This troop has served the same historic site for more than 40 years

At left, Scouts at Palace Station in the 1980s. At right, a photo from 2018
Photos courtesy of Troop 109

Palace Station, a historic site deep in the woods of the Bradshaw Mountains, has been around a long time. Thanks at least in part to Troop 109 in Phoenix, Arizona, it’ll be around a lot longer.

This fall will mark the 42nd year that Scouts from Troop 109 have lent a hand at the site.

“It’s such a rarity to get to go to a historic site like this one,” says Fields Moseley, former Troop 109 Scoutmaster and current assistant Scoutmaster. “And then there’s the shared history with our troop.”

In 1875, a man named Alfred Spence and his wife, Matilde, built a modest log cabin in Yavapai County, Arizona.

For more than a decade, it served as a stagecoach station for travelers going to and from the city of Prescott and Peck Mine, one of the most prominent mines in the area. Meals cost 50 cents. Hay and grain for the horses was $1.50.

The Spences eventually added a kitchen, and over the years they operated a bunkhouse, milk house, blacksmith shop, henhouse and three barns, too.

But ultimately, time marches on.

By 1900, a new road allowed travelers to make the same trip without the need to stop at the Spence homestead.

Albert died in 1907, and Matilde sold the house three years after that.

Now, the bunkhouse, milk house, blacksmith shop, henhouse and three barns are long gone. But the original cabin remains, a relic of another time, operated by the Prescott National Forest, with a lot of assistance from Troop 109.

In 1981, leaders from Pack 109 and Troop 109 arranged for their members to perform a handful of service projects at the site. Pack 109 no longer exists, but Troop 109’s service has continued. The only year since then that the Scouts were unable to work at the site was in 2020, when it was closed due to a wildfire.

Scouts from Troop 109 gather at Palace Station in 2005.
Above: Scouts from Troop 109 gather at Palace Station in 2005. Photo courtesy of the USDA Forest Service. Below: Scouts take a break from their work during the 2022 project at Palace Station. Photo courtesy of Troop 109

Troop 109 at Palace Station in 2022

The more things change …

The road to Palace Station hasn’t changed that much in more than a century. Nowadays, it’s known as Senator Highway, and it’s popular among the region’s off-road enthusiasts.

It can take up to two hours to get there, mostly because you have to drive at a slow and steady pace.

“It is combinations of up-and-down-rigorous terrain,” says 16-year-old Eagle Scout Alec Gibson. “The rule is to bring a spare because as history has shown, you will need it in the morning.”

Cellphone service in the area hasn’t changed in the last 100 years, either.

The Scouts arrive Friday afternoon and camp not far away from the cabin itself.

Saturday is devoted to service.

Over the years, the Scouts have performed a variety of projects, always under the direction of Prescott National Forest personnel.

Scouts perform maintenance on the helipad.
Scouts perform maintenance on the helipad their same troop installed decades earlier. Photo courtesy of Troop 109

One year, they installed a helipad, so emergency helicopters would have a place to land in the rugged terrain. Over the years, they’ve maintained the helipad to keep it in working condition.

They’ve replaced a fence around the property.

They’ve done erosion-prevention projects on nearby trails.

They’ve helped maintain a historic cemetery nearby.

One year they consolidated multiple fire rings installed by unknown visitors into one fire ring, decreasing the overall impact on the environment.

And almost every year, they’ve removed dead or unwanted vegetation, earning their Paul Bunyan Award in the process.

Last year, they met with an archaeologist, who discussed the history of the area with them and talked about future projects they can do on the site.

“It always offers experiences for both new Scouts that have never been there and for older Scouts, too,” says current Troop 109 Scoutmaster Stephen Vaaler. “And it gets them into the idea that service isn’t just something to do, it can also be fun.”

A historic illustration of Palace Station
A USDA Forest Service rendering of what Palace Station would have looked like shortly after it was opened. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service

… the more they stay the same

Both former and current Troop 109 Scouts take pride in their work at Palace Station. It’s something they look forward to every year, and it’s a tradition they never forget.

“Every year when we post pictures on our Facebook page, everyone goes, ‘Oh, I remember Palace Station,’” says Moseley. “It doesn’t matter what work they did at the location. They remember going to Palace Station because it’s been a mainstay with this troop for so long.”

The service project has lasted so long, some of the current Scouts have older relatives who were around when it first started.

“It feels good to continue a tradition that the troop has had before I was born and when my uncles were in the troop,” says 15-year-old Tanner Mingo. “It’s important to have these service projects because it is always good to help the community.”

In 1988, Troop 109 was recognized as part of President Ronald Reagan’s Take Pride in America program. Representatives from the troop traveled to Washington, D.C., for a special ceremony.

You have to wonder if, back then, they knew the project would continue for several more decades.

“My dad was a member of this troop 40 years ago when this project started,” says 16-year-old Eagle Scout Zachary Szafranski. “My favorite thing is working on preserving this historic site like he did as a Scout and seeing all the good the troop has done through the years.”

Above, Scouts install a sign commemorating their work on the Palace Station helipad
Above: Scouts install a sign commemorating their work on the Palace Station helipad. Photo courtesy of Troop 109. Below: A more recent picture of the helipad sign. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service.



About Aaron Derr 457 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.