In 1921, the Grand Lodge of the Order of the Arrow was formed, with organizational meetings being held on an annual basis. In his detailed History of the Order of the Arrow, Kenneth P. Davis, Ph.D. documents that in 1926 it was decided to move to bi-annual meetings "with regional groupings of lodges meeting in intervening years" (25). Comparable to a National Conference, delegates elected "regional" officers, inducted Vigil Honor candidates, and discussed methods of strengthening the program at the local lodge level (29).
At the 1927 Grand Lodge meeting, regional meetings were set for lodges in BSA Regions 1 & 2, Region 3, and Regions 7 & 9. It was stated that "other regions might be organized as the need arose" (27). One of the first of these regional meetings was held Oct. 19-21, 1928 at Camp Siwanoy and was hosted by Chappegat Lodge #15 (29). Six lodges representing Regions 1 and 2 attended. Octoraro Lodge's website states: "In May of 1929, Octoraro Lodge played host to a regional meeting of the Order held at Camp Horseshoe." Davis further explains that at this event, seven of the nine lodges of Region 3 attended (29). He also documents regional meetings that were held in 1930, 1932, and 1934.
Davis later writes:
"By spring 1936, another key decision had been made about the operation of the Order of the Arrow. After some discussion, the national executive committee concluded
that the office of regional chieftain should be eliminated. Deciding that regional boundaries were not necessarily the best parameters for multi-lodge activity, the national chief was directed to stimulate 'sectional' meetings under the sponsorship of a local lodge. This was the first step towards 'area' meetings, which we call section conclaves today." (50)
"In October , Alfred C. Nichols, Jr., assistant Scout executive in Chicago, wrote National Chief [i.e., National Committee Chairman, Joseph] Brinton of the recent Owasippe Lodge Fellowship. It had been held over the weekend of October 24-25, 1936, and had been attended by representatives of lodges from Wausau [Tom Kita Chara 96] and Manitowoc [Ay-Ashe 73], Wis. Nichols reported... the activities and 'discussions' were well received by all, and everyone agreed the interchange was very valuable. Nichols pointed out that such events might have substantial benefits for the Order of the Arrow if planned to include a number of lodges in the same area." (52)
It was so successful that in that November's bulletin, Brinton declared "We believe these Fellowship Meetings are fine activities for our Lodges, and we are hopeful of promoting many more next Spring and Fall." ("OWASIPPE FELLOWSHIP MEETING" 2)
Davis further explains, "when the National Lodge executive committee met January 17, 1937, in Pittsburgh... the committee approved the idea of promoting 'sectional fellowship meetings.' These were to be sponsored by lodges selected by the national chief (or his appointee)..." (52). Randy Yates, in Georgia and Florida Order of the Arrow Area and Section Fellowships, also explains this development:
"In January 1937, the National Executive committee of the OA asked each Area Leader to set up a Fellowship meeting in their area. There is no report on how many areas actually held Fellowship meetings." (2.1)
In the June bulletin, Lodge News, it was reported that Kuwewanik Lodge #57 and Anicus Lodge #67 "had held a 'sectional' meeting of all of the lodges in the area May 29-31, 1937 at Twin Echos [sic] Camp" (Davis 53). "The bulletin commented 'We think you have a fine idea ... ' since at that time many areas where still growing and meetings between lodges was a new idea." (Yates 2.1).
Unfortunately, neither of these two sources explain what was meant by "area", as OA Areas weren't created until 1938.
National "Areas" Created
In February 1938, Brinton appointed fifteen professional scouters to serve as a resource for local scout executives within fifteen numbered Area Territories ("Area Leaders" 3):
|Area Territory||OA Area|
|Region 2: Upstate NY||2|
|Region 2: Metropolitan NY & NJ||3|
|Region 3: Eastern PA, DE,|
MD, VA, and DC
|Region 3: Western PA||5|
|Region 7: Southern MI||9|
|Region 7: IL, IN, & Southern WI||10|
|Region 7: Northern WI,|
and Northern MI
National's OA History website provides more background and details:
"As 1938 began, the Order of the Arrow was experiencing expansion at an unprecedented rate. The Order was at almost one hundred active lodges (more than 100 had been chartered). With BSA approval and regional supply lines the pace of expansion was increasing in speed. Just as had been predicted, now that the OA was official, councils all over the country were inquiring about Wimachtendienk. National Chief Joseph Brinton announced plans crafted by the National Executive Committee for a system where the lodges in the nation would be divided into 15 areas.
The 15 areas were to allow better service to new lodges and to promote the OA. National Chief Brinton appointed a leader for each area to serve as his representative to advise Scout Executives in the local lodges and for prospective councils.
The area system was loosely based on the BSA 12 Region system, except Regions 2 and 3 were each divided into two areas, and Region 7 was divided into three areas. There was no area for Region 11 because there were still no lodges in that region (the first lodge in Region 11 was Tsisqan Lodge, Eugene, Oregon, six years later in 1944). While the areas were much larger than today’s areas, because of the number of active lodges at the beginning of 1938 there were an average of about six lodges per area, very similar to today’s local areas."
According to Yates, there were "Area Fellowships meetings held in September of 1938 in several areas." (2.1). The earliest of these events to be documented is the 1939 Area 11 Conference that was hosted by Tom Kita Chara Lodge #96 at Camp Tesomas (Dingwerth 2-119). Mikanakawa Lodge #101 attended its first area conference at Camp Tom Wooten in 1939 (Bubeck 251), which would have been for Area 13.
Change in Designation of Areas to Letters
|Region 2: Upstate NY||2||B||B, C|
|Region 2: Metropolitan NY|
& New Jersey
|3||C||D, C||D, W|
|Region 3: Eastern PA, DE,|
MD, VA, DC
|Region 3: Western PA||5||E||F
|Region 7: Southern MI||9||I||K|
|Region 7: Southern WI,|
|10||J||L, M, N, O|
|Region 7: Northern WI,|
|Region 8||12||L||Q||Q, V|
|Region 9||13||M||R||R, S|
|"Area Leaders." Feb. 1938 Bulletin from the National Chief|
|"List of Lodges by Areas." Feb. 1940 Bulletin from the National Chief|
|"OA Areas as of Dec. 1942." OA Conclave Handbook, vol. 1|
|"Area Lodges and Area Leaders." Mar. 1944 The Bulletin|
|"Area Lodges and Area Leaders." Jul. 1945 The Bulletin|
|"Area Lodges and Area Leaders." Aug. 1946 The Bulletin|
As shown in the February 1940 issue of the Bulletin from the National Chief, areas were renamed as letters (Brunton 3-7). This was perhaps to avoid confusion with the numbered BSA regions (Yates 2.2).
Again, National's OA History website provides more background and details:
"In 1940, the OA, which had previously been divided into Areas 1 - 15 in 1938 was changed again. This time they used letters A - O. Each area was basically assigned the letter that corresponded with the number previously assigned (i.e. Area 1 became Area A, Area 2 became Area B, and so on).
As new lodges were added to an area, if they became too large, then a new lettered area was added. In December, 1942 letters A – U were assigned in BSA Region order[, increasing the number of areas to twenty-one areas (Dingwerth 3-6)]. Region 1 was assigned the letter “A”; Region 2 was assigned letters “B”, “C” and “D” and so on until Region 12 received Area “U”.
As the OA spread from council to council, certain regions saw greater growth. In March 1944 three more areas were added[, increasing the number of areas to twenty-four areas (Hoffman 1944)]. Lodges in the regions that had new areas added were always re-allocated. In July 1945 two more Areas were added, “Y” and “Z”[, making a total of twenty-six areas (Hoffman 1945)]. In August of 1946 they were out of letters. Area’s A – Z remained the same except for Region 12’s Area "U". Area “U” was divided [(Hoffman 1946)] into Areas 12A, 12B and 12C, a forerunner of further changes."
"By 1948 the OA was active in every region and a new system for dividing areas for informational and fellowship purposes was needed.... Now that the OA was a full National BSA program they were going to take full advantage of the BSA 12 region system. In September 1948 the new areas were announced. Regions with only one area, such as Region 1 only had Area 1A. Region 7 had six areas, Area 7A through Area 7F." (Regions and Sub-Areas)
1949 was a transition year, with some areas holding final events while others adopted the new 12 Region-Area Alignment (Order of the Arrow National Committee).