From the Archives, August 23, 2020

The Baptist Lands

The Baptist Lands are one of the great forgotten–and now lost–parts of Boxwell Reservation. As used by the Scouts, the Baptist Lands were not a particular large area, just a small clearing down Spencer Creek toward Laguardo. However, it was used as an outpost camping area throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s. Sometimes Stahlman, but usually the Ski Dock (Boat Harbor) staff would take troops on overnighters at the site. There was a “Boxwell Reservation, Boy Scouts of America” sign at the site on the familiar cedar planks still used on the Reservation.

Owned by the Corps of Engineers, the area was originally 80 acres to be part of the Laguardo Recreation Area. According to the late Rev. Clifford Horne, the site was used by either the State Convention of the Southern Baptist or the Nashville Baptist Association, hence the name “Baptist Lands.” The Corps though never bought access rights to the property, so while there was a dirt road to the site off of Tyree Access, the road was on private property. Only with permission of the owner to traverse the property could the Scouts use the site.

For reasons that appear lost to history, the Scouts stopped using the Baptist Lands because of a loss of access over this private property. While the Corps remained open to use of the property, the private access for the Scouts was never again obtained.

In a fascinating twist, a group of former professional Scouters and staff members were able to secure access to the site. Thanks to former ranger Bobby Smith, who had a strong working relationship with the property owners, this group was allowed the site once a year. So, for several decades, from the late 1970s up to 2010, every Memorial Day this group camped on the Baptist Lands. A wide range of significant camp names visited the annual campout, including Tom Willhite after he retired, former program directors, and Billy Walker (of COPE fame). It was this group of ex-District Executives and former staff members that planned the first and second staff reunion sin 1983 and 1989. The group stopped attending because of 2010 flood and the area has since overgrown, now managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Refuge Association for hunting.

Seen here is the group of former professionals camping at the site on the weekend of the first Staff Reunion in 1983.

Camping at the Baptist Lands, 1983
Former District Executives and Staff Members camping at the Baptist Lands over the weekend of the first Reunion, July 1983.

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