circa 1930 Sunny Land Council Flag
“In 1910 when the Boy Scouts of America was founded, Bradenton, including all of Manatee County, had a population of 2874. Sarasota 840, and Fort Myers, 2463. These, together with Arcadia, Punta Gorda, and Naples were not only small; they were difficult to get to. So, how did the youth movement known as Scouting find its way to this sparsely populated area?
As nearly as can be determined, the very first group of Scouts in the area now known as the Southwest Florida Council was one in Bradenton. There is evidence that this troop came into existence in September 1910. It supposedly met in the old high school that stood at the corner of 9th Avenue and 14th Street. There is further evidence that another troop, albeit short lived, was organized in the old village of Manatee in June 1911. There is an article in the Arcadian that tells of the organizing of a troop in Arcadia on 14 July 1911 and gives the complete roster. The troop bore the number 5044. Troop 1 was organized in Fort Myers on 9 November 1911.
At least three other troops came into being in the years 1912-1914. One was organized in Sarasota about 1913 or 1914; Palmetto organized a troop somewhere around the summer of 1912, and there is some evidence that the Christ Episcopal Church, Bradenton, formed a troop sometime between 1911 and 1914. Palmetto again had another troop from 1922- 25. It was Troop 1 and a gentleman by the name of George Blakely was the Assistant Scoutmaster. Later on in 1926 Blakely became one of the founding fathers of Sunny Land Council, and in 1932, receive the sixth Silver Beaver awarded to a member of the Council.
During this time a Council that had its headquarters in Lakeland, Florida served the troops in what is now Southwest Florida Council.
On the night of December 11, 1925, a group of one hundred active Scouters of Manatee and Sarasota Counties met with officials from BSA Regional Headquarters to see what could be done about organizing a separate Council to serve the counties of Manatee and Sarasota. The meeting was held in the Carnegie Library in Palmetto, Florida. Without dissent it was moved and carried that a new Council, Boy Scouts of America, compromising the two counties of Sarasota and Manatee be formed. Following this meeting a charter was applied for and was approved. The name “Sunny Land Council” was adopted. It had a membership of 295 Scouts.
At that organizational meeting the following were elected:
President: C. E. Hitchings
Vice Presidents: Judge W. T Harrison, Major H. P Munck, W. G. Sparkman
Treasurer: S. H. Fifield
Secretary: George T. Blakely
Commissioner: H. C. Groff
Scout Executive: Truman A. Horton was hired to be their first Scout Executive .
They set up office at 5 Manatee Arcade Building in the village of Manatee.
These gentlemen along with L. F. Vaught, J. D. Rogells, D. L. Thorpe, A. F. Wyman, O. F. Shelton, W. H. Tucker, D. S. Blalock, S. E. Simmons, I. E. Rose, R. B. Whitney, George B. Gallup, Charles N. Wilson, and Charles P. Gray were to guide the Sunny Land Council through its formative first ten years.
The new Sunny Land Council was born with 14 charter troops; six in Sarasota, two in Manatee, three in Palmetto, and three in Bradenton. Two of the troops were all black (one in Palmetto and one in Manatee).
In this same month of December 1925, a similar group of Scouters met in Fort Myers for the purpose of organizing a Council to serve the counties of Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, and Hendry. They chose the name Royal Palm as the name of their Council.
The Sunny Land Council, on 19 January 1929, made probably its second most momentous decision ever (the first being to become a Council). On that date the Council voted to purchase a piece of property some 15 miles east of Bradenton on the Manatee River for use as a summer camp. Thus, Camp Flying Eagle became one the first camps owned by the Boy Scouts in the state of Florida. It consisted of 140 acres, and was purchased for $2,000. Funds to purchase the acreage were raised from private donors. The camp still exists.
On September 15, 1929 The Council office was relocated to the American National Bank Building) in Bradenton. Here they occupied three rooms courtesy of Mr. George L. King, an early benefactor of the Council. The Council office remained here until 1955 when it moved into new and much larger quarters on North Tamiami Trail between Bradenton and Sarasota.
On 19 March 1928 Sarasota County broke away from Sunny Land Council and formed its own council. However, they immediately began to have financial problems, and by November 1932 they were unable to raise enough funds to pay their Scout Executive. They released their Executive, and the Council merged back into the Sunny Land Council.
The Royal Palm Council was experiencing financial problems, but it was not until February 1937 that it found it expedient to merge with Sunny Land Council.
Nineteen sixty-eight saw the Sunny Land Council once more being carved into two Councils. What was once The Royal Palm Council was reconstituted and assumed the name of the Southwest Florida Council. Sunny Land Council again consisted of the counties of Manatee and Sarasota. This geographical organization lasted until January 1, 1995 when Sunny Land Council, merge with the Southwest Florida Council. The new Council now serves youth in Charlotte, Collier DeSota, Hendry, Lee, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties, and consists of four Districts: Alligator, Panther, Two Rivers, and Manatee.”
Written by “Red Dog” Maynard