Young filmmaker Blake Cortright attended summer camps with his family at Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks all his life. After becoming a Boy Scout, Blake visited Silver Bay with his troop in the summer of 2008. It was here that he met Bob James, a long time volunteer worker. Bob met with the boys at a campfire ring in the woods, and with only a binder of old historic photos, he shared on America's first Boy Scout camp held at this very location. Over the next one and a half years, Blake put his camera and editing skills to work and produced a documentary about the first encampment.
In 1908, Sir Robert Baden Powell started Boy Scouts in England. Only a few years later, with the backing of Chicago publisher William Boyce, the Boy Scouts of America was formed. The YMCA played an integral part in its early development. In August 1910, the YMCA hosted the first Boy Scout camp in America at Silver Bay in upstate New York.
The people behind "The First Encampment"
Blake Cortright is a young filmmaker on the rise. As a Boy Scout, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout at only 14 years of age. His passion for film, the desire to tell a good story, and his attention to detail come through in this documentary where he supervised every aspect of production.
Robert James spent years researching the history of the first Boy Scout camp. He first presented this information, along with original black and white photos, in the summer of 2008. Bob's love for Silver Bay and his enthusiasm for scouting brings a genuine realism to the production.
John Kearney, a professional voice actor from upstate New York, provided the primary narration. His authentic vocals give The First Encampment its professional quality sound.
He has an impressive body of work that can be found at his website at www.johnkearney.net
learn about the founders of the scouting movement
Baden Powell was a general in the British army. He started Boy Scouts in England in 1908. His world famous book, Scouting for Boys, set forth the foundational principles of scouting.
William Boyce was a Chicago publisher. After a visit to England and an encounter with one of Powell’s boy scouts, Boyce came back to America and started the Boy Scouts of America.
Edgar Robinson was the YMCA’s executive secretary of the National Boy’s Work Committee. He was instrumental in pulling forces together to bring about the first experimental camp at Silver Bay.
Ernest Thompson Seton was one of the leaders in charge of this first camp. He was the author of the first handbook for the Boy Scouts of America and served as chief scout from 1910-1915.
Daniel Carter Beard was the founder of the Sons of Daniel Boone. He was in charge of the last two days of camp. He became a national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America.
James West was a rising lawyer and a dynamic YMCA worker. He showed up at Silver Bay at the last day of the original encampment. He became chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America.
What others are saying
FROM THE PRESS
"This is a very impressive documentary from a young talent. The production value and techniques used are excellent. The film moves…and more importantly, it moves the viewer. Cortright could be following in the footsteps of Ken Burns.”
Barry Stoner, WMHT's Chief Content Officer told the Times Union:
"He's got a good story, and he tells it pretty well." The original version required a few technical tweaks, he [Barry Stoner] said, but he has worked with far more experienced producers whose efforts needed more work than "The First Encampment."
WMHT Chief Content Officer
"Blake Cortright is a 16-year-old Eagle Scout from New York. Blake recently produced The First Encampment, a documentary that tells the story of the first organized Boy Scout camp held in the United States in 1910 at Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks."
“A professional documentary, with an 'old time' feel. This remarkable video made by an Eagle Scout, has important facts about the beginnings of an American institution.”
New York State Assemblyman
"A terrific video about the history of the Boy Scouts and the place that scout camping began. If you are interested in the story of how Scouting started you need to check it out!”
Director of Support Services
BSA Twin Rivers Council—Albany, NY
"Eagle Scout Blake Cortright is not the typical Scout. Two years ago, Blake came home from a troop outing with the idea for his first television documentary. He was 14 years old."
Eagle Scout Magazine
Click here to read the full article.
"Blake Cortright became an Eagle Scout at the young age of 14, and two years later he created a documentary about the Scouts' first camp that will air May 29 on public television. The Shaker High School sophomore got the idea for his film after attending a Boy Scout camp and learning that the first time the Scouts ever gathered for a camp was at Silver Bay in the Adirondacks."
"Inspired by scouting from generations ago, 16 year-old Blake Cortright is sharing a bit of little-known history in an upcoming documentary."
"The Boy Scouts of America has been called the largest environmental organization in the country, and its handbook a conservation best seller. That both were launched one hundred years ago on Lake George, at Silver Bay, might have remained forgotten were it not for the work of a fifteen year old film maker from Latham."
"Seeing his first video on YouTube was fun, but Saturday at 4 p.m. Blake Cortright is taking things to a whole new level."
"Shaker High School sophomore, Blake Cortright, is on the fast-track to a promising career in the film industry."
North Colonie Central School District
RESTORING THE COUNCIL RING
Director Blake Cortright's younger brother Brad earned the rank of Eagle Scout this past summer. He completed his project, which is required to earn the award. For his project, Brad organized, planned, and lead a group of volunteers in restoring the historic council ring at Silver Bay, which was placed in memory of the first encampment.
Over 180 man hours, and over 30 volunteers, Brad had his work cut out for him.
He restored the path leading to the council ring, making it easier to access.
He and his crew replaced the 26 wooden benches around the campfire ring.
Volunteers also restored a stairway at the back of the site, which was falling into disuse and becoming eroded.
Two stone pillars containing commemorative plaques were restored, the tops of which were falling apart.
The campfire ring in the center of the site was dug out, cleaned, and restored.
This immense project took weeks of planning and the incredible determination and leadership skill that is found in Eagle Scouts. Brad Cortright is on his way to joining his older brother as an Eagle Scout.
Video footage of the historic restoration of the Council Ring at Silver Bay: