Boxwell Greats: Leslie G. Boxwell
If you’ve been to Stahlman Dining Hall, you’ll likely have noticed a pen and ink drawing on the wall. If you took a few minutes, you may even have read the text and learned a few things about Boxwell Reservation’s namesake: Leslie G. Boxwell. You may even have noticed that the verbs in the drawing are present tense, making this drawing almost 100 years old! Here is the complete text if you haven’t read it before.
“Leslie G. Boxwell, Treasurer of Tenn. Metal Culvert Co., was born in Ohio, but has been in Nashville for about thirty years. He studied engineering at Ohio State, and his first job was with the St. Louis World’s Fair. Because Nashville offered the best business opportunity, he chose to live here, and he hasn’t changed his mind on the subject. Since 1921, Mr. Boxwell has been president of Nashville Boy Scouts of America. Their camp at Linton is named for him. Mr. Boxwell is a Rotarian and an active civic worker.”
“‘Box’ enjoys hunting, fishing, and golf, but their aint nothin’ with quite the appeal of hunting!”
Most of this is true, but there’s more to the story of this man. We don’t have ALL of the details, but we think we can help create a more fleshed out character…
Born in 1881, Boxwell was not even 25 years old when he worked at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (google it; it’s pretty amazing itself!). He moved to Nashville in 1908, and by 1911, at a mere thirty years old, Boxwell was president of the newly incorporated Sanapan Company, a distributer of Sanapan, an odorless disinfectant. However, roads and the automobile boom were his passion (Ford’s Model T arrived in 1908). By 1913, the young man was part of the Tennessee Good Roads Association and by 1914 “Box” was the Secretary of the Tennessee Branch of the National Highway Association. Opportunities abounded from here. Boxwell became a member of the Nashville Auto club, manager of Duplex Truck Sales Company, and manager of the Tennessee Metal Culvert Company. Boxwell was part of the group of auto enthusiasts in the state who argued that new highway projects were passing up Tennessee because of its poor business organizations and poor existing roads. To help facilitate this goal, Boxwell helped form the Nashville Board of Trade, the predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce. Boxwell was a player in Nashville’s road building boom of the 1920s and by 1935, his Tennessee Metal Culvert Company, was handling large contracts from newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority.
Scouting was L. G. Boxwell’s other passion. A member of the Rotary Club that formed the Nashville Council in 1920, he served as chair of the Council’s camping committee. One of his first jobs? Finding a location for a council summer camp. So pleased was the council executive board with Boxwell’s work here, they decided the new camp should be named for him. That named has stuck ever since.
Boxwell went on to serve as the Council’s elected President from 1927 to 1947 (the one place the drawing is incorrect), dedicating a large portion of his time and resources to the movement. And he cared about his namesake. While his day job was general manager and treasurer of the Tennessee Metal Culvert Company, he always made time for Camp Boxwell. On Monday mornings, when Scouts gathered at the terminus of the Belle Meade rail line to go to camp, it was often Boxwell himself who drove the truck from Nashville out to the Linton camp and later the Narrows. If he didn’t drive Scouts out himself, it was often his truck that was used. Boxwell and his company often helped get camp ready to go before the camping season began. It was also not uncommon for Boxwell (and sometimes his wife Jeanette) to come out to camp for dinner. Imagine having dinner with the camp’s namesake!
The greatest testimony to Boxwell’s dedication came from Council Executive William Anderson himself, as he reflected over his tenure in Scouting. “On one occasion of a distant yesteryear,” Anderson wrote in his January 11, 1948 Nashville Tennessean column, “when Boxwell’s business was facing the rocks and darkness lay only two months ahead, his means and service to Scouting did not falter. Possessed of a modesty that is a stranger to me, his contributions to the boyhood of Middle Tennessee are known to the Creator.” In short, faced with imminent business failure, likely in 1930, Boxwell never waivered in his support of Scouting.
Boxwell’s wife of 36 years died in May 1947; he retired as Council president by the end of the year. It is unclear if the two are directly related, but it seems likely. Over the next few years, Boxwell spent his time away from Nashville, down at his other adopted home, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. About 1950, Boxwell contracted a chronic illness, though we don’t know what exactly that was. He was almost 70 by this point, so age was undoubtedly a factor. Still, Boxwell lived to see his namesake move to Walling for the Rock Island camp, and then back closer to his Belle Meade home with the current Old Hickory Boxwell. We don’t know if he ever toured the current camp. He died in September 1960, leaving a legacy that has literally benefited tens of thousands over nearly 100 years.