Written on the occasion of Troop 12’s 75th Anniversary
The small plaque inside the lobby of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Livingston has an inscription in honor of its founder, which reads “Alexander Livingston Kean 1866-1922.”
Although the small building no longer stands to the rear of the church, the Scouts continue to meet in the new building that stands in its place. The stones that were used in the construction of the fireplace are now buried in the foundation of the new church building. The Sea Scouts of the S.S. Kean in Livingston called themselves “Keaners,” and went on to be a part of the Sea Explorers division of scouting in 1949 and eventually merged into a new Exploring division of the Boy Scouts of America in 1968. By that time, most of Troop 12’s members were less involved in Sea Scouting as Explorers and more as Boy Scouts.
But Alexander Livingston Kean did much more than contribute to the church. In addition to being the direct descendent of New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston, for whom the town of Livingston was named in 1813, Alexander Kean’s son, Robert W. Kean, also founded the first Boy Scout troop in Livingston. The troop began meeting in the church in 1926 and has continued to meet there regularly for 75 years. Alexander’s grandson, Thomas H. Kean, served as governor of the state of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990. The former governor’s father, Robert W. Kean, donated the land on East Mt. Pleasant Avenue to the Episcopal Diocese who built a church there in 1916. Ten years later, St. Peter’s Church became Troop 12’s first and only chartering organization, a tradition the parish continues to this day even though the troop itself is non-denominational. Troop 12 established a Sea Scout patrol in the early 1930s with a group of boys over the age of 15 who wanted to study ‘nautical matters.’ The Sea Scouts were assigned to classifications of nautical advancement: apprentice, ordinary seaman, and able seaman. Merit badges were earned in subjects such as seamanship, astronomy, canoeing, rowing, cruising, sailing and swimming. The Sea Scouts wore blue uniforms similar to those worn by naval seaman instead of the khaki Boy Scout uniforms.
The small building that the Kean family donated to the rear of St. Peter’s Church was used solely by Troop 12. It was built by the boys themselves and became their meeting room from 1926 until 1961 when the church built its new building over the land once used by the Scouts. The original small out-building was called “Scout Hall” and contained both a meeting room on the main floor and an alcove that was built especially for the first Scoutmaster, the late John L. Pollock, who remained active with the Troop for almost 40 years. Scout Hall was dedicated in February 1936 in honor of the troop’s tenth anniversary. The troop members also constructed a huge fireplace with stones brought from every state in the country. Troop 12 won national recognition in the February 1938 issue of Scouting magazine for the building and its extraordinary fireplace. The building was later renamed Sea Scout Ship Robert Winthrop Kean, in honor of the support of the man who had served as honorary chairman of the troop throughout the 1930s and ’40s.
In 1941, the Scouts of Livingston Troop 12 became involved in the war effort, collecting waste paper and scrap metal for the Untied States Defense Department. Many of Troop 12’s boys enlisted and four of the 17 scouts from Livingston were killed in action. Memorialized for making the “supreme sacrifice,” were Walter F. MacQuade Jr., Eagle Scout John F. Montgomery Jr., Elwood Donald Raymond, and Pleasant Stokes.
John L. Pollock, the first Scoutmaster of Troop 12, was appointed vice chairman of the Civil Defense Council in World War II and was chairman of the Salvage Committee. As a result of the salvage drive conducted by Troop 12, the boys earned the only pennant in the East to be awarded by the War Production Board. After earning their award, the Scouts were photographed in Livingston with their sign, “General Ike-This is for you.”
Troop 12 brought to Livingston the General Eisenhower Award in 1945 for collecting a record breaking 1,000 tons of paper and scrap for the war effort. The Scouts used the funds from the Eisenhower Award in 1947 to erect the World War II memorial monument that still stands in Memorial Park.
By its 75th year, 104 members of Troop 12 have earned the rank of Eagle Scout