Great Smoky Mountain Council History

The History of the Scouting in Knoxville actually began before the official forming of the Boy Scouts of America. Local businessman William Perry "Buck" Toms read about the Scouting movement going on in England and decided to contact Lord Baden-Powell to learn more. Toms formed the first troop, Troop 1, in Knoxville in 1909. Other troops soon followed and the first area-wide camping event was held at Chilhowee Park in 1912.

The Knox County Council was chartered on February 26, 1915, with Toms serving as the first Commissioner and David Blakey as President. The first summer camp was held at Elmont in what would become the Great Smoky National Park less than two decades later. The first professional Scout Executive, John Gore, was hired in 1916. 

The first World Scout Jamboree was held in London England in 1920, with the United States sending 301 Scouts. The Knox County Council Council sent 19 Scouts, which was the largest contingent from any U.S. city. Toms served as Morale Commissioner for the entire U.S. contingent. 

The Knox County Council continued to grow, absorbing other councils, and changed its name to the Knoxville Area Council in 1930. With the continued growth the council began looking for a permanent Summer camp for its youth. In 1938 they built the council's first permanent camp on Lake Norris, naming the camp appropriately Camp Lake Norris, which would be renamed Camp Pellissippi in 1940.

By 1942 the council was serving 18 counties and the number of Scouts had more than double over the previous five years. To better reflect the council's growth are broader geography it was decided to change the name to the Great Smoky Mountain Council.

The following year Elmer Hawkins was directed by Scout Executive Orton Duggan to form an Order of the Arrow lodge for the Great Smoky Mountain Council. On August 13th, 1943 Hawkins selected eleven youth from the Summer camp staff to become the first members of the Pellissippi Lodge. THey spent that night alone under the stars and completed their Ordeal the following day. 

By 1952 the Council was beginning to outgrow Camp Pellissippi as a primary Summer camp. Scout Executive Charlie Hudson, Toms and a group of volunteers began their search for a location of a new camp. Later that year the council purchased land on Watts Bar Lake. In 1955 Buck Toms Reservation held it first Summer camp. In 1957 the camp was renamed to Camp Buck Toms. 

For 20 years the Great Smoky Mountain Council operated two Summer camps. In 1976 the dinning hall at Camp Pellissippi burned down and the council decided not to rebuild it and use Camp Buck Toms as its only residence camp going forward. 

The Great Smoky Mountain Council celebrated it's 100th Anniversary in 2015 and now covers 21 counties across East Tennessee.