70 Eagle Scout Project Brings New Life to Cemetery Entrance
When Montgomery Township Scout Troop 46 was formed in 1933, it was called Blawenburg Troop 46, and it was sponsored, as it is today, by Blawenburg Church. The goal of scouting has been to help boys (and now girls, too) build wholesome personal values such as honesty, respect, loyalty, and service. Scouts work toward this goal through seven steps and merit badge projects that help them learn specific skills. There are 135 merit badge offerings—some required, others elective. They are diverse, too. Some merit badges cover traditional content such as art or camping, while others such as digital technology and game building are more contemporary.
The steps Scouts work their way through are known as ranks. They are: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and ultimately Eagle. It takes years of hard work and dedication to the scouting values to become a candidate for the Eagle award. Nationally, only 8% of scouts earn this rank, and they are usually 17 years of age or older when they do. In 1966, Larry May, formerly of Montgomery Township, was the first scout in Troop 46 to achieve this rank. Since that time, many other local troop members have become Eagle scouts.
Eagle candidates must first have earned the rank of Life, earned 21 merit badges, and served in a position of responsibility in the troop. Then they can engage in planning, developing, and implementing a service project which is helpful to any religious institution, any school, or the community.
When Troop 46 scout, Bruce Allen, was looking for an Eagle project, he learned about the need to repair and refurbish the stone pillars and gate on the north entrance to the Blawenburg Church Cemetery on Route 601 near the intersection with Route 518.
A cemetery pillar in need of repair
When Bruce realized the cemetery's needs, he looked at the pillars and saw that these pieces of Blawenburg history were chipped and worn with some loose stones that needed to be re-pointed. He knew he had to act. “I couldn’t just let that go like that,” he said recently. “I knew it needed to be repaired, and I knew I had to do it.” This is the “take charge” attitude that troop leaders look for in their Eagle candidates.
Bruce first had to have his project approved by the cemetery and troop leaders. He worked with church representatives of the cemetery, Eric Perkins, Don Terhune, and Ethel Terhune, to determine what was needed to repair the pillars, and then he submitted his plan to the troop leaders.
An Eagle project isn’t about what the Eagle candidate can do himself or herself. Rather, it’s about mobilizing a group of other scouts and adults to work together to accomplish the task. Once Bruce received approval, he engaged a team of scouts and some adults, gathered materials, and set a time for the repairs in early summer 2021.
One of the things Bruce learned early in this project was that maintaining a cemetery involves a lot more work and money than you might think. It wasn’t just the pillars that needed to be repaired. He soon realized that the gate and the entire fence around the cemetery needed to be refurbished or replaced. Bruce knew he couldn’t do all the needed work in one project, so he set the project goal to repair the stone pillars and repair the gates.
The pillars are unique, because they are made of rounded stones like you might find in a stream rather than the shale found beneath Blawenburg Ridge. The old gate that was seldom closed in recent years needed to be re-welded. Bruce discovered that the refurbished gate could only be decorative since mounting it so it could be closed would make the entry too narrow for hearses to get through.
The Eagle Project Team led by Bruce Allen (red t-shirt) on the job
“I didn’t expect it to be so complex, but it was,” Bruce said. Like most projects, you always discover more that needs to be done once you dig into it. The pillars took more work than expected, and the gate required some assistance from a blacksmith in Millstone, where Bruce had served as a docent. But through Bruce’s leadership, the pillar and gate project ended up looking like it was professionally done. Troop leaders are looking for leadership in Eagle projects, and that is what Bruce gave them.
Bruce is attending Mercer County Community College this year with an eye toward transferring to an engineering school in a couple of years. He will remember what it took to accomplish this project as he moves forward in life, and if he applies himself similarly, he will accomplish his career goals as well. We wish you much success, Bruce.
Bruce stands in front of the finished project.
On September 30, 2021, Bruce passed his Board of Review, the final step before receiving the Eagle award at a Court of Honor.
The Smooth Stones of Blawenburg
Hundreds of cars drive by the pillars at the entry of Blawenburg Cemetery on Route 601each day, but few people give them a second thought. Who built those pillars? Where did the stones come from?
According to an oral history entitled Growing Up in Blawenburg with Norma Haight Arons, her grandfather, William Haight, was a mason who built many of the original buildings in the New Jersey State Village for Epileptics (now Skillman Park). He was also an elder of Blawenburg Church, and he applied his masonry skills to building the stone pillars at the cemetery.
A 1907 postcard of the cemetery does not have the pillars in it, so it is likely that they were built after 1911, when the church took over the management of the cemetery.
When it came time to create new signs for the entries to Blawenburg in 2007, local planners picked up on the smooth stone theme and made the base of the signs of similar smooth stones.
It’s often the little things that make a village unique, and the smooth stone pillars of Blawenburg certainly add to its character.
1. Blawenburg Cemetery began as a family cemetery for the Van Zandt family, with the first known burial being in 1805. Between 1859 and 1986, the Van Zandts donated land for the cemetery and transferred the property to Blawenburg Church Cemetery Association in 1911. Learn more about this and other cemeteries near Blawenburg by reading Blog 31, The Burying Grounds in Blawenburg in the Tales of Blawenburg.
2. After scouts complete the Eagle requirements, they must pass the Eagle Board of Review conducted by the troop leadership. If successful, they are given their award in a Court of Honor, which is a formal ceremony often attended by local and regional dignitaries.
3. Bruce says he appreciates the support he received throughout the project from his family, Troop 46 leaders, Blawenburg Cemetery leaders, and others.
Interview with Bruce Allen by D. Cochran
Baker, Walter. Growing Up in Blawenburg with Norma Haight Arons, Oral History 04-14, Belle Mead, NJ, Van Harlingen Historical Society of Montgomery, Inc. 2014.
All pictures were on Facebook, posted by Bruce Allen’s father, also named Bruce Allen.
Blawenburg sign – David Cochran
Web site: http://www.blawenburgtales.com
Copyright © 2021 by David Cochran. All rights reserved.