The nucleus of the Pine Bend Scout Club was formed January 16, 1931, when F.R. Neibel of the St Paul Area Council sent a letter to a city-wide group of First Class Scouts, inviting them to be members of the St. Paul Hiking Club to be organized by R.J. Hagman, former Scoutmaster of Troop 54.
On December 20, 1931, the members of the hiking club returned over the route of their first hike and “R.J. announced his purchase of the valley on the Mississippi River subsequently named “Friendly Valley.” The building of a cabin was planned. On February 22, 1932, the constitution of the Pine Bend Scout Club was adopted. It seemed a good omen that the founding of the club took place on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of George Washington, the founder of the country. In April 1932, just seventeen years after the last log raft had been towed by barge down the Mississippi, another raft, this time of telephone poles, was floated eighteen miles from the St Paul airport to Friendly Valley. After working with an expert log cabin builder for four days, the scouts spent the spring and summer turning the poles into a log cabin. Then it was topped with 1,500 hand-hewn shakes. On Sunday, October 30, 1932, the builders, 33 scouts, assembled in the cabin and elected Paul Rossiter as their first President The other officers were William Shyrock, Bruce Brink, Larry Gates, Willard Conradi, and Robert Montgomery. In December 1932, R.J. wrote “there is much talk of what the boys are going to do next – build a fireplace, an archery range, a lookout on the south hill, rustic bridges … a little Adirondack, plant a wild flower garden, and acquire a colony of bees.”
In 1937, Wally Milnar drew up plans for the new bunkhouse. During these first ten years, Christmas parties were held at the Ramsey County Preventorium, the Pine Bend Tattler was first issued by editor Tom Hope, the Century Club accepted its first footsore members (who had hiked 100 miles cumulatively to and from the cabin from the city limits), Bob Jesness began the Pine Bend forestry service, twenty-five to thirty mile-long “mankiller” hikes took place every April (and some, not finished to date), and the Ghost of Ice-Box Draw appeared. In 1940, the older members of the club organized the Pine Bend Association and elected Willard Conradi as the first president. PBA’s purpose was to help the Scout Club, which continued to operate until about 1950, and to form a corporate body to hold title to the Pine Bend property.
On February 22, 1942, a 10th Anniversary dinner was held at the cabins. R.J. and President Bob Jesness gave accounts of the Club’s history and the younger members re-enacted their interpretation of the scenes that took place ten years earlier. Already thirty-four of the sons of Pine Bend had entered the Armed Services.
Many joined the Club after 1942, riding the crest of the waves which had started when the first telephone pole was thrown into the Mississippi at the St Paul airport. After the war, the Scout Club prospered for a short time under the direction of Gordy Meeker and John Wallace. This was the heyday for the Pine Bend Association. Most of the older PBSC members, though strongly interested in the welfare and future of the Club, were too occupied with career and family building to give much time to providing leadership for the Scout Club.
Every month the fraternity of the Pine Bend Association met for dinner, laughs, and speakers. An active part in Community Chest drives began, and a canoe derby was sponsored for the St Paul Area Council. Although the fraternalism borne out of the outdoor activities of their youth held the Association together, the Club’s focus of interest changed as the impending industrial development at Pine Bend made the property undesirable for recreational activities.
Acting in the role of shrewd old Yankee traders, Lin Power and Hadley Miller refused the first $1,200 offer for Friendly Valley and ended up with $45,000. Then in 1957, the “Committee of the 45” was formed. It was decided to go on with a course similar to the old Pine Bend with a new generation. In 1959, a property located southwest of Mille Lacs Lake was purchased. A short time later, the son of one of the old Pine Benders, seeing the birch trees on the new property surrounding the southeast shore of our beautiful lake, dubbed the place Birch Bend.
By good fortune, the committee had obtained a property on a nearly uninhabited lake within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities. There are 320 mostly timber-covered acres, the use of which will be limited only by our imaginations. The Lake is 30-35 feet deep, with sandy beaches and a good variety of fish. Wildlife includes pheasants, ducks, deer and small game. Even the Ghost of Ice-Box Draw is believed to have a home in the ancient stone cabin on the road to the lake.
In July of 1982, a 50th Anniversary Reunion was held, attended by about 120 members plus their families. It was a great occasion, enjoyed by all. The festivities included an afternoon reception and evening banquet at a Twin City hotel and a family picnic at Birch Bend the following day, complete with roast pig, free beer, and a hayride. More than half of those attending came from outside the Twin Cities and literally came from the far corners of the U.S. and Alaska!
Not only has a new area been opened at Birch Bend, but a new era with the valuable addition to our membership of non-PBSC Scouters. It is appropriate at this time to recognize their generous acceptance of the responsibilities and the added dimensions of their participation.
A history of the Pine Bend Scout Club and Pine Bend Association would be incomplete without paying special tribute to the memory of Reuben J. Hagman, the founder and adult leader of the organization until the War Years. His inspiration and example were beneficial to a great number of those who grew up in the Pine Bend Scout Club heydays. While these fellows were accomplishing “he-man” feats, erecting log cabins, cutting firewood, building trails, and taking long hikes, R.J., by subtle counseling, encouraged many to further educate themselves for the future. Not only did a very high percentage achieve the rank of Eagle Scout while in the Club, but the percentage of those who obtained a college education was exceptional. He brought to a great number of young men a serious consideration and active practice of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
The tradition of R.J. Hagman goes on in the Pine Bend Association, to wit:
Outdoor Activity, &
Service to Others.