Boy Scout monument gets new home
Sharon Stanley/special to the Times News Former Troop 65 members, from left, Bill Carlton, Sherwood "Popeye" Yenser, Dale Pugh, Donald Eckhart, Vince Morris and David Harding gather around the newly placed Boy Scout monument along the Slate Heritage Trail in Slatington.
After many years of neglect, and several months of concerted effort, Slatington's Troop 65 Boy Scout monument finally got a new home Tuesday afternoon when it was placed directly across Trout Creek from where the troop's Scout house, Pioneer Lodge, used to stand near the old Kern's Dam.
Former Troop 65 Scoutmaster Sherwood "Popeye" Yenser, who was a Scout back in 1941 when the monument was originally dedicated, said it had been "a big affair" at the time, with a lot of Scouting members and other townspeople present.
Years later, some folks wondered why the monument bore inscriptions of both the Boy Scout Oath and a tribute to James S. Bennighoff.
"When I was a Scout over there, I used to see the monument and wonder about it," said Donald Eckhart, a former Troop 65 Boy Scout in the early 1960s.
In fact, it was in the early 1920s that Troop 1 (aka Troop 65) had asked to put a Scout house on Bennighoff's property, and he had obliged. Then, when he passed away in 1936, his wife, Jennie, gave the troop permission to keep the land and Pioneer Lodge, which the Scouts had built themselves over the years and which was so large that it housed a workshop in the basement, a meeting room on the first floor and a recreation room on the second floor.
Though many years later the building was eventually abandoned and demolished, portions of its foundation still remain.
Eckhart said that after 33 years living elsewhere, he had moved back to the area and seen the monument was still there but overgrown with weeds and in need of repair. He mentioned to fellow former Troop 65 members Vince Morris and, eventually, Bill Carlton that he would like to see it better preserved, and found out they felt the same.
"This is something Donald and I had talked about doing on and off for a few years," Morris said, "and when Bill (moved) back (a year ago) and expressed an interest, he sort of got things going."
In January, Carlton and Morris approached Slatington's Borough Council to ask permission to move the monument, located on the now borough-owned property along Scout House Road, to a different location.
They said it would receive much more viewing somewhere other than its current, remote location, plus it could be moved in time to correspond with the borough's upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations this August.
Council approved the move and also offered mechanical and financial assistance for creating the monument's footer. Afterward, the borough dug the hole, Morris and his friend Jim Avanti built the concrete form and borough foreman John Bolton found a contractor who was willing to donate the concrete.
David Harding, owner and supervisor of Harding Funeral Home on North Second Street in Slatington, said Carlton and Morris had also contacted him before the move and asked if he would be willing to help with resurrecting the monument.
"I was a former member of the troop, and I like to do and help the community in a lot of different ways if at all possible," said Harding, who donated his assistance in getting the monument moved, cleaned, refinished and reset.
"It was awesome how it all came together," Carlton said.
Harding asked Landmark Monuments of Quakertown, which supplies his funeral home with cemetery memorials for its families, to pick up the approximately 45-by-30-inch granite monument at its location along Scout House Road and take it to its manufacturing plant in Allentown to have it cleaned and refinished.
On Tuesday, while setting the stone, Jonathan Miller, a partner with Landmark Monuments, said the company also had to saw off the monument's bottom so it would sit flat but that "things went smoothly" while placing it that day.
Though first suggested to be located on borough property near the downtown trailhead, it was later decided to place it along the Slate Heritage Trail at the end of Willow Avenue, just north of the General Morgan Bridge, where a historical marker already commemorates the former Scout house location.
Originally organized in 1910, Troop 65 was at first called Troop 1 because it was one of the very first Boy Scout troops in the eastern United States, with as many as 49 Scouts at one time. However, though it was once the oldest continuously registered troop in the Minis Trails Council, on Jan. 1, 2010, after nearly 100 years, it was not rechartered.
Nevertheless, Dale Pugh, who served the troop in various capacities for 47 years, said many local people, like his father and George Bechtel, served Troop 65 tirelessly over the decades, making it extremely significant to the area and its people.
"We're going to try to enhance this area in the future," Pugh said.
The other former members present agreed that a new sign should be made to explain more about the troop's importance and James Bennighoff's contribution to it. They also mentioned they would like to see an old trail nearby that leads up to Trout Creek reopened so that visitors can take it to get a better view of the Scout house ruins.