Jackson Thomas “Jack” Watson, a Boy Scout of Troop #4106 in Kewanee, has completed the biggest hurdle in becoming an Eagle Scout – his Eagle Scout Project.
“I am very familiar with Bishop Hill and the Bishop Hill Heritage Association (BHHA) since my mom used to work for them,” Jack says of the small, but vibrant, historic Swedish community, located in rural Henry County, Illinois. “After speaking with BHHA Administrator Todd DeDecker, I had several ideas of what I could do as a far as my project.”
An Eagle Scout project is an undertaking by a Boy Scout that will make a positive impact on the local community. Since the BHHA is a non-profit 503c organization primarily dedicated to maintaining many of the historic buildings in the Bishop Hill community, as well as promoting the unique heritage of the Swedish people that lived there, it was a worthy group for Jack to partner with for his project.
After careful consideration of the many ideas he was given, Jack ultimately chose to rejuvenate the Bishop Hill Memorial Brick Garden, located between the Steeple Building and the Post Office on Bishop Hill Road. The handmade memorial bricks there are stamped with the names of supporters of the BHHA, including the King and Queen of Sweden, Karl XVI Gustaf and Silvia, who have visited Bishop Hill. Unfortunately, the garden had started to sink in places, leaving an unlevel surface that invited dirt and debris to wash over it when it rained or snowed. This made many of the names unreadable at times.
“The bricks were originally sold as a fundraiser to raise money for renovations,” says Mr. DeDecker. “It wasn’t considerate of the people who had spent money to leave the garden as it was, but we only have so many volunteers to take care of the many projects that need done. The BHHA was very glad when Jack stepped in to help us with this important task.”
Jack (along with his team that included his parents and little brother, his grandfather, several other Boys Scouts of Troop 4106, his scoutmaster, Steve Herrick, and a Kewanee High School student that just “wanted to help”) tackled the project in late July. First they removed each of the bricks by hand, being careful to keep them in order. Then, the site had to be excavated down to eight inches, in order for a proper base of gravel and sand to be laid. After the base was laid and tamped, a border was laid before each brick had to be reinstalled in order. Locking sand was swept over the top to hold the bricks firmly in place and pieces of flagstone were laid around the edges as “placeholders” – saving space for any new bricks that may be added in the future. Lastly, Jack and his group added some native prairie plants (donated from a private Bishop Hill garden) to the existing plantings to draw more attention to the area. The result is a much more level and eye-pleasing spot that visitors can stop and enjoy.
“We at the BHHA are very pleased with the final result of the garden,” says DeDecker. “It is great to see young people like Jack take an interest in helping us to preserve the important history of Bishop Hill.”
“It was a lot more work than I expected it to be,” say Jack of his project, with a smile. “In the end though, I am glad I was able to do something that a lot of people will be able to see and enjoy, because I love Bishop Hill.”
Jack is in the process of finishing up his Final Report on this project. It will then need to be approved by the Council before he receives credit for completing it. He has only two more badges to earn before he can officially achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. He expects to have everything completed by next spring. The final step will be his Eagle Board of Review to discuss this project and his Scouting journey.
Jack Watson has been in Scouting since he was six years old, starting as a Tiger Cub in Cub Scouts Pack #316 in Galesburg. He moved to Kewanee when he was 9, where he joined Pack #199 at the First Baptist Church. He is currently a sophomore at Kewanee High School. He lives with his parents, Kirk and Marie Watson, and his two younger brothers, Griffin and Samuel.