From the Archives, April 15, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part II

We continue our look at Boxwell musicians, this week looking at Rock Island. The only musical act we know of from the Rock Island years (1949-1959) were the Poison Ivy Leaguers, shown here.

The Poison Ivy Leaguers were led by Terrence Cooksey, who was joined by Cliff Briley (son of Beverly Briley), Bob Alley, John Oliver, Richard McWhorter, Wolf Goethart, and Brownie Dean Grissom. The group only performed at campfires and only for a year or two, mostly like 1956 and/or 1957.

According to Bob Alley, “Two songs I remember were “In the Still of the Night”, originally recorded by The Five Satins in 1956; and “Rock Island Line”, originally recorded by Lead Belly, Golden gate Quartet, 1939, but heard by us by The Big Chris Barber Band, 1955. We sang the original lyrics in their recorded style for “In the Still of the Night”, and re-wrote the lyrics to suit Camp Boxwell for “The Rock Island Line”. It was about a “secret” late night line for staff members from their tents to the kitchen, to take possession of cookies and milk to compensate them for their meager pay. All the staff and leadership knew about the line, but not the campers.”

The other item to note in this photo is that it was taken at Rock Island’s Friday Night Campfire Area. Note the wall in the background as well as a small stage. A very different set up from what exists at the modern Boxwell!

Poison Ivy Leaguers

Rock Island’s “Poison Ivy Leaguers” included a ukulele and drums. The members were (L-R):From the photo, left to right: Terrence Cooksey, Cliff Briley, Bob Alley, John Oliver, Richard McWhorter, and Wolf Goethert, and, Brownie Dean Grissom.

From the Archives, April 8, 2018

Boxwell Music, Part I

We thought it might be fun to spend this month focusing on one of the favorite aspects of camp: camp music. By camp music, we don’t mean Music merit badge or even camp songs, though we know how well you can all sing! We want to look at those musicians who graced Boxwell’s campfires and camp life.

The earliest musician we know of is none other than camp cook Walter Whittaker from the Linton and Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwells. It is hard to know how musically inclined Whittaker actually was, simply because the reports tend to report him as singing “Negro spirituals.” The reviews were always positive, but it is hard to not see this phrasing as the racial stereotyping common in the period.

Nevertheless, Whittaker sang regularly at Sunday morning services (camp ran Monday to Monday) and often at campfires. While we don’t have a photo of Whittaker singing, we do know several of his songs. His repertoire included “Hallelujah, Little David,” “Steal Away,” and the incredibly uncomfortably titled song, “Some Folks Say That a Nigger Won’t Steal.” On the upside, Whittaker also sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” tying modern Boxwell to the Boxwells of the past through music…


Camp cook Walter Whittaker at the Narrows of the Harpeth Boxwell, about 1940

From the Archives, April 1, 2018

The Big Four

Over the last several weeks, we’ve posted something on each of the Boxwells. We walked through something special for each of the first three Camp Boxwells. It seemed appropriate this week to end on the “new” Boxwell.

The “new” Boxwell was not just new because it was new facilty at a new location, though both of these points were true. It was also new because no longer was it “Camp Boxwell,” but Boxwell Reservation. The entire enterprise had increased increased by orders of magnitude. Where the Linton Boxwell had 80 Scouts at week for six weeks, Boxwell Reservation had hundreds of Scouts a week in not one, but two resident camps and ran for eight weeks!

Seen here are the men who made it happen and the namesakes of the new camps in the reservation. From left to right, E. B. Stahlman, E. E. Murrey, Ward E. Akers, and R. L. Parnell. All the details point to this photo being from 1960–the first year of the new Boxwell Reservation.

Read more about the Capital Campaign leading to the new Boxwell. 

Big Four

Dedication, 1960. Stahlman, Murrey, Akers, and Parnell together

Boxwell Anecdotes Project

The Questionnaire closes tonight.

We’ve had just over 50 responses. I know there are more!

If you were/are a Boxwell staff member, I encourage you to complete the questionnaire below. By all means, give me your favorite camp stories/memories, but PLEASE spend some time on the leadership questions. Understanding the people and their leadership qualities/styles is an important part of my research.

I will be closing access to the survey on March 31, 2018. You have less than two weeks.

Thank you for your help. It is greatly appreciated.

From the Archives, March 25, 2018

Rock Island’s Rock Island

It should go without saying that Rock Island’s name came from, well, a rock island. Said rock island is this week’s photo.

Of course, the rock island was more than just a namesake. The OA held ordeals and ceremonies here. You can also imagine how easy it would be for Scouts to canoe or row out to the location as well. It was clearly a centerpiece of the camp.

It was also part of a larger history. Legend has it that the Cherokee Trail of Tears cut right through the heart of the Rock Island camp and right over the the island itself (it didn’t, but that’s the legend), following the route of the Old Kentucky Road (which did). As a result, the first six sites at Rock Island Boxwell all had Cherokee related names.

rock Island

Rock Island’s rock island, 1950s