Boy Scouts celebrate 50 years at Dilley's Mill
Since 1960, Boy Scouts from across the country have converged on the Buckskin Scout Reservation at Dilley's Mill to build fires, camp out, paddle boats, tell ghost stories and learn important lessons about teamwork and leadership.
The beautiful, 2,000-acre camp is situated in the rolling hills of central Pocahontas County, far from any city and far from home for the great majority of Scouts. Picturesque Lake Sam Hill lies in the center of the property.
Last Saturday, 10 staff members from the early days of the camp arrived for a reunion, but the visit turned out to be more of a working vacation.
The Order of the Arrow, former Scouts who volunteer every year to get camps like Dilley's Mill ready for Boy Scout summer camp, also arrived last weekend.ﾠ The "old-timers" pitched in to help mow grass, repair plumbing, paint buildings and anything else that needed to be done.
Rule number three of the Scout law is: "A Scout's duty is to be useful and to help others." All theﾠ veterans had more than 50 years in the Scouts and they all remembered the rules.
Nine reunion guests were present during the camp's first year and another when the camp was only two years old.
Six of the weekend's special guests were corralled in the dining hall, including Max Padon, of Great Falls, Virginia; Bill McSpadden, of Lexington, Kentucky; Dale Holsopple, of Scott Depot; Donald Ellis, of St. Albans, Joe Ong, of St. Albans, and Gary Sharp, of Marlinton.
Ellis, a retired insurance broker, held numerous leadership positions in the Scouts and is currently a member of the Buckskin Council executive board.
Last summer, the Buckskin Council, which owns the Dilley's Mill camp, considered selling the property and consolidating camps at a 10,600-acre Boy Scouts of America property in Fayette County, soon to become the permanent home of the annual Boy Scout National Jamboree.
Ellis said the proposal to sell the main camp is "off the table" at this time.
"I think, the selling of this property is off the table, from my standpoint" he said. "The 1,200 acres on the other side of the road - that's still on the table."
Ellis started as a Sea Scout in 1949 in Newport News, Virginia, when he was 16 years old. The Sea Scouts are a maritime branch of the Boy Scouts and incorporate many nautical activities. He visited the uncompleted Dilley's Mill camp in 1959 and, as a scoutmaster, brought his Troop 6, from St. Albans, to the camp for several years thereafter.
McSpadden retired from the Marine Corps after 26 years of service.
He started scouting in 1956 when he was 11 years old. He served on the staff at Dilley's Mill from 1960-1965, when he was 14-19 years old, and joined the Marines in 1965.
The Vietnam veteran said lessons he learned in the the Boy Scouts helped him succeed in the Marine Corps.
"The outdoor activities, the knot tying, the pioneering, the survival, the physical fitness, the rifle range - it's all Marine training," he said. "How to build a fire, how to cook food, how to swim a mile, the lifesaving - everything I learned at Scout camp went right into the Marine Corps."
Padon, originally from South Charleston, spent three years in the Cub Scouts, three years in Boy Scouts and four years in the Explorers. He served as a scoutmaster for a total of 12 years.
Like McSpadden, Padon visited Dilley's Mill the year before it opened and served as a staff member during the camp's first year in 1960.
The government retiree said scouting made a big difference in his life.
"It's probably the largest factor in my life as far as life direction and keeping me on the right path," he said. "It helped me mature, it helped me learn leadership. I made lifelong friends. You make a connection with people all around the world."
This week, the first wave of Scouts arrive for the 50th year of summer camps at Dilley's Mill, some of them for the first time. Hopefully, many of them will return for the camp's 100th anniversary.
For information on the Boy Scouts, see www.buckskin.org.