Home once owned by BSA founder William D. Boyce can be yours for just $700,000

The home was built in 1860 and sits on 7.78 acres of perfectly manicured grass. It includes eight bedrooms, nine bathrooms and a full-size tennis court.

But what makes this piece of real estate, now on the market for $699,900, so special isn’t its new roof and windows, or its 12-foot ceilings and two elegant parlors. It’s the fact it was once owned by William D. Boyce, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America.

Boyce purchased the 5,300-square-foot home and 60 surrounding acres in 1894. The Chicago publisher used the property as his summer home.

The property in Marshall, Mich., is now called The Butler-Boyce House, and it’s a registered Michigan historic site.

Who was William D. Boyce?

Members of the W. D. Boyce Council in central Illinois certainly know his name. As do Scouters who receive the William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award and matching square knot.

But who was William D. Boyce?

As told in Scouting magazine’s 2010 coverage of the BSA’s 100th anniversary, Boyce was in London in 1909 “when he got lost in a pea-soup fog — or perhaps simply turned around (accounts differ). In any event, a ‘little lad of 12’ appeared and guided him safely across the street. When Boyce offered a tip, the boy declined, explaining that he was just doing his Good Turn as a Scout.”

Impressed, Boyce returned home with pamphlets, badges and a uniform. Six months later, on Feb. 8, 1910, he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.

Thanks to Axel Anderson for the story idea.


  1. Shame on you for perpetuating that story. Sure, it’s been told a lot, but we have his journals, we have his letters, we can unequivocally say now that the story about being lost in a fog and saved by a Scout are not true.

    You could have said something like, “Although we know now it didn’t happen, American Scouting’s founding story says that Boyce was in London in 1909 ‘when he got lost in a pea-soup fog…'”.

    • I’m curious, Bart, as you seem very certain about your opinion. What actual evidence do you you have to say, unequivocally, that it’s pure fiction?

  2. My understanding is that the fog was added later by James West in retelling the story. I believe the weather records for London on the night the incident happened show no record of fog. It does sound good, but apparently there was no fog that night. Even without fog, finding a specific location in London could be daunting for a stranger (without GPS). Thank goodness for that Unknown Scout.

  3. Fog or not, the fact remains that there was SOMETHING in London that impressed Boyce enough about Scouting that he brought home the literature, etc., and that he was impressed enough by it all to incorporate the BSA. The rest, as they say, is history.

    • There was a period of time in the 70s where the BSA used the identity of “Scouting/USA”, perhaps to prepare for going co-ed.
      If this sign was erected at that time, that is probably why.

      • BSA dropped “Boy” in the 70’s to eliminate the negative meaning too many people associate with the word. A boy is a young male usually younger than the age of consent.
        I doubt that BSA will change its name when we invite girls into Cub Scouts (2018) and Boy Scouts (2019). Working with young ladies in Venturing has proven to me that girls will make GREAT Scouts.

Join the conversation