Old Lone Scouting BSA shoulder patch emblem

Where did Lone Scouting come from?

Content added by Mike Walton

Image of cover to first Lone Scouting manual

Cover of first Lone Scouting manual

William D. Boyce was the Chicago businessman who is given credit for delivering and organizing the Boy Scouts in the United States. He did not do it alone; but he was the person given materials and insignia belonging to the British Boy Scouts after a meeting with Boy Scouts founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell in England.

The summary of Boyce's first interaction with Boy Scouting resulted in Boyce getting the opportunity to meet Baden-Powell. Boyce was visiting fellow newspaper owners in London in the spring of 1907. He became confused and lost in the thick London fog and all of a sudden appeared a young man in a uniform wearing a red neckerchief -- a British Boy Scout. That Unknown Boy Scout took him to his destination and when Boyce attempted to reward the young man for his service, the boy refused money for his "Good Turn". Boyce asked the young man to wait until his business was concluded and then to please take him to the person responsible for such training - Baden-Powell.

Upon Boyce's return to the United States, he strong-armed several of his influential friends and together they incorporated an organization called the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. Boyce was also instrumental in a large part for the Americanization of the Scout Oath and Law. However, due to differences of concept and opinion, Boyce left the leadership of the BSA a few years later and returned to Illinois to his set of regional newspapers.

Lone Scouts have been around since William D. Boyce organized the Lone Scouts of America (LSA) in 1915. Boyce had noticed that rural boys were being left out of Scouting because they did not live near a town or could travel to a Scout Troop in the nearest town. As a "Lone Scout", a boy he thought could enjoy Scouting. His Lone Scouts would have a different set of requirements they could meet on their own, leading to various "degrees" (the "degree" concept was probably based upon the Masonic rite's various degrees, as Boyce was also a Mason). Because of Boyce's journalistic background, Lone Scouts had a strong program of writing and correspondence. W. D. Boyce was the "Chief Totem" -- the administrator -- of the Lone Scouts of America. He bankrolled the Lone Scouts from his own newspaper companies

Lone Scouts could achieve recognition in three ways in the Lone Scouts of America program: Degree Work, Literary Achievement, and Promoting the Organization. Shown here is the cover of the first booklet, published on October 30,1915, to help a Lone Scout earn the First, or Lone Scout, Degree.

Records of Lone Scouts only existed after the program became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America in 1924 and local councils registered the boys in their council. Prior to 1924, they were registered with the Lone Scouts of America and followed the achievement program of the Lone Scouts of America. Very few records of those Lone Scouts exists.

By early 1924, Boyce determined that he could no longer subsidize the organization, so he merged it with the Boy Scouts of America in March. There were 490,000 Lone Scouts in 1922, but only about 45,000 of them transferred to the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA had to recruit them and that was not an easy task in the rural areas. And in many parts of the country, local councils had not been formed at that time.

Many of the Lone Scouts lived in Canada, Puerto Rico and in other countries.

By 1930, the Lone Scout program had dropped to about 4,000 members in the Boy Scouts of America as a result of the increased numbers of local Councils and in return, Packs and Troops organized for young men in communities around the nation. Lone Cub Scouting and Lone Scouting still exist today, as official program options of the Boy Scouts of America, but there are only a few hundred members now.

BSA Info

So Why Doesn't MY BSA Council have this?

Content added by Mike Walton

Image of Lone Scouting emblem today

Image of current Lone Scout emblem.

The question I am often asked goes something like this:

"I wanted to sign my son up for Lone Scouts. I contacted the BSA office closest to me, and after being transferred two or three times, I talked with this person. They told me that "we don't do Lone Scouting in our Council". I was floored. Everything I read pointed to the fact that Lone Scouting was a BSA program, and that it was conducted everywhere -- like Cub Scouting and Boy Scouts. Am I asking for the wrong thing? Is there a secret code I need to communicate to them to get my son into the Lone Scouts? I have friends whose sons are Lone Scouts -- why can't my son be one?"

This answer is in three parts. There is more detail on the "more" button below. This will break some hearts, but it is the truth.

The "Lone Scout Option" (offically, it is called a "national program emphasis", like Cub Scout Soccer or ScoutReach) is one of several program options tailored for Cub Scouts (1st through 5th grades) and Boy Scouts (6th grade/10.5 years of age through 17). It is offered to each of the BSA's current 296 (at time of posting) local Councils to use.

Some use the program -- about a hundred or so, including all three of the local Councils outside the USA. Many do not. They are NOT REQUIRED to provide the program. So when that person informed you that "their Council does not do Lone Scouting", they may be correct (and if that occurs, you should politely but firmly ask to talk with or make appointment with that Council's Scout Executive. There are reasons why which are covered in more detail).

"Lone Scouts" is NOT a separate program. You are actually registering your son as a Cub Scout or Boy Scout depending upon age (and cognition, a separate issue all together). He -- and an adult (perhaps you; your partner or spouse; or an adult you trust to be around your son) -- becomes a "unit" - a "Lone Scout group". So when asking your local Council to register the two of you, you should ALWAYS ASK to be registered as a "Lone Cub Scout" or "Lone Boy Scout" -- not just as a "lone scout."

In the early days of the BSA, Lone Scouting was pretty well accepted by all but the most urban local Councils. The first Lone Scouts came when Bill Boyce' Lone Scout Association was merged with the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA viewed this merger as a way to develop units -- one Scout at a time, involving his friends and neighbors until enough youth in a neighborhood or community were available to form a Cub Scout Pack or a Boy Scout Troop. Entire Districts and Councils were eventually formed simply based upon a Lone Scouting family back then. Those Lone Scouts would get their support directly from an "Area Council"; or "direct services" from the BSA's national offices (in New York City, then eventually at North Brunswick, New Jersey).

As local Councils formed, they employed professionals to in part, teach volunteers how to organize and sustain Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Explorer units. Those volunteers organized new units based on the size of a community: if there's enough young men going to a school, church or associated with a large manufacturer, the volunteer would organize a Scouting unit at that location. Other kids -- living outside the city limits -- would find a way to join and be a part of a unit (or they would convince people to start their own Pack or Troop. If you get a chance, rent or download a copy of "Follow Me Boys", a great family movie about how a Scout Troop got started in a rural community). They were "graded" (and yes, paid) in part, upon the successful start and retention of Scouting units in their sub-areas, called Districts.

As a result of this, most professionals became more interested in those Packs, Troop and Posts and less interested in individual Scouts who continued to get "direct service" from the BSA.

In 1955, the BSA established a "local Council" to support youth receiving "Direct Service" from the national offices and separated them from Scouts getting support from their local Council. By that time, most Lone Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts were supported through a local Council.

The societial changes which occured in the 50s, 60s and 70s also affected the way the BSA operated and managed units. There were lots of experiments designed to attact more youth and their families. Some worked -- many did not. A change to how Lone Scouts were "counted" and "managed" resulted in many local Councils deciding that Lone Scouting was "too much of a management issue for us to handle" and that "we're not getting credit for the amount of work we have to do" and they stopped promoting/managing Lone Scouting groups.

In 1988 all volunteer positions -- to include Lone Scout Friend and Counselor -- opened to females. By this time, a good half of the BSA's local Councils (there were close to 500 at that point) were NOT involved in Lone Scouting -- they simply chose to refer families at that time to established Packs and Troops and worked on an "exception basis."

Since then, the number of BSA local Councils have been getting smaller, and the area they serve has been increasing. Many of the smaller urban and suburban Councils merged together with more rural area Councils. Some Councils have reversed their stance on providing service to Lone Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts; while other Councils continue -- as it is their right -- to register Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts only as members of Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops. Each BSA local Council works pretty well as their own franchise of the national organization -- no two local Councils are identical in organization, structure -- or programming.

The BSA also established requirements for a boy to be registered as a Lone Cub Scout or Lone Boy Scout. These requirements were adjusted in 2006, and will be adjusted in 2014 when the entire BSA program will undergo a major overhaul and restructuring. Those requirements are listed on the BSA's Lone Scouting webpage and explained in detail on a separate page.

Today, about a third of the BSA's local Councils permit Lone Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to be registered and most make a great effort in managing and supporting those families. In 1998, the BSA for the first time acknoweldged support to Lone Scouting families in their Commisisoner Training booklet and encouraged local Councils to appoint a volunteer as "Assistant Council Commissioner for Lone Scouting". Many Councils with Lone Scouting programs have such a person -- either on paper or actuality -- serving in that role to assist Lone Scouts and their families within their Council.