A Place That Matters: Seton’s Old Estate
By Richard Kaufman
Forever emblazoned in bronze, Ernest Thompson Seton is back where it all started.
Last Friday, as the rain began to fall over a canopy of trees, members of the Greenwich Boy Scouts community gathered in Pomerance Park to pay homage to Seton, a founding member of the Boy Scouts of America and the Campfire Club of America.
The park, which was once known as Wyndygoul, an estate Seton built in the early 1900’s, is the birthplace of a forerunner to Scouting. Just up the path from the newly dedicated plaque sits the Medicine Rock, a ceremonial center-stone of the Woodcraft Indians, a group Seton started to teach youth about the woods that eventually morphed into the Boy Scouts.
The rock and original campsite had sat untouched for many years, collecting fallen trees and debris. It was re-discovered in 2012 by Robby Tolette, a member of the Boy Scouts who earned his Eagle Scout badge upon finding the historical grounds.
Now, with the fallen trees cleared away and the original campsite rejuvenated along with a brand new plaque, this area in Pomerance Park will be forever preserved and memorialized.
“Today truly is a special day for the Boy Scouts, for the Campfire Club, honoring Mr. Seton’s legacy and for the town of Greenwich,” said Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei at the dedication ceremony.
Tesei, a board member of the Greenwich Boy Scouts, mentioned the town’s current initiative titled “This Place Matters,” a photo contest in which residents document places around town that hold special meaning to them.
“To borrow from that, this place matters here, very much so,” Tesei added. “That’s why we’re here today. Thank you for this dedication, so that those that come after us know what took place so many years ago.”
Hugh Wiley, president of the Campfire Club of America, is very proud of the connection between the Boy Scouts and his organization.
“We share so many rich traditions by way of the outdoors, woodcraft and devotion to nature and habitat conservation,” Wiley said. “The parallel between the two organizations is just uncanny so we’re very proud to be a part of the plaque together in partnership.”
The campsite will serve as a teaching tool to current and future scouts on the history of scouting and Greenwich’s connection to one of the country’s first youth organizations. “I think it’s important [our scouts] will know the past and the history of the importance of [Seton’s] presence and also the Greenwich council,” said Kevin O’Shea, Scout Executive of the Greenwich Council.
Seton’s granddaughter, Julie Seton, was also in attendance at the ceremony. She started the Seton Family Initiative in 2013, which teaches current generations about her grandfather’s work through various lectures and books. She very much appreciates the effort Greenwich has put forth in preserving Seton’s history.
“I’m very excited about the fact that Greenwich has taken the bull by the horn and created an environment to bring his legacy back,” she said.
Seton also plans to develop the Ernest Thompson Seton Institute, a forum where all the different facets—conservation, science, art, literature, youth education—that Seton touched on can converge together for people to learn and discuss. “This becomes a very important place for people to come to. I will send people here,” she said.
Seton was born and raised in New Mexico on her grandfather’s property. Although this was her first time in Greenwich, she was able to feel her grandfather’s presence on the grounds of the estate he once called home.
“His spirit exists and the spirit that has driven how you do things is called the Buffalo Wind,” she said. “The Buffalo Wind is blowing for me.”