Firecrafter: Meeting the Times (Leaving Chank, Promotion, Alumni, and Today, 1960-2010)

The first Firecrafter ritual not to be held at Chank-Tun-Un-Gi was in 1961 when it was held at Camp Cullom.  The 1960 Chief of Cullom was David Williams and the 1961 Chief was John Quick.  David Williams took post again in 1963.  The fires were loyal to their camps and the idea of the Council Committee was difficult for them to accept.  In 1961, the constitution & by-laws were revised to establish the Council Committee. In 1963 the first elections for council officers were held at the mid-winter dinner. A Chief’s term would be from January to December and as such only one year would be associated with the Chief. Normally the Belzer Fire Chief would be elected the Council Committee Chief.  The 1963 Belzer Chief was Burr Betts, while Michael Timmons held down the fort at Cullom.  The Council Committee and year round Firecrafter program was implemented after Joe Harsman, Roger Wildman, Mike Ayers, David Williams, and Steve Holt went to an OA Conclave at Camp Tamarack in Jones, MI, which is now the LaSalle Council’s camp in South Bend. The first non-standing Fire Chief was elected in 1966.  This was Lawrence Hood, and his Vice-Chief was R. Andrew Osman, Secretary, Walter H. Schuchmann, and Treasurer, Joseph A. Thomas. This process of elections would continue until 1987, when it was decided to move elections to the Grand Ritual.

A unique story from this time period comes from 1964 Chief Michael St. Pierre.  In the winter of 1961, Scouters from Zionsville, Lebanon, and the Pioneer District were given the Council’s permission to form a Philmont contingent for the summer of 1962.  Joe Griffin was the Belzer Chief, and Williams at Cullom.  The Scouters were “Heiny” Beard, John Hughes, and Del Smith.  Del took his Pioneer Troop to Bradford each summer while the other two always took their Scouts to Cullom or Rotary.  The contingent was made up primarily from Lebanon, Zionsville, Crawfordsville, Pioneer, and a few other Scouts scattered within the council. In total there were about 35 boys.  There was a rumor that this contingent was given permission to take Firecrafter to Philmont.  In reality, the contingent had several (6-8) “shake down” sessions at Camp Bradford.  During these sessions each Scout was given the opportunity to earn Camper, Woodsman, and Firecrafter.  Of those who started the adventure, only seven obtained the requirements for all three ranks.  The contingent arrived home from Philmont on a Thursday night and the seven had to be at Camp Cullom on Friday.  Six of them made it to the ritual and the seventh carried over to the next year.  This would set the standard for the Lone Troop program some 15 years later.  This also showed the opportunity for a suitable substitute to the campfire requirement.  Some of the Scouts hosted other events such as a chapel service.  St. Pierre was a member of this group and attended that Cullom ritual. 

In 1964, the Council Committee accepted Firecrafter's most challenging service project, “council-wide promotion of long-term camping”, a program that ties directly into the very existence of both Scouting and Firecrafter. The Ember structure, which had been created in 1954 along with the Council Committee, was brought into the project and given a positive reason for existence. Slide shows and film strips were created. Under the leadership of Maurice Riser, brochures were prepared for use by boys and adults in visiting troops all over the council to what the summer camping appetite of the scouts who saw them, as well as to acquaint them with the Firecrafter program. The first film strip, used for camp promotion in 1965, brought 978 more boys into summer camp that year than attended in 1964. The efforts of the organization toward this goal have been greatly rewarding over the years, and have gone a long way to justify Firecrafter's existence.  Skip Lange made the first camp promotion visual that was used by Firecrafter in camp promotion. Skip was a huge supporter of camping and Firecrafter for many years.

The fire spread to Camp Ransburg in 1966 when the camp was acquired by the Central Indiana Council.  The 1966 ritual was held at the camp.  Eighty-three Scouts and forty-three Scouters received their Firecrafter rank at the 1966 Grand Ritual.  Over 100 Firecrafters conducted the ceremony and were quartered in tends for the first time at a ritual.  Those who attended the ritual recall that it was very wet.  There was also a shortage of Firecrafter shirts, because of the unexpected numbers.  Ransburg only produced 16 candidates that summer while Belzer, 63; Cullom, 7; Rotary, 3; and Bradford 1.  Bruce Bohall became the Ransburg Fire’s first new Firecrafter on July 9th.  The first Chief of the Ransburg Fire was Gilbert L. Foreman Jr. and his Advisor was Richard L. Corwin. 

In 1972, the Central Indiana Council, the Delaware County Council, the Kikthawenund Council, and the White Water Valley Council were consolidated to form the Crossroads of America Council, thus enlarging Firecrafter's operating area, while bringing it into contact with the Order of the Arrow.  

At this time a new Flame structure was created to correspond with the sections of the Council.  The reconstruction took place under the leadership of Jack Wyatt, Ron Edmiston, Joe Harshman, Frank Chase, Jim Roberts, David Joe Krentler, and Mark St. John.  Charters were required for Flames and Embers, training of officers was mandated, communication with the Order of the Arrow was opened, and certain Ember and Fire identities were relinquished. These changes were implemented in a new constitution in 1972 and further revised in 1979 when the present constitution was adopted. In these altered circumstances, Firecrafter has continued to expand, penetrating into all parts of the enlarged Council and establishing amicable relationships with the Order of the Arrow. 

As Ransburg became the main summer camp of the Crossroads of America Council, Camp Belzer (originally Chank-Tun-Un-Gi), became Crossroads’ main Cub Scout camp.  In 1978, it was decided that the Cub Scouts of the Crossroads should have the opportunity to experience the Firecrafter program. Under the leadership of Paul Knotts, a Cub Scout Rank of Firecrafter was created.  The dubbed it Webelos Camper.  Knotts was the Council Chief in 1977, and during the implementation of the rank, John Talley was Chief in ’78.  The national Scouting movement would later move to a two-year Webelos program.  Through the leadership of Glen Steenberger, a second Cub Scout rank was created called Firelight.  While earning Webelos Camper, Scouts learned the outdoor code, Scout Motto, Logan, Sign, Salute, and Handshake.  They learned how to set up a tent and tie two basic knots as well as discuss the three ideals of Firecrafter: Friendship, Leadership, and Service.  In Firelight, first aid is added as well as knowledge of the Scout Badge and Arrow of light.  Scouts had to identify trees and plants, take a 1-mile hike, and participate in a Spark of Interest Trail.  The Webelos ranks continue to be offered at Camp Belzer and Kikthawenund.

Adults were admitted to Firecrafter almost from the beginning as "honoraries", a misleading term, since it is well understood that membership in Firecrafter is not merely an honor for an adult, but also a commitment to undertake additional leadership responsibility in support of Scouting and the Firecrafter program.  Starting in 1921, adults were admitted by vote of the Fire, limited initially to members of the senior camp staff and to a quota of one honorary to every ten youth Firecrafters at a given ritual.  Under the 1927 constitution, only those adult staff members who gave most of their time to Firecrafter could hope to be admitted.

The staff limitation was eventually abandoned in favor of a Lord Baden Powell, who was admitted in 1960.  The quota restriction was relaxed in 1950 to accommodate deserving Scouters who had been missed because of the rapid postwar expansion of Scouting in the Central Indiana Council.  Another notable Scouter to be admitted into Firecrafter was William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt in 1990.  By 1959, it was concluded that this problem had to be taken care of; so a quota system was reimposed and a screening committee was set up to review adult nominations.  

The presence of adults in Firecrafter did not arise alone from the admission of adults as honorary members, but arose also from the fact that scouts who became Firecrafters also became adults within a very few years. For a time, such adults had no role to play in the organization. They could not go to camp. They could not work with the program there. The most they could do was to become life members of their Fire, which they had always been able to do, even as scouts, upon payment of a fee (originally ten dollars). In the late 50's, Bob Harger and Eric Wadleigh became concerned about this problem, and under their leadership the Firecrafter Alumni Association was formed at the 40th Anniversary Firecrafter Reunion in 1960. Into it were inducted all of the adults who were members of the Fire. Henceforth, all adult "honoraries," and all youth Firecrafters upon reaching the age of 21, automatically became members of the Firecrafter Alumni Association.  Lew Johnson wrote and established the adult candidate program which would replace the honorary Firecrafter program operated by the Fires.  To this day the Firecrafters nominate and elect an Alumni President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

In 2001, under the leadership of Firecrafter Chief Justin Sloan, The Firecrafter Spark program was established to get the units more involved in the Firecrafter Program.  The program was approved under the leadership of Chief Justin Sloan, and emphasized and strengthened under the leadership of Chief Justin ‘Sox’ Scott.  The program is still being evaluated and improved.  A Firecrafter spark is either a Camper, Woodsman, or Firecrafter who attends the Ember meetings of his local ember and reports events, activities, and news back to the unit.  The Spark is a voting member of the Ember.  The Spark also helps to promote Firecrafter within his Troop and works with the SPL and Ember Vice Chief to set up a good time for Summer camp promotion.  He also promotes events such as Spring Fellowship, Fall Frenzy, Midwinter Dinner, and the Service Days.  The Spark helps get the Troop up to date and active with the Firecrafter Program and is a leadership position that counts towards advancement for the Boy Scout ranks Star and Life.

In 2002, Crossroads made another merger this time with the Wabash Valley Council and their fire from the 1930's was re-ignited producing its first Firecrafters at Camp Krietenstein in 2003.  Chief Justin ‘Sox’ Scott recruited Firecrafters Doug Hale and Wayne Robbins from Troop 9 (Belzer’s original troop) to join the Krietenstein camp staff and run the Firecrafter program.  Long time staffer Albert Siebenmorgen had earned his Firecrafter at Krietenstein in the 30's and was glad to see its return.  He became the first adult Minisino crowned at the camp in 2005.  Doug Hale was the first youth to candidate as a Minisino at the camp.  Council Chief’s Adam Reynolds and later Mike Allen took a real interest in helping the Krietenstein fire.  Allen joined the camp staff along with Jake Baker who served as a Council officer.  The first Firecrafter ritual was held at Krietenstein in 2008.  Today, Ransburg and Krietenstein both hold summer camp programs for Boy Scouts and Camp Belzer and Kikthawenund, while offering Cub Scout ranks, also holds Fire weeks for staff to advance in the ranks of Firecrafter

Firecrafter remains active in the off-season with its traditional events, Mid-Winter Dinner and Spring Fellowship.  In 2005, under the youth leadership of John Pinkus and advisor Walter Sullivan , Firecrafter introduced a fall event, Firecrafter Fall Frenzy.  The event was created to give Firecrafters a chance to test their skills.  The first event had about 50 brothers in attendance and Michael Carney would leave as the Ultimate Mastercrafter.  Within five years the event would grow to nearly 200 participants.  To this day Scouts and Scouters travel from all over to participate in the Firecrafter experience. 

In the early days and for many years, the spark of Firecrafter was kept alive and glowing by the strength and vitality of its three-member backbone, Belzer, Norton, and Aunt Stella. This trio generated such a vigorous scouting spirit that the success of Firecrafter was inevitable. With the thoroughness of Belzer, the perseverance of Norton, the warmth of Aunt Stella, and the dedication of all three, it didn't take long. The foundation of goals, standards, and ranks of achievement was constructed with care. It was decided that the purpose of Firecrafter should be to build leadership through friendship and service to Scouting. Much thought and much effort went into this endeavor, with results that we see today.

More than ninety years have passed since that first evening in 1920, and many changes have taken place. Belzer, Norton, and Aunt Stella have long since passed away, along with many dedicated successors, and we no longer have the special vigor of a new and struggling organization. The original leadership structure has had to be modified because of continuing changes in Scouting and growth of Firecrafter's boundaries. Our constitution and by-laws have had to be amended many times to keep in step. These changes, together with modifications in emblem display, in requirements, in ceremonies, and in fact all phases of Firecrafter, have led us to a present day organization that differs in many ways from the original.

Nevertheless, ninety years later, the members of Firecrafter continue to contribute all they can to Scouting and to its betterment. Most important is our continued emphasis, unchanged and unweakened by the passage of time, upon the basic principles laid down by our founders. With them we still dedicate ourselves to the development of leadership through friendship and service to Scouting. May we steadfastly strive toward this goal and constantly renew our pledge of the Unknown Test.

Written By: Justin 'Sox' Scott -2010 with assistance from 'Uncle' Mike Stalcup, Nathan Butler, and Walter Sullivan. 
(Additional Acknowledgement to: David Joe Krentler, David Williams, Steve Holt, Mike St. Pierre, Mark St. John, Dave Brewer, and Kenn Reinhardt)

Original History By: Everet F. Smith - 1980 with minor revisions in 1997 by Matt Baldwin
(Additional Acknowledgement to: Merle Miller, Bob Harger, Eric Wadleigh, Bert Johnson, Joe Harshman, Frank Chase, David Joe Krentler, and John Pratt)

Firecrafter is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Copyright © 2018 | | Crossroads of America Council | Boy Scouts of America

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software