Boy scout statue at the grave of William D. Boyce.

Boy Scout Founder Grave Monument

Field review by the editors.

Ottawa, Illinois

In a cemetery along the Illinois River, a sculpture of a boy scout scans the landscape, as if taking an inventory of materials he'll need to build a stick bridge or a campfire. The statue, a bronze of "The Ideal Scout" added here in 1941, stands at the grave of William D. Boyce, founder of the American version of the Boy Scouts.

The monument notes that wealthy Boyce was a Publisher - Explorer - Humanitarian, but he's best known for bringing England's boy scouts to the states. According to scout lore, in 1909 Boyce was in London, en route to a photo expedition in Africa, when he became lost in the fog. A boy helped him find his way, and refused a tip from Boyce, telling him he was performing his duty as a boy scout. Boyce was so impressed that when he got home he formed the Boy Scouts of America.

This story has been disputed, with weather data and other conflicting facts. But if we were telling it to a troop at a nighttime pow wow, this is the point where a dummy disguised as a B.S.A. origin debunker would be thrown from the top of Tecumseh Rock, roll down over Darlington Falls, and join the ghost of Lady Darlington in eternal unhappiness.

Fog or not, Boyce did form an enduringly successful American organization.

Boyce purchased a mansion in Ottawa in 1903, and it became his home. The town historical society maintains a museum with exhibits on the town's history and its scouting heritage.

Boy Scout Founder Grave Monument

Ottawa Avenue Cemetery

Address:
1601 Ottawa Ave, Ottawa, IL
Directions:
Southwest end of town in the cemetery, take main avenue to back, along river.
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