Troop 11 of Oil City was formed under sponsorship of the Knights of Columbus and was granted federal charter by Congress on June 15, 1916, just six years after William Boyce started the first Boy Scout troop in America. Eighty-five consecutively chartered years makes Troop 11 one of the oldest in the world, an accomplishment in which the Oil City community can take pride.
Boy Scouts is an organization that teaches boys good citizenship and leadership qualities. The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared" and their method is "learn by doing." Boys learn to work together and to help each other as they acquire skills in camping, first aid and rescue, map reading, mapmaking, cooking, swimming, boating, and woodcraft. As they learn each skill, they are tested by scoutmasters and specialists and earn a "merit badge" for successfully passing the tests. In addition to learning skills and earning merit badges, boy scouts perform many service projects in and outside of their communities. Service projects include cleaning along roads, assisting the National Turkey Federation in building nesting brush shelters for wild turkeys, planting trees on state park lands and other tracts of land, cleaning debris from streams, and mowing grass at cemeteries. Service, as well as instruction from qualified counselors, helps scouts learn and develop skills. Merit badges earned build toward the highest of scouting awards, the Eagle Award, and statistics show that fewer than 5% of the boys who enter scouting will achieve the rank of Eagle. Troop 11 has record of 55 Eagle Scouts dating from 1947.
In 1935 Mr. V.U. "Pete" Megnin, now of Seneca, earned his Eagle Scout Award. In that year there were 8,425 Eagle Scouts in the country out of a total membership of 1,435,139 boys and men, counting adult Scoutmasters and assistants. The National Boy Scout Executive Board in 1935, headed by the nation's President, included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, William McAdoo, and Marshall Field. James E. West was the Chief Executive who signed young Megnin's congratulatory letter.
The late Bruce Graham of Seneca was a boy scout executive officer for Venango, Clarion, and Forest Counties from 1926 to 1940 and was believed to have served in that capacity under the direction of J.E. West. In 1991, Graham's wife, Florence, then 85, stated: "The man who was over my husband in that capacity was named West, but I can't recall his first name."
Jerome "Jerry" Cunningham, formerly of Hone Avenue, belonged to Troop 11 in 1927 when he was a boy of 12. His Scoutmaster was the late Orville Schoonover who lived on West Front Street, and the scout meetings were held at the Knights of Columbus building. Although Mr. Schoonover and his wife are now both deceased, their daughter, Mrs. Ted (Helen) Serafin of Siverly spoke of her father's interest in Boy Scouts: "My father and mother were married in 1930 and after that moved to Siverly where Dad took over Siverly's Troop 12." After Mr. Schoonover left, John Kennedy became Scoutmaster of Troop 11. Jerry Cunningham remembered a troop swim at Camp Coffman when, to the horror of the young scouts, Scoutmaster Kennedy removed his glass eye to wash it!
The late Herbert McMahon, brother of the late Mrs. Louis (Rose) Karg of Seneca, was instrumental in starting Camp Coffman. After he married in 1919, he and his wife, Helen, moved to Siverly where he worked with Troop 12 from 1921 to 1930. Jerry Cunningham spoke of Herb McMahon: "One of the original founders of Camp Coffman was J.P. Coffman, and Herb and several others built the cabins there with donations from local businesses. After Herb moved to Siverly, he took over Troop 12 there until about 1930."
The pastor of St. Stephen Church from 1905 to 1941 was Fr. James Fielding. In 1923 Fr. John Nolan came in as assistant pastor. From 1931 to '36 three assistant pastors were assigned: Fr. Joseph Malloy, Fr. Robert Bower, and Fr. Carl Lippert. In 1941 Fr. John Walsh became pastor, with assistants Fr. James Daily and Fr. Joseph Barry. However, Troop 11 was not, in these early days, under church sponsorship.
Jerry Cunningham himself became Troop 11's scoutmaster in 1937. Assistants to him were Gene Groner, John Wolbert, both now deceased, and Al Reed of West Fifth Street. Jerry remembered that scout activities were for the most part, merit badge lessons from the scout manuals, overnight hikes of fourteen miles to Panther's Cave, and camping at Camp Coffman. His troop of more than 30 boy scouts was divided into four patrols: Bat, Eagle, Fox, and Panther patrols. He recalled some of the scouts under his guidance: "John Comet (of Woodside Avenue) was a District Scout Commissioner. I remember Ed Ossoff, who now lives in Cleveland; Dan Shannahan (now deceased), Jack Stubler (deceased), Chuck Stubler, Jack and Tom Mansfield, Jack Constanza, Alphonse Grippone, Lee Wolbert, Emmett Morkin (deceased) and John Dale. John went on to graduate from Gannon, then lost his life in World War II. I believe there's an army post in Erie named after him."
Marshall "Chick" Mansfield, at one time from East Second Street, later to move to Hone Avenue in St. Joseph Parish, was for a time Troop 11's scoutmaster. Mrs. Mary Allen of West Fourth Street recalled that her brother, Fred ("Tom") Hinds belonged to Troop 11 in 1942 under the guidance of scoutmaster Mr. Dollard. Tom Tobin, now living in Florida, was also a boy scout in this troop.
(In 1942 Fr. Robert Griffin came to St. Stephen Church as Assistant Pastor.)
Gene Groner's son, Jim, of West Fourth Street, recalled that his father was a scoutmaster of Troop 11. Jim's uncle, Jerry McGilcuddy, a scout in Troop 11 who now lives in Maine, remembered the assistant scoutmaster at this time, Mr. Grolemund, and scouts Jack Groner, deceased, Jack Speaker, and Bob Fesenmeyer.
Before 1946 the late Joe Venturella, who moved to Pittsburgh in the late 40's, took charge of Troop 11. Joe's mother, a resident in Towne Towers, and members of his family, including his sister, Mrs. Jane Cirincione, are still in Oil City. One of Joe's young scouts was Paul Karg who recalled the summer retreats at Camp Coffman. "There were boys there who were not in the scouts, and it was always the job of the scouts to lead the retreat. It was usually the boy scouts who were also the altar boys. I remember Fr. Fielding was one of our priests, and then Fr. Walsh came. Dad (Charles Karg, now deceased) used to help the scouts get their merit badges. I was also in the Order of the Arrow (OA is not a requirement of boy scouts, but an attainment should they wish to pursue it.) and made a gate leading onto the playing field at Coffman."
The earliest record found of an Eagle Scout Award in Troop 11 was dated in 1947 when Chuck Deim earned the rank. Mr. Deim now resides in Coupersville, Washington.
(In 1946 Fr. Lawrence Antoun was an assistant pastor at St. Stephen Church, and in 1947 Fr. Louis Kelly became the Pastor. Altar boys about this time included Joseph McGreevey, Thomas English, Herbert Evans, John Swoger, James Gatesman, Joseph Bayhurst, Joseph Petulla, Paul Karg, Peter Swoger, Robert Bouquin, John Pearson, Thomas Karg, Francis O'Brien, Eugene Weaver, and George Loll.)
In 1948 Richard English, now of Henrys Bend, and John Connor, now living in Titusville, became scoutmasters of Troop 11. Said English: "The scout room at the K of C was always open to the boys, so they could come in and work on various projects. I wasn't married then and I used to go down there evenings to supervise the boys. K of C had Bingo on Friday night, and on Saturday, after Bingo was cleaned up, we'd play basketball, volleyball and shuffleboard. I remember also two of the priests we had then at St. Stephen were Fr. Griffin and Fr. Antoun." Among English's scouts was John Swoger, later to become Fr. John Swoger. Tom Karg was a boy scout for three years in English's troop and remembered scout trips to the White Fathers property, meetings held at Mr. English's cottage, and Camp Coffman. "We became ingenious in making ourselves comfortable. They'd give you a sack and you had to fill the sack with straw. That was your mattress. There was one pot-belly stove per cabin, and of course no insulation in the cabins. Everybody had to bring coal down to the cabin to feed the stove. We used to play cards by the light of gasoline lamps. There was no electricity. But we always had a good time. I can remember in the summer one time, a bunch of us were in the last camp, which was rather isolated from the others, and there was a swimming place nearby. We got up early, picked up another kid, bed and all, and put him into the middle of the creek. Oh, the water wasn't very deep---it didn't even come up over the bed."
In 1948 there is record of an official Church Scout Committee, listing the following committee members: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Karg, both deceased; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Pearson, Miss Ruth Allebach, Miss Mary Margaret Shannahan, Mrs. Snyder, Dr. Edward McMullen, Howard Rose, Richard English, William Welch, Glenn Palmer, (the late) Joseph Venturella, and Walter Faller.
After Richard English left the scouts, in about 1953, Joe Bayhurst, who now lives in Erie, took the troop. Records show that two more Eagles emerged at this time, Joseph Beichner, in 1955; and Greg Nasky, in 1957. Mr. Beichner is currently a public school teacher in Clarion and resides in Knox.
Pete Megnin became scoutmaster of Troop 11 in 1958. Ray Schill and Dan Stoudt were two of the assistants. Jim Stiller was a liaison between the Scout Committee and the Parish. Pete remembered Mike McMahon, Sam McFetridge, Dave Heinzer, and Tom Faller from his troop of boys. "We made our own tents. We cut the canvas and cut out eyelets, then soaked them in gasoline and paraffin. And I'll never forget the one year at Camp Coffman when we were having our physicals. A bird flew over, and Tom Faller shouted, "A bird manured on me!'"
Mr. Emmett Morkin of Franklin stepped into the shoes vacated by Pete Megnin and led about 60 boys in Troop 11 for ten years, 1960 through 1970. Fr. Richard McGuire was an assistant at St. Stephen Church at this time. Morkin recalled, "I had four very good assistants: Gene Groner (deceased), Jack Payne (at one time Mayor of Oil City), Bob Gatesman, and George Moodie, who worked for the Post Office." Mr. Morkin and his assistants successfully guided the large troop through many service projects. "Every year we picked up trash along the highways; in the fall we picked groundpine and made garlands for St. Stephen rectory and convent, and we always set up the manger outside the church before Christmas and took it down after Epiphany. We went to Camp Coffman quite a lot and in the summer built bridges, cleaned up tracts of land, and practiced a lot of conservation." Sadly, Mr. Morkin passed away in August 1996. His family requested that donations be made in his memory to Troop 11. The troop obtained a flag of the Commonwealth, to be flown at Custalogatown Boy Scout Reservation in his memory. His wife sent the troop a card expressing the high priority her husband had given boy scouting. His good influence on the troop will be greatly missed.
Troop accounts list 13 Eagle Scouts during Emmett Morkin's tenure: David Megnin (David died tragically in June, 1996, in an automobile accident. His wife and family reside in Kittanning.), Anthony Schill of Clarion; Errol Stewart of Austin, Texas; Robert Weaver of Minnesota; Thomas Morkin of Pittsburgh; the late Michael DeCorte; James Kelly; Raymond Feroz, Ph.D. of Seneca, an associate professor at Clarion University and program director with Northwest Mental Health Services at Oil City Area Health Center; Kevin Smith of Colorado; Dave Wagner of Colorado; Michael Morkin, Franklin; Chuck Powers of Georgia; and Gene Andres of Ohio.
Frank Scopetti succeeded Emmett Morkin as scoutmaster of Troop 11 and troop activities remained unchanged under Mr. Scopetti's guidance. Chester "Chet" Koszalka then assumed the responsibility of scoutmaster and led Troop 11 with assistants, Dr. Richard Burkholder and Bob Pfendler, until March 31, 1972. The first Troop 11 camping trip to Kinzua occurred during this time, before there was a designated camping area at Kinzua for the scouts. Koszalka said, "I remember the time we camped at Kinzua. When we went to pick up the canoes at Coffman, someone else had already taken them. The Scout Office forgot to pass on the word that we were to get the canoes! We also took the scouts out to the old iron furnace in Rockland. One of our service projects was planting trees on strip mine sites. We got the trees from the extension service and property owners would pay us a small stipend that went into the Scout treasury. I also remember that Bob Pfendler and I built one of the sleds we used at the Klondike Derby." Robert Powers, of Ohio, and James Caffrey of Franklin earned their Eagle badges during Chet Koszalka's leadership of the troop. (Klondike Derby is a winter survival competition among scout troops.)
In 1972 Bob Pfendler took the reins of Troop 11. "I remember Dr. Burkholder stayed on as assistant; Myron "Hoppy" Homan (who later moved to Florida) helped. (Mr. Homan passed away in 1997. A funeral Mass was held for him in St. Stephen Church and several Troop 11 scouts and leaders attended and paid their respect to a good person and friend.) John Groner was our treasurer, Dave Schreckengost and Chuck Stephenson helped, and Leo Hrinya came on as assistant. Dick Way was our troop committee chairman and Jack Martz (deceased) our institutional Representative. John Schreckengost was our Senior Patrol Leader, and it was John and his dad, Dave, who are responsible for building our portable kitchen and also the folding door for the scout room. I remember the year Dick Way and I slept on the kitchen table in the big cabin at Camp Coffman because there weren't enough beds. We had as many as 52 boys and every week we'd go around to homes to collect glass to take to the glass plant. At first we used my white station wagon to haul the glass, but after awhile we couldn't fit all the glass into the car, so we used Hoppy Homan's potato chip truck. We finally set up barrels behind the school and people would bring their glass to the barrels. When the glass plant moved out of Oil City, we stopped collecting. We had many projects going at all times and we continued our meetings through the summer. Every spring we did city-wide clean up work, and before Memorial Day we cut the grass at the cemeteries. Annually we planted trees on strip mine sites and even went as far as the strip mines in Bullion, about 19 miles south of Oil City.
We had a Camporee in the spring and two winter outings, besides the Winter Camp and the Klondike Derby. The boys were required to have physicals before these events, and it was Dr. Emmolo and Dr. Pilewski who agreed to be our "scout doctors." In the summer we'd take the boys to Kinzua for canoeing and camping. Troop 11 was assigned the Morrison Run area, accessible only by boat. Fr. Santor would come up from St. Stephen's on Saturday evening to celebrate Mass for the boys, and we'd go around and invite anyone else in camp to come to the service.
Before these week-end camping trips we'd have to go shopping for the food. We'd take four or five boys with us to teach them how to purchase for a camping trip. Dick Davis who worked at the A&P* was a big help to us. (* the old A&P became the new Giant Eagle.)
We used to have canoe races down the Allegheny and compete with Tippery's Troop 111. We'd start above the Tionesta Sand and Gravel and end up in Oil City---or even Franklin.
It was convenient to have the Council building in downtown Oil City at the Veach Building.* We were the Trefoil District in the Colonel Drake Council then. We even had our Boards of Review there." (*In 1998-99 the Veach Building was razed.)
There were 13 Eagle Awards earned over a ten year span: Robert Szalewicz, now in Long Beach, Long Island, New York; John Schreckengost, who joined his father in the construction business in Oil City; Thomas Pfendler, now in Ohio; Carl Puleo of Maryland; Donald Tompkins in Erie; Greg Burkholder of Colorado; James Pfendler of Erie; Dale Schreckengost of Carnegie; Mark "Skip" Homan, Henrys Bend; Andrew Rapp who works for Seneca Printing, Inc., in Oil City; Steven Hrinya of California; Mike Zampogna of Michigan; and Frank Boczon of Maryland.
In 1972 Fr. John Weibel moved into St. Stephen rectory to teach at Venango Christian High School and became, over the next several years, chaplain to Troop 11. He accompanied scouts on canoe trips and drove to camp-out locations to celebrate Mass. He was friend and spiritual advisor to the scouts in Troop 11 for close to two decades.
Fr. Charles Skinner was assigned the pastorship of St. Stephen Church in 1975. He had achieved his Eagle Scout Award as a youth in Troop 71, New Bethlehem. He remembered trips to Camp Coffman with his scout troop in the 1940's when Troop 71 would meet Troop 11. "We were always driven into Oil City for Mass on Sunday after a week-end camping trip to Camp Coffman."
By 1979 Troop 11 had definitely been under the sponsorship of St. Stephen Church for at least 30 years and had moved its meeting room to the St. Stephen School cafeteria with an alcove donated to the scouts by Msgr. William Hastings, for storage of scout materials. The district offices were now in Erie.
Joseph E. Smith, then of Rouseville, now living in Greer, South Carolina, assumed leadership of St. Stephen Troop 11 in 1979. Fr. Skinner was the Executive Officer; Fr. John Weibel was the chaplain; and Jack Martz, Tom Karg, Bob Pfendler, Larry Tompkins, John Groner, Rick Rios, Leo Hrinya, Ken Rapp, Dennis Allen (son of Mrs. Mary Allen), and Frank Boczon were all assistants in one or another capacity. Other adult helpers included Bob and Paula (Ossoff) Culbertson and Dan Karg, who invited the scouts to his property to split cord wood and sell it, using the proceeds to purchase new tents for the troop. Bob Culbertson was Committee Chairman, followed by Dan Karg in that capacity. About 40 boys were in the roll book, activities and service projects continued, and Troop 11 marched in the Oil Heritage Parade in July. Thereafter the troop set up for Oil Heritage and church events each year.
Each of the three Boy Scout Councils of Erie, Sharon, and Oil City had its own camp, but during the 1980's these three councils were facing financial difficulties in the upkeep of their camps. The camp in Erie, Camp Sequoia, was sold, as was the camp for Oil City's troops, Camp Coffman, and the resources were concentrated on the upkeep of the Sharon Camp, Custalogatown. The old Colonel Drake Council became French Creek Council and Troop 11's district within that council changed from Trefoil to Colonel Drake District. For Joe Smith, the selling of Camp Coffman was a sad moment; his scouting years had been spent there and the camp held special memories for him. "As I was Scoutmaster, I realized that the young boys coming up through the ranks would have Custalogatown as their Coffman, so I never talked to them about "the good old days.' I made an effort to keep the two separated in front of the scouts even though in my mind there would be no camp like Coffman. Some of our older scouts who had known Camp Coffman-Mike Zampogna, Frank Boczon, Chris Nelson, Perry Rearick-and went on to Custalogatown also struggled with the transition."
During Joe Smith's time with Troop 11, ten more boys completed the requirements and were inducted into the elite society of Eagle Scouts: Perry Rearick (now Capt. Perry Rearick, Ft. Mead, VA); Edward Martz, now in the U.S. Coastguard; Donald Martz of New York, who became an officer in the Boy Scout Council; Steven Heckathorn; Chris Nelson of New York; Tim Linch, Clarion; Stephen Karg, an electrical engineer, living with his wife and children in Conyers, Georgia, where he has become an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 410 of Conyers; Louis Karg, a veteran of the Air Force, now a graduate of Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA, where he earned degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, working for G.E. Harris Co. in Melbourne, FL; and Greg Culbertson.
By 1988 St. Stephen Troop 11 had dwindled to just five scouts, and Joe Smith and his family had moved to North Carolina. The cliche´, "Change is inevitable," is very simplistic and cannot explain the scope of change witnessed by the world since the close of World War II. Positive advancements speeded man's thinking as calculators replaced slide rules. Electric, and then electronic typewriters replaced the manual ones, and these were soon outdated in favor of the Word Processor. Computers became not just a marvel of technology but a necessity to businesses and then to the average person. Terms like PC, DOS, Ram, CAD, Hard drive, Megabytes, Internet, Web site, and CD ROM, known as "computerese," became normal daily household words, spoken and understood by youngsters and adults alike. The TV, the Microwave, the Dish, the Walkman, the Discman, and Cellular and portable phones strode into Americans' lives and were promoted from optional accessories to standard equipment to necessities. The world has shrunk, and far away corners are just a jet ride, phone call, or e-mail message away. While technology made great strides forward, other facets of human existence were deleterious. The impassioned civil rights marches and battles, the heinous infanticide through abortion, the sanction of homosexuality, the profound, heart-rending grief of AIDS and other diseases all indicated that the social and moral fibers of the country had started to unravel; and the boy scout movement in America shuddered under the pounding of those who would see "God" removed from the universal scout oath: "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country." The National Boy Scout Council was forced to the highest court in the land to legally win a battle that never should have been fought. Today scout leaders are required to take a course in Youth Protection Training in order to recognize and report cases of child abuse. A Merit Badge Counselor is no longer permitted to teach his subject of expertise to one boy; at least two scouts and on other adult must be present. The stories of scout leaders accused of sexually harassing boys within a troop exploded and reverberated across the country. In the local world of Troop 11 the city of Oil City reeled and tottered under economic decline. Factories and businesses left. Quaker State Oil Refinery relocated to Texas, leaving a huge hole in Oil City's tax base. United National Gas Company became National Fuel Gas Corporation and moved its office to Erie, PA. (Several years after this the old Oil City High School, which had become the Spring Street Junior High School for a time, was razed.) Shopping Malls that offered diversity of stores under one roof, free parking, and extended business hours opened outside of town and shoppers left the city stores and flocked to the Malls. The J.C. Penney Company, Sears Roebuck, Mellon Bank, and others left Oil City and opened at the new Cranberry Mall, created in 1980-81 on the site where the former Sky-Hi Drive-in Theater had stood. Young families especially were moving to other locations to find good jobs-or any jobs.
Kirk Mosier and his wife, Barbara, had moved into the Oil City area at the end of 1981 and came to know Jack Martz in the years following. Said Mosier, "Jack was a great talker and often told me about his work with the Scouts. He kept saying, "We meet every Thursday evening at the school. You ought to come down sometime.' That was in October of 1985. I started going to the meetings in 1986 and kept going to them for eight years."
Kirk took over management of St. Stephen Troop 11 in October 1988, and almost encountered problems that year in renewing the charter. Charters are not granted or renewed for troops of fewer than five boys. Troop 11 had the least allowable number of scouts, and the charter was renewed. Barb Mosier and Mike Vincler joined as capable Assistant Scoutmasters. Other adult assistants at this time were Dave Heinzer, Dan Karg, Ben Strickenberger, Mike and Linda Morrison, and Joan and Gary Hartle. With the opening of the Magdovitz Recycling Center on East Second Street, the scouts once again became active in collecting glass, as well as aluminum, tin, and paper. As the troop continued to take recyclables to East Second Street, Scoutmaster Mosier and Al Samuels, who operated the center, became friends. Mosier learned that Al himself was an Eagle Scout and repeatedly invited Al to stop in at scout meetings. Camping and hiking activities continued, both summer and winter, with hikes to the Cow Run and Wolf Kill shelters at Oil Creek Park a highlight of the year. A new experience for the scouts, with Kirk's expertise and Ben and Pat Strickenberger's generosity, was tapping the maple trees at the Strickenberger property near Dempseytown and learning the process of making maple syrup. In the following years Ben and Pat's farmland became a favorite camping spot for the scouts.
Patrick Karg achieved his Eagle Award in March 1988 and Joseph Heinzer earned his in 1990. Karg graduated from Penn State University and became a pilot for the Air Force, flying the F-15 fighter jet. Heinzer, a graduate of Gannon University, is an engineer with Joy Machinery in Franklin.
In 1991 Troop 11 marked its 75th anniversary as a continuously chartered troop with a dinner and reunion of scouts. It was a proud moment for all who were able to attend-former and present scouts, their parents and friends, former scoutmasters, and especially for Kirk and Barb Mosier who had somehow held the troop together and helped it begin to grow again. There were 13 boy scouts on the books at this time, and Troop 11 took First Place at the annual winter Klondike Derby. Al Samuels had become a "regular" at Troop 11 meetings and soon after, signed on as Assistant Scoutmaster. Three months later Fr. John Weibel was moved to St. Eulalia Parish in Coudersport and moved from Oil City. The year following, Fr. Charles Skinner retired from St. Stephen Church and took up residence in the John XXIII Home in Hermitage, PA. Change is inevitable, and the times had changed. The Catholic Diocese of Erie could no longer assign three or four assistant priests to help a pastor at St. Stephen Church. The days of the luxury of Troop 11's having a chaplain available to celebrate Mass at camp were over.
Fr. John Schultz, a Titusville native and an Eagle Scout, had been named Headmaster at Venango Christian High School where he served until July 2000. A number of Troop 11 scouts attend Venango Christian, and Fr. "Jay" became a good friend, attending scout functions when he could.
Fr. Matthew Lukasiak replaced Fr. Skinner as pastor of St. Stephen Church and Fr. James Wiley had already served a year there as Assistant.
In May 1993, there were 15 scouts in Troop 11, and Matt Davis, a scout from the Halyday Run Road-Dempseytown area, completed all requirements and earned his Eagle badge. He had worked on staff at Custalogatown summer camp, and for his final Eagle project had solicited farmers to supply produce for the Community Food Bank.
Jim Donze, a drafter-designer with PennDot, had been a Cubmaster that year, and when his pack of cub scouts "crossed over" to boy scouts at the annual "Crossover Ceremony," Jim came with them and became Committee Chairman. He organized and managed many fundraisers for Troop 11, as well as the "Adopt A Highway" program for the troop. There is a sign near the Moose Lodge on Halyday Run Road attributing the roadside clean-up of that stretch of highway to Troop 11.
In the spring of 1994 there were 18 boys in Troop 11 and that summer the troop sent its first group of scouts to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Al Samuels had been to the Philmont Hi-Adventure Camp when he'd been a boy scout and he, along with Kirk and Barb Mosier, led Scouts Gary Hartle, Matt Rossiter, Tim Morrison, Phillip Heller, and James Woolf on a successful two-week Hi-Adventure hike in New Mexico. During that same summer Fr. Weibel joined the scouts on a canoe trip originating near his parish in Coudersport.
After the Philmont Adventure and mostly due to the changing demographics and economic conditions in the Oil City environs, Kirk Mosier made the decision to seek more education and re-evaluate his employment goals. He resigned from his position in Troop 11 in October 1994, and Al Samuels stepped in as Scoutmaster. Having risen through the ranks himself, Al was able to pass on to the boys many skills he had learned in scouting. He gave many selfless hours to the troop, noting a remarkable difference in the world of scouting today compared with the world he knew as a boy scout. He said, "Today there are so many conflicting events to take the boys' attention. When I was a boy scout, our attention was devoted solely to scouting."
In January 1996, a pack of Webelos cub scouts again crossed over to boy scouts. Dan Karg again became Committee Chairman and met monthly with the committee, composed of parents of the scouts and several interested community members. Among the latter, Mr. Jesse Benton, a Commissioner in the Colonel Drake District of Boy Scouts and a resident of Oil City, came and offered his wisdom and sound advice to the troop.
By the end of June 1996, Troop 11 had graduated three new Eagle Scouts: Matt Rossiter, son of Bob and Sue Rossiter who moved to Flowermound, Texas, when Quaker State Corp. moved its headquarters from Oil City to Texas; Gary Hartle, and Matt Strickenberger. Matt Rossiter engaged the troop's help to replace several bridges along the trails at Oil Creek Park. Gary and fellow scouts went to the old iron furnace in Rockland, cleaned up the area, and erected a large wooden sign designating the history found there. Matt Strickenberger chose St. Catherine Cemetery where he engineered leveling portions of the land by spreading tons of top soil, clean-up around grave markers and perimeters of the cemetery, and reseeding it. From the days of Fr. Skinner Troop 11 mowed St. Catherine Cemetery every two weeks during the growing season and received a stipend for the labor, from St. Stephen Church.
The Catholic Boy Scout Retreats sponsored by the Diocese of Erie are held each year at a different campsite. Troop 11 went to Custalogatown Scout Reservation, Elk Lick Camp in Elk County, Olmstead, near Warren, PA, and Camp Mountain Run, near DuBois, PA. A bit of excitement occurred during a Retreat week-end at Camp Mountain Run when the boys from Troop 11 were bedded down for the night. A lightning, wind, rain storm found a scout with a tick which had to be extracted by lamplight in a tent as the trees and debris blew.
Because of heavier business demands Scoutmaster Al Samuels resigned, and Robert McCall became Troop 11's scoutmaster. Mr. McCall took the leadership enthusiastically and capably. He trained the boys well in bicycle safety and repair and led them on 10-, 12-, 25-, and 50-mile bike hikes to enable them to earn the Cycling Merit Badge. He conducted a successful winter campout that included a five-mile hike with back packs at Oil Creek State Park, as well as assuming responsibility as all around camp leader at the annual week-long resident summer camping experience at Custalogatown.
Barb Mosier maintained a position as assistant even though college classes required much of her time and concentration. She gave to the troop tremendously of her skills and knowledge, and in November 1996 was chosen a recipient of the adult Silver Beaver Award. Of the 4000 adult leaders in the French Creek Boy Scout Council, only four persons in 1996 were elected to receive this award. In September 1997 Barb accepted a teaching position in Virginia and she and Kirk moved there. After Kirk earned a degree in nursing they moved to Bethel, Alaska.
In June 1996 Don and Murdeane Heller, owners of The Pizza Factory in Seneca, did the necessary groundwork to enable Troop 11 to have a booth at the "Wings Over Venango" Airshow. The Heller's, Troop 11 committee members, have been responsible for many pizza fund-raisers for the scouts, as well as the fund-raising booth at the annual Applefest celebration held in Franklin.
For two years, thanks to the efforts of Jim Donze, the troop submitted its name to PennDot and was chosen by lot to serve a "safety break" of coffee and home baked goods to motorists at a rest area along Interstate 80 over the 4th of July week-end. And again, during the summer of 1996, Troop 11 sent scouts to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
In October 1996 the scouts resumed a former project of picking ground pine and making Christmas wreaths. In 1997 Eagle Scout John Schreckengost became an Assistant Scoutmaster and both his sons were on the roster, which now totaled 21. Resuming a former Troop 11 activity, John led the troop on a canoeing, back-packing overnight camp-out at the Morrison Run site of Kinzua. The experience was promoted to an adventure when a windstorm arose and carried one of the canoes (empty) through the air to land in a tree! Thanks to good leadership skills, all remained safe within the campsite and returned home safely as well.
The French Creek floatdown, occurring in either May or June, became a regular yearly service project for Troop 11. Scouts cleaned literally tons of material from the banks of French Creek. It became customary for scout mothers and siblings to prepare a large picnic and meet the scouts and adult leaders at the point of the Creek where they ended their clean-up.
On November 15, 1997, John Thomas, a transfer scout from Fryburg, PA, passed his Eagle Board of Review at Camp Coffman winter camp to become another Troop 11 Eagle. The following month John Schreckengost became Scoutmaster, since Bob McCall's occupation called him to work evening and night shifts and he could not be at the regular scout meetings.
Tim Wagner, brother of Troop 11 Eagle Dave Wagner (1967), moved back to Oil City and became an Assistant Scoutmaster. His son, Joe, met requirements for the ranks of Star and Life in 1997, and then pushed ahead to Eagle. For his project Joe refurbished a teaching station in Wildcat Hollow, Oil Creek Park. Joe received the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster patch in February 1999.
In March 1998 Bob Burneisen, former Pack 11 Cubmaster, crossed over along with his son, to boy scouts and became an Assistant Scoutmaster. The troop roster listed 31 scouts. Bob later served as instructor at the monthly adult Council Roundtable meetings that were held at the Cranberry Elementary School.
Two significant community events were added to the troop calendar as service projects. Mr. Maurice Stiglitz, granduncle of scout Joe Stiglitz, helped the troop become involved in the Flag Day celebration where scouts participate with former soldiers. The second event is Oil City's First Night celebration, begun in the community on New Years Eve 1997. Troop 11 scouts tend the burn barrels and provide hot drinks for the New Years Eve revelers. Patrick Pelletier of Colonel Drake District requested the services of the troop. He, together with Fr. John Schultz, Headmaster of Venango Christian High School, formed part of the organizational staff for the First Night festivities.
In March 1999 Troop 11 re-chartered for the 83rd time and gained 9 new scouts after the Crossover Ceremony. The troop roster stood at 31. The pastor of St. Stephen Church at this time was Fr. Jeffrey Noble and assistant to him for three years was Fr. Scott Katren. Msgr. John Swoger was moved back to Oil City in 1999 to be the pastor of St. Joseph Church. The troop was honored when he, Fr. Scott, and Fr. "Jay" Schultz all attended the Cub Scout-Boy Scout annual awards dinner in February.
In August 1999 Joe Stiglitz passed the Eagle Board of Review. Joe masterminded the re-landscaping and repair of the office surroundings at Oil Creek Park in early summer as his project. Soon after, in September of that year, Zachary Flannigan earned the Eagle badge. A rigorous project, Zach enlisted the scouts to help him build and replace a set of stairs at the Miller Farm Cemetery, also in Oil Creek Park. He also cleaned up the cemetery and replaced guiding signs. Four months later in January 2000 David Hargenrader became an Eagle scout. Dave, with scout help, rebuilt, including roofing and painting, a gazebo in the Calvary Cemetery near St. Joseph Church. That summer Matt Schreckengost submitted his proposal for an Eagle project and was given the green light. Matt and the troop built 15 large fish habitat boxes using wood, steel and cement blocks. These were then boated into the lake at Oil Creek Park. In addition he cleaned up a bridge that had been destroyed in order to keep debris from entering the lake. His Eagle Board of Review occurred on Hallowe'en evening, 2000, and he passed to become Eagle #54 for Troop 11. Herb Karg began his Eagle project in April 2000. He enlisted the help of his fellow scouts and together they cleared a trail behind Venango Christian High School and built 15 outdoor Stations of Cross, also providing a bench for reflection at each Station.
They finished the work one day before Palm Sunday 2000, and in January 2001, Herb passed his Eagle Board of Review. By the end of May Herb had completed five additional merit badges and served in a leadership position in the troop for three additional months and therefore earned the Bronze Palm. His Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held on June 30 at Venango Catholic High School, renamed by Bishop Donald W. Trautman, to reflect the Catholic nature and uniqueness of the school. Herb is the fourth Karg brother to achieve the Eagle award in St. Stephen Troop 11. Custalogatown summer resident camp, 2001, saw 28 scouts participate. Herb Karg enrolled in 5 merit badge courses at camp, completed all of them, and therefore earned his second Palm beyond Eagle, the Gold Palm. At this camp Scoutmaster John Schreckengost stepped down from his post and Tom Freeman took the position of scoutmaster.
A week after the troop's summer camp at Custalogatown, July 25, Life Scout Ryan McCall began an ambitious Eagle Scout service project. He led the boys in removing two footbridges, a 12-foot and a 27-foot, at Two Mile Run County Park, and then in constructing new footbridges. In addition he and the troop constructed fish habitats that the Fish and Boat Commission then lowered into the lake. The work was completed in four days.
The year 2001 saw Troop 11 celebrate 85 years of continuous charter and is therefore one of the oldest boy scout troops in the country. Committee Chairman Dan Karg procured the use of Camp Coffman for a week-end in August and sent invitations to past and present scouts and scouters to spend a week-end and help celebrate Troop 11. Msgr. John Swoger, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Oil City, came to the camp to celebrate Mass. Memorabilia, photos, and award ribbons had been brought from the troop room in St. Stephen School and placed on display in the dining hall at Camp Coffman and everyone who attended spend an enjoyable time remembering their days in scouting or celebrating their present tenure.
Not quite two months after Troop 11 returned from summer resident camp, 2001, the unthinkable occurred in America. In the morning of September 11th four commercial passenger jets departed within minutes of one another from three East Coast airports. All four planes were hijacked. Heavy with fuel, the jets became deadly missiles and two of them were rammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another hit the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane could have been headed for one of three possible targets: Camp David, the white House, or the U.S. Capitol. However, one of the passengers, after realizing the plane was being hijacked, used his cell phone to call an emergency dispatcher in Pennsylvania and then heroically enlisted the aid of other passengers and crew members to overtake the hijackers. This plane never reached its destination but crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA, 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The United States of America had been attacked by terrorists. President George W. Bush echoed former President F.D. Roosevelt's works after Japanese bombs hit Pearl Harbor when he declared the deed was nothing less than "an act of war."
The world watched in stunned apprehension as New York City's fire and police squads, medical emergency teams, giant earth moving equipment, and volunteers began the heartbreaking and mammoth task of sifting through and clearing away rubble and counting the victims. Eventually this number would reach 6000. The country mourned. Meantime, the military was put on high alert, heightened airport security put into place, and energy plants, bridges, dams guarded and restricted. If this evil act of terror was intended to cripple the United States and break the American spirit, it totally failed. Americans without exception, without hesitation, without question, joined rescue efforts, collected money and goods, and flew American flags from houses and automobiles. "United We Stand" signs appeared in windows of businesses, homes, and on marques everywhere and placards bearing the words, "God Bless America and its Leaders" showed up where all could see that the United States are truly united.
Americans were urged to resume life as usual, albeit a little more alert and less smug in their daily living. President Bush declared war on the countries that he termed the "axis of evil" and most of the world stood with America in support and against world terrorism. Some nations looked on in awe of the American spirit of accord and nationalism. For American citizens there was no other response to a heinous crime of this magnitude but to support the leaders of the country, but in some countries of the world such a vicious attack would have produced rioting, chaos, and even anarchy.
Troop 11 continued with its busy schedule and in November, 2001, received word via the internet from the Catholic Committee on Scouting liaison, Mr. Bernie Loney, that Troop 11, in his opinion, should fill out an application to try for the National Catholic Scouting Gold Medallion Award. The application was submitted to the National Catholic Scouting Committee and just after the calendar rolled over a new year, Committee Chairman Dan Karg received the gold banner and congratulatory letter for the troop. On Scout Sunday, February 3, 2002, in St. Stephen Church, Dan and Scoutmaster Tom Freeman were formally presented the National Gold Medallion Award by Eagle Scout Fr. Jay Schultz who was presiding at Mass that day. Oil City's St. Stephen Troop 11 is the only boy scout troop in the Diocese of Erie to ever have received this award.
To Dan Karg, answering the questions asked by the National Catholic Scouting committee was not difficult. In his tenure he made sure that scout meetings opened and closed with prayer. He annually opted for the troop to attend the Catholic Scout retreat rather than the Camporee. He, one of the scouts, and two assistant scoutmasters are Eucharistic ministers in St. Stephen Church and stressed "a scout is reverent" with the boys.
Among the several service projects done by Troop 11 is the annual French Creek Floatdown, or the clean-up of a stretch of French Creek. The scouts have been doing this work each May or June for about 10 years, and some years the section is from Cochranton to Utica, some years, it is from Utica to Franklin. In May, 2002, the weather turned inclement and stormed, leaving French Creek flooded and the Floatdown was postponed until June. The French Creek Conservancy sent a letter of commendation and a certificate in appreciation of the work done by the scouts. The letter read, in part, "Your efforts make a big difference in the enjoyment that later boaters have while traveling down French Creek, and also in the quality of the habitat for all the creatures that live in and around French Creek."
Troop 11's activities continue to be the same today as they have always been -- merit-badge lessons from the scout manuals, overnight camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, and service projects -- for these are the character building blocks that make boy scouts. The spirit of scouting is alive in St. Stephen Troop 11, and the troop continues to build men and leaders.
Documented, researched, and written by Martha Karg.
First printing, February 1991. Latest revision, January 2001.
This page is hosted by Steve Karg.
Changes last made on Sun 22-Sept-2002