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Croatan Lodge 117 History – the 1930’s

In February of 1937 Council Executive John J. Sigwald, Assistant Scout Executive George Thomason, and the Council President Mr. F.C. Harding from Greenville, attended the annual regional meeting in Columbia, South Carolina. At this meeting a session on the Order of the Arrow was held by E. Urner Goodman. Following the meeting the councilmen discussed the advantages and possibilities of forming a local lodge. Thomason was soon given the task of organizing a lodge for the East Carolina Council. He was first inducted in the Order at the 1937 summer camp session of Camp Greystone in Greensboro. Also inducted with him were some Scouters from the Winston-Salem area. The Lodge was officially chartered June 8, 1938. During the early years of the Order, adults were inducted more than youth. This primarily was to establish local programs and promote the OA since the organization was relatively new.

Camp Charles, located in Bailey, was the birthplace of Croatan Lodge. Camp Charles brought power, honor, and prestige to the Area 6-A Section. The camp was first used by Boy Scouts of the Wilson Area Council in 1929. The charter members of Croatan Lodge were first tapped out and inducted during the 1938 summer camp session. There Rev. Charles B. McConnell, a scoutmaster from Nashville, was in charge of the Order of the Arrow ceremonies that summer. A total of about 20 candidates were tapped out at the first Thursday night campfire and taken into the wilds. The Ordeal continued through Friday afternoon. Final recognition was given at the Friday night campfire with a gathering, afterwards. Mr. Goodman was the Ordeal master at the first Ordeal of Croatan Lodge. Mr. Goodman presented George Thomason with a black neckerchief outlined with a white border and with a silhouette of an Indian head. The neckerchief represented Unami Lodge, the first Lodge formed by Mr. Goodman in 1915 at Treasure Island near Philadelphia. Croatan Lodge now owns the neckerchief, which is proudly displayed at Camp Bonner.

Originally, the Lodge totem was chosen as the Virginia Dare Oak. However, the symbol was later changed to the deer. The deer to the Indian represented Honor and Majesty. To have a deer as your totem was an honor almost unequaled. The Lodge name, Croatan, was chosen because of the local heritage and mystery of the "Lost Colony" in nearby Manteo. Before leaving to England for supplies John White, the Governor of the colony, instructed the leader of Fort Raleigh that should it become necessary to leave the area carve the name of the place on a tree. Upon returning to Fort Raleigh, White found that the colonists had disappeared. However, he did find the words "Croatoan" and "Cro" carved in two different trees. John White assumed that the colonists had journeyed to the village of the Croatan Indians on Croatan Island. The fate of the colonists was never discovered. The word Croatan in Algonquian is interpreted as "Dark Yellow".

Vernon Sechriest and William Draper, from Rocky Mount, were inducted into the Lodge during the first few years of existence. These two men were important in the early history, development, and growth of Croatan Lodge. Both men were active in Council programs, had strong troop programs, and were strong supporters of Camp Charles. Vermin "Seek" Sechriest received the Silver Beaver Award in 1937 and William "Bill" Draper received the Silver Beaver Award in 1940. Draper passed away in 1963 and Sechriest passed away in 1990.

In October of 1938 at the second North Carolina State Jubilee in Chapel Hill, a special OA meeting was held for lodges that were already formed in the state. Lodges #70 Tali Tak Taki, #104 Occoneechee, #117 Croatan, and #118 Wahissa were represented. Every Council in North Carolina was invited and represented at the State Jubilee. North Carolina was part of the Area A designation.

In November of 1938 the Council had a Thanksgiving campout held in Beaufort County. The Lodge had a reunion for all of the charter members. Plans were organized for a December Lodge meeting.

Croatan Lodge's first formal Lodge meeting, in the form of a social, was held in Greenville on December 30th, 1938 at the Episcopal Parish House. Fifty Arrowmen from Greenville, Wilson, Washington, Rocky Mount, Kinston, Creswell, Williamston, Hobgood, Vanceboro, Grifton, and Nashville attended. Seven members were inducted from Greenville in 1938. The order of business at the meeting was a buffet supper with a short business meeting followed by games, dancing, and entertainment.

George Thomason remained the Lodge Staff Adviser until 1940, when he became the Council Executive for the Central N.C. Council in Concord. Thomason received the Vigil Honor in Tali Tak Taki Lodge #70 in 1946. Thomason later worked with the Public Relations Department in the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.

Throughout the first years of existence of the Lodge, the Order was more of an honor to the inductees rather than a stable organization with projects during the year.

Submitted by Lodge Editor Wayne Miller
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