The history of this central New York lodge is tightly linked to its home council camp Crumhorn Mt. Camp, now the Henderson Scout Reservation. The leaders who saw the need for a new camp that would serve the increasing interest in Scouting after WWII also thought the council should have a new boy organization in place to help the new camp grow.

The Order of the Arrow itself was a young organization that had only been made an official part of BSA five months before Onteroraus Lodge applied for membership. The Order had already gained favor with the council’s leaders because the legends of the order dealt closely with the Algonquian and Iroquoian Indian cultures of its own Upper Delaware-Susquehanna River Valleys in central New York; and two of the Order’s ceremonial characters borrowed from James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, Chingatchcook and Uncas, still haunted the literary shores of the Glimmerglass (Otsego Lake) at nearby Cooperstown.

The Executive Board of Otschodela Council approved the new lodge on June 9th, 1948 and elections were held each week at camp to select a pool of candidates. When the National Council approved the new lodge's application on October 20, quick plans were made to hold the first Ordeal Ceremony the following weekend.

FIRST ORDEAL CEREMONY 1948 The first ordeal ceremony of the new lodge was conducted on October 22-23, 1948 by a visiting inaugurating team from the Aquohongian Lodge of Staten Island. In all, 40 new members were inducted, including at least one charter member, Kenneth Bailey, who still serves on camp staff each summer as field sports director. A Lodge Induction Team from Aquehonigan Lodge, Staten Island, installed charter members of Onteroraus Lodge 402,October 22-23, 1948.

These Oneonta Eagle Scouts, under the direction of Louis A. Hornbeck, Otschodela's first Scout Executive, performed before various civic organizations in surrounding communities. Left to right, Louis A. Hornbeck, John l. VanWoert, Arly Wilber, William Hanlon, Norman C. Meagley, Paul Munson and Phillip Potter. (Ed. Louis A. Hornbeck later became a noted Scout Executive in Suffern, L.I. for Nassau Co. Council, and worked closely with National's James E. West and Chief Scout Danial Carter Beard).

NEW LODGE BUSINESS 1948 At its first business meeting in November, dues were assessed {.50/year), ordeal service projects determined, and fees were collected for the arrow sash (.75) and the annual dinner (1.00). A second meeting was called in December to appoint a nominating committee for lodge officers and select a lodge name and totem. Out of several Indian names considered, Onteoraus was selected, and a lodge totem of three mountains,"Mountains in the Sky," chosen.

The nominating committee report in the lodge's archives indicates that a George Tilley was elected as the first Chief, Charles Clark as first Secretary-Treasurer, and two others, John Whitacker and William Shepard, were elected as Tellers.

The lodge's first constitution, a set of handwritten and typed notes, included language to dispel any fears that the new order was a secret organization infested with radical beliefs or violated the religious obligations of its members. Provision was made to allow adult Scouters (but apparently not Scouts) to transfer from one lodge to another, provided he was a member in good standing of his former lodge and had passed the Ordeal test without flinching.

The general insignia of the Order was, as it remains today, a red arrow on a white sash. Provision for individual lodge insignia was not included in the lodge's first constitution, although less than a year later, a round patch featuring three stylized snowcapped mountains of the lodge's totem was made available to its members.

ONTERORAUS LODGE 402 CHARTER MEMBERS. A total of 40 charter members were inducted during the lodge's first induction ceremony at Crumhorn Mt. Camp, October 22-23, 1948--38 youth members and three adult professional Scouters, Clay Colburn and Wallace Barone, who had been members of other lodges before coming to Otschodela Council, and D.D. Crisp, Othschodela Council Executive. The Onteroraus Lodge Minutes, 10-23-48, lists the following:

Kenneth Bailey, Charles Bilby, James White, William White, John Whitaker, W.B. Waite, George Tilley, Leonard Shepard, Philip Monroe, George Reinbeck, Bill Monrow, Bill Rhodes, George Mulkins, Fred Morris, Robert Manning, Charles Lipe, Paul Knowleton, Robert Kavanaugh, Peter Gregory, Harold Hayes, William Horton, Charles Harlow, Mahlon Hallock, Stanley Hall, Earl Grensback, Alford Grant, Damon Kroh (Chairman of Canmping and Activities Committee), Carlton Jones, Gerald Fuller, Lynn Finch, Charles Clark, R. Donald Chartier, Philip Caswell, Edward Clough, Leland Beach, Bruce Bard, David Andrus, D.D. Chrisp (Scout Excecutive), Andrew.R.Ewing (Council President), Clay Colburn, Wallace Barone.

The first part of induction ceremonies took place Friday, and on Saturday those passing the required tests were installed by a Order of the Arrow degree team from Staten Island, led by Scouters Lee Ellison and John Young Sr. The Scouts who helped put on the installation ceremonies from Aquehonigan Lodge wee Jesse Mertz, Thomas Sterner and John Young Jr.

As this is the first Order of the Arrow to be established in the tri-county council, all who were inducted over the weekend automatically became charter members. The following area members of the council were also installed in the new lodge: Willis Waite, chairman of troop committee, Troop 33, and Leonard Shepard, Troop 35, Philip Monroe and James White, Troop 33, all of Delhi; Carlton Jones, leader of Explorer Post, Harold Hayes, Schenevous; Paul Knowlton and Bruce Bard, Unadilla.

--Oneonta Daily Star, Oct. 25, 1948.

FIRST CAMP ORDEAL RING The first ceremonial ring was constructed in 1949 out of the debris of the many tangled trees and brush left from clearing troopsites, the "villages," in the new camp. It is not coincidental that the first brothers tapped out there were those most helpful in the early days of "brushhogging" operations, and perhaps the first to argue that the lodge totem should have been a "mountain of brush in the sky"

A design for a new Lodge Circle to replace the 1949 Camp Ordeal Ring was submitted in 1960 to be in place for the Area 2-D Conclave in 1961. The 'birch background' mentioned on the plan was a stockade of white birch logs behind the main raised fire platform.

EARLY TAPOUT CEREMONIES Tapout ceremonies seem to have been a subject of little consensus during Onteroraus' early years. While the National Lodge provided an official "history" of the origins of the Order of the Arrow steeped (some say dredged!) in the lore of the Leni Lenape, lodges apparently borrowed freely from the legends of other tribes as well.

Some early scripts in the lodge's archives invoke the blessings of the Great Spirit Manatau or the fire god Wakonda or the Pawnee's mighty Tirawa Atius. Other ceremonies raised up James Fenimore Cooper's fictional warrior Uncas from the dead to fight off marauding Hurons, or featured Uncas' father Chingatchgook leading the candidates in a round of the Omaha Peace Chorus.

Some opening ceremonies recommended the use of chemicals or colored flares for special effects. Dry hemlock needles made lots of "natural" smoke as dancers whorled around a ten-to-twelve foot flaming "fire pole." Flash powder was suggested as a good way to get the attention of "Wa-con-ta-da, whose dwelling we know is above the Thunderbird." For years during the 50s and the 60s, one of the first tasks of the odious Hurons when they hit the shores of Crumhorn Lake was to burn the butcher paper-wrapped teepees of the peaceful Leni Lenape camped on the Mess Hall lawn---the story line gradually fell out of favor during the 70s as the Viet Nam War elevated the public's sensitivity to village buring incidents.

Another script features Uncas, perhaps forgetting his literary origins among Algonquian-speaking peoples, reciting an entire confabulation in flowery pseudo-Iroquoian phonics:

"I will rise before the sun and ascend yonder hill to see the new light chase away the vapors, and disperse the clouds. Great spirit, give me success, and when the sun is gone, lend me, oh moon, light sufficient to guide me with safety back to my tent loaden with deer."

At the opposite end of the ceremonial spectrum is a brief Salutation to the Four Winds handed down from Ernst Thompson Seton's Woodcraft League. Elegent in its simplicity, it welcomes the participants 'round a small council fire. With the fire lit in the "manner of the Forest Children"--using flint and steel or bow drill, the important business of inducting new candidates gets underway.

FIRST BROTHERHOOD INDUCTION CEREMONY, Crumhorn Mt. Camp, Maryland, NY, October 14, 1950.

FIRST VIGIL CEREMONY 1959 Hazen A. Ross, Scout Executive, Otschodela Council BSA. The lodge conducted its first Vigil ceremony in 1959, inducting Otschodela's Scout Executive Hazen A. Ross as its first candidate. Hazen Ross arrived on the Oneonta scene in 1950, after service in the Nassau and Cayuga County Councils. Ross attended Springfield College and got interested in "things Indian" during his college days there. At his retirement dinner in 1968, he recalled that the editor of the Springfield Republican had asked him to write an exciting true story. "I gathered up a few of my college friends and one of them dressed up as the ghost of Massasoit; we had him walk across the frozen Connecticut River toward the college, scaring all the collegians. The ghost wasn't real, but the story was."

Hazen's interest in the Indian pagentry of the Order of the Arrow is well evident in the newsletters and scrapbooks of the lodge's early years. He organized dance teams and called the public to camp tap-out ceremonies with words like "...ceremonies done in beautiful Indian costumes by firelight, a highlight of a boy's wonderful week at a wonderful camp." During his career at Otschodela Council, the council expanded to reach over 3,000 boys in the central NY area, and twice received an A98 rating.

Hazen A. Ross, 1916-1968, patch and neckerchief awarded to those who attended Hazen's retirement dinner.

Hazen A. Ross became a Tenderfoot Scout on May 29, 1916; he advanced to the rank of Eagle on August 26, 1922. Hazen's professioal career started even before he finished college. In 1923 he was employed on a part time basis with the Hampden Council, Mass. and served as swimming instructor, director of Aquatics from then until 1926.

He became a full time Professional in 1926 when he was employed as Field Executive, Nassau Co. BSA where he served until 1930. At that time he moved to the Council Executive post with the Cayuga Co. BSA at Auburn, NY until 1943 at which time he took the Council Executive job at Chautauqua Co. BSA in Mayville, NY until 1950.

Hazen came to the Otschodela Council in 1950. At that time the council was serving some 2,000 boys. By the time of his retirement in 1968, the number exceeded 3,000. Crumhorn Mt. Camp had grown under his direction, including a new chapel, a new storage building and other improvements. The council professional staff was expanded with the addition of three new Field Executives under his tenure. Hazen A. Ross was honored at his retirement in 1968 with a dinner attended by the entire Otschodela Council Executive Board, the Region II BSA Executive Peter Paulson, Onteroraus Lodge Advisors and Chief, and a host of others eager to say a few words of appreciation to the man who represented the tenents of Scouting so well during his career of service to the Boy Scouts of America.

A professional Scouter among the best, Hazen A. Ross passed away on June 30, 1973.

LODGE SECTIONS AND CONCLAVES A 10-page mimeoed program booklet in the Lodge's files documents the first conclave hosted by Onteroraus Lodge in 1952 at the then-new Crumhorn Mt. Camp. The booklet is instructive--not so much about our lodge (there is no Onteroraus history in the section about the participating lodges) but it is full of proud details about the new camp. In 1952, the Crumhorn Mt. Camp was a 447-acre tract, including a 52-acre lake, acquired by the Otschodela Council in 1947. By the time of the first conclave a new dining hall, health lodge, a trading post, storage building, showerhouse and administration building had been completed. Five campsites, a rifle range and a new dock rounded out the facilities. Over 500 boys enjoyed the new camp the first season.

Onteroraus Lodge has hosted and attended dozens of conclaves in its 50-year history. Today, Onteroraus is a part of the NE-3B Section but originally was a part of Section 2D, the 2H, then 2D again, a section that was finally disbanded in 1988. Onteroraus celebrated its 40th Anniversary that year by hosting the last 2D conclave.


COOPERSTOWN--George S. Kepner, Jr. of Christian Hill Road, Cooperstown, retired Otsego County Surrogate Court Judge and Otschodela Council President, died Saturday, October 30, 1993. He was 61 years old.

Judge Kepner grew up in Jamaica, L.I., graduating from Bishop Lockland Memorial High School in Brooklyn in 1950. He graduated from Syracuse University College of Forestry in 1954. From 1954 to 1956, he served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division. Following his discharge from the army, he attended the Union College of Albany Law School, graduating with his law degree in 1959. Judge Kepner came to Cooperstown in 1959 to associate with the late Scott E. Greene, Esquire, at law offices in Cooperstown and Roxbury. He established his own law office in Cooperstown in 1968.


A 10-page mimeographed program booklet in the Lodge's files documents the first conclave hosted by Onteroraus Lodge at its then-new Crumhorn Mt. Camp. The booklet is instructive--not so much about our home lodge (there is no short history of Onteroraus' 4-year existance), as it is in details about the new camp.

Crumhorn Mt. Camp in 1952 was a 447-acre tract, including Crumhorn Lake, acquired by the Otschodela Council in 1947. At the time of the conclave, a Dining Hall, Health Lodge, Trading Post (then called a commissary), Shop a a storage building, now known as the Rotary Craft Lodge), a Showerhouse, Pump House with a chlorinator, and an Ad Building had been completed. Five campsites with facilities for 175 boys per week, rifle range equipment and a new dock installed in 1950 rounded out the accouterments.

Over 500 boys enjoyed the new camp in 1952 and the council was proud to show it off to the conclave participants.

From the program schedule, it is evident that five other lodges* joined with Onteroraus brothers for a day of discussions and guest speakers, and an evening of tapout, ordeal and brotherhood ceremonies. Sunday morning was taken up by religeous services, a fishing contest; the afternoon by a Vigil selection meeting and election of the Area officers for the coming year. The rest of the program booklet is padded with a three-page rendition of D.M. Penrose's lyrical poem The Ordeal and a blank autographs page.

*Mohawk Lodge #267, Mahikan Lodge # 181, Nick Stoner Lodge #418, Sisillja Lodge #19, Otahanagon Lodge #172



Two conference reports in the files, one for the Order of the Arrow National Conference at Bloomington, Indiana and another for the 43rd Anniversary OA Conference in ALawrence, Kansas in 1958 indicate that brothers from Ontereoraus were in attendance.

Correspondance in Troop 1 Unadilla, NY's files from Scout Executive Hazen Ross to Scoutmaster Al Gurney on July 25, 1958 indicates that Alfred James Poole III was chosen as a "top-notch" representative to the OA National Conference in 1958.

--Onteroraus Lodge files of George Kepner, Troop 1 Archives corresp. Albert Gurney


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March 21, 2007 9:53 AM