat-chested cigarette smokers.”

In fact, a group of Sunday School boys at the Congregational Church of Dickinson had already begun to organize by October that year, where the newspaper reported that “the Boy Scouts, that fascinating organization for boys that is spreading so rapidly throughout the United States and abroad, has gained recognition in Western North Dakota.”

In November, an organizational meeting held in Fargo pulled in more than 100 interested boys. In April 1911, The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican reported that they would add some space devoted to the Boy Scouts of North Dakota in every Thursday issue. Editor Hartley of Wahpeton would lead the Boy Scout section in the newspapers; he had been “largely instrumental in organizing camps in the southern part of the state” and was “thoroughly posted concerning this movement.”

On this date in 1911, there were plenty of recent reports about the movement throughout the state, including: The Valley City Boy Scout Council had formed, and all of the clergymen of the city were part of it. Patrols in Grand Forks took a hike after school, where they would “cook supper in the woods.” And one outlier report from Neche: some local youths falsely collected money for the movement. They used the funds to skip school and have a picnic.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 4, 1911, p3
  • Devils Lake World, February 17, 1911, p8
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, May 13, 1910, p5; November 12, 1910, p4; October 17, 1910, p5
  • The Oakes Times, November 17, 1910, p3
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, April 26, 1911, p10; April 28, 1911, p2
  • The Ward Independent, May 4, 1911, p3
  • The Evening Times, May 4, 1911, p10
  • The Dickinson Press, October 22, 1910, p1; October 29, 1910, p12
  • The Washburn Leader, June 3, 1910, p4
  • https://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/?page=lord-baden-powell
  • https://oa-bsa.org/history/bsa-founded

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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