The Great Smoky Mountain Council traces its roots to the founding of the Knox County Council in 1915, just five years after the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1921-23, the Cumberland Council was formed in LaFollette and in 1927 another council of the same name was formed in Lenoir City. During the Great Depression, the three councils were consolidated and later, in 1943, renamed the Great Smoky Mountain Council.
The council’s first summer camp was held in 1915 at Camp Helpful, near Elkmont, in present-day Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The council leased the land where Camp Pellissippi is located in 1936 and held its first camp there two years later with 75 Scouts. The following year, attendance jumped to 600.
In 1952, several Scout leaders, including William Perry “Buck” Toms, purchased more than 700 hilly acres on the shore of Watts Bar Lake and donated it the Boy Scouts for a new camp. In 1955, when the first summer camp was held at what is now Camp Buck Toms, there was no road; Scouts arrived by boat. Two years later, electricity reached the camp.
In 1977, Camp Buck Toms became the council’s only summer camp when the dining hall at Camp Pellissippi burned down. Camp Pellissippi was restored in the mid-1990s, though, and is now the site of the council’s popular winter camp.
Photo from the Thompson Photograph Collection, McClung Historical Collection
Boy Scouts Ceremony in East Tennessee ca. 1920s