Rosemead Kiwanis Club

   "Serving the Community Since 1945"


Background Study



Woodcraft Rangers Coming to Rosemead ---

                     but who are they?


Due in part to efforts of Rosemead Kiwanian and Garvey School District Board President Bob Breusch and County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Woodcraft Ranger after school program is being offered in five Rosemead schools: Garvey Intermediate plus Hillcrest, Sanchez, Willard and Williams Elementary. The program comes to Rosemead as part of a 21st CCLC (21st Century Community Learning Centers) grant program in conjunction with the Federally-funded “No Child Left Behind‘ program.


Just what or who are the Woodcraft Rangers?


According to their official website "Woodcraft Rangers was founded in 1902 by author and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton to provide alternative activities for delinquent youth. Seton's goal was to deflect children from criminal activities by providing character-building opportunities based on the principles of service, truth, fortitude and beauty.  We honor this same mission today. 

Seton’s youth group model was the forerunner for other well-known programs, such as the Boy Scouts and Campfire."


This is absolutely true – but tells only part of the story!


Seton, an emigrant to America from England via Canada, retained many contacts in his native country.  After founding his Woodcraft Indian (the original name) movement in Connecticut he counseled Lord Baden Powell on the founding of the Boy Scout movement in England.  Seton’s thoughts and contribution are largely reflected in Powell’s famous book, Scouting for Boys


William D. Boyce was a Chicago based businessman who employed thousands of youths as newspaper distributors.  He became interested in scouting is interest as the result of a "good deed" by an unknown Scout in England.  This led to his underwriting costs of bringing the movement to the United States. As part of the effort Baden-Powell assigned his own British title, “First Scout” to Seton.


The intention of the Boyce/Powell/Seton effort was to merge Seton’s group with several other youth organizations [among them Daniel Carter Beard’s Sons of Daniel Boone] as a single scouting movement.  According to the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) history site American Scouting’s "original 1910 handbook included 50 pages from Baden-Powell and 100 pages of Seton's writings."


Unfortunately a falling out occurred between early American BSA founders. Both Seton and Boyce were edged out by Executive Secretary James E. West. Their names and contributions were for many years expunged from official Scout materials.  Beard remained BSA National Commissioner for 30 years.


Seton in departing declared his Woodcraft Indians to never have been fully incorporated into the Scouting movement. He re-established them as a separate organization. Unlike West (who for many years resisted the founding of what became Cub Scouting), Seton wanted all ages to be involved in the movement.  He would go on to help in founding of the Brownie movement that became part of the Girl Scouts of America. He was also active in the starting of the Campfire Girls/Bluebirds.  


West finally agreed to the establishment of a Cub Scout program in 1927 with a $50,000 grant from Laura Spelman Rockefeller. Seton (who had originated the idea in 1911) returned to help organize the new branch. “Cubbing” (as it was initially called in England) was formally made part of the BSA on an experimental basis in 1930 and soon found widespread acceptance.


Boyce did not abandon his interest in youth after the break with the BSA. He instead founded the Lone Scout program for boys in isolated areas.  It prospered for several years but was merged into the Boy Scout movement in 1924.


The Los Angeles Woodcraft Rangers was founded in 1915 as part of Seaton’s re-established Woodcraft League of America.  The League was co-educational and eschewed what Seaton regarded as the "militaristic" aspects of Scouting.  Boy scouting at that time had not yet developed in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles Woodcraft Rangers were incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1922.  As an independent entity it survived the gradual demise of the nationwide League. Seaton had given up running the organization after moving to New Mexico in 1930 at the age of 70; he died in 1946 at age 86. The mission of the Los Angeles group today "is to promote healthy youth development, especially in low-income neighborhoods that offer limited opportunities."


To quote the group’s website:


"After-school programs and customized camping experiences enhance participants’ social, cognitive, motor and fitness skills. Woodcraft's programs also strengthen children's bonds with their natural support systems (schools, family, peers and community), thereby reducing their risks for academic failure, crime/gang involvement, substance abuse, and teenage parenting.

In fiscal year 2004-2005, 11,920 children and youth (ages 6 to 18) benefited from Woodcraft's programs; 11,121 students participated in After School Clubs alone.  The geographic areas served include the lowest income areas of the San Fernando Valley, Central Los Angeles, South Central/Watts, Huntington Park/Southeast Los Angeles, and Inglewood.


"Woodcraft Rangers’ clients are ethnically and culturally diverse, including 81% Latinos, 12% African-Americans, 2% Caucasians, 1% each Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians, and 4% of mixed ethnicity.  Participants are 51% female and 49% male. Children from all backgrounds are encouraged to join our programs."


The involvement of the Woodcraft Rangers in the 21st CCLC grant program marks an expansion of the group outside the City of Los Angeles and is therefore a benchmark in its ninety-year history.