The Order of the Arrow was founded during the summer of 1915 at Treasure Island Scout Reservation, the Philadelphia Council camp. The founder, Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson, wanted to recognize those Scouts who best exemplified the spirit of the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. Since the camp was located in the Delaware Valley, which was rich in Indian history, and the camp itself was an old camping ground of the Indians, it seemed fitting to base this brotherhood of honor campers on the traditions of the Delaware Indians. On July 16, 1915, the first lodge, Unami Lodge, was formed. The first Ordeal Ceremony taught three very important lessons: Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. Over the years, the ceremonies have changed, but those three lessons are still the basis of the Order of the Arrow. Word of the new organization quickly spread and the Order of the Arrow eventually became an official element of the camping and service programs of the Boy Scouts of America.
Through the efforts of William E. Hoffmann, then Scout Executive of Samoset Council, MA-KA-JA-WAN Lodge of the North Shore Area Council, Highland Park, Illinois called out the first members of our lodge on July 26, 1936. That same summer Samoset Council's Executive Board approved the Order of the Arrow as an official part of the council's camping program. As tradition indicates, a buck leaped through the Grand Council Ring during that first Call-Out Ceremony. The name of our lodge, Tom Kita Chara, means "leaping buck" in the language of the Chippewa Indians, who lived in this part of Wisconsin. Our lodge number is 96, meaning that it was the 96th lodge of the Order to be formed.
After being chartered in December 1936, the first formal lodge meeting was held early in 1937 in Wausau. New by-laws were adopted and officers were formally elected. That spring, members of our Lodge held two "work camps" at Tesomas to develop an athletic field. This laid the foundation for what is now the annual Spring Work Trek. Although it is now open to all Scouts and Scouters of the Council, this is still an excellent opportunity for any Arrowmen to participate in a weekend of cheerful service.
The first National Boy Scout Jamboree was held in 1937 at Washington, DC. The Samoset Council contingent consisted of 35 Scouts and Leaders, most of them members of the Order of the Arrow. The contingent was set up as an Indian Village with suitable decorations and the housing was in the now famous "Paper Teepee." The twelve 16 foot buckskin colored teepees, with authentic Indian design decorations, became one of the sensations of the Jamboree and earned a tremendous amount of favorable publicity for the Council. After the Jamboree, due to a tremendous demand from all parts of this country and abroad, over one hundred "teepee kits" were made and sold by the lodge.
Our lodge received much recognition shortly after it was formed. At the 1938 National Conference, William E. Hoffmann was elected as a member of the National Executive Committee, on which he served for fourteen years. His work on the National Committee warranted his recognition as the only member of our lodge to earn the Distinguished Service Award and gave our lodge access to the activities and resources of the Order of the Arrow on a National level. During 1940 Tom Kita Chara Lodge assisted in the organization of four new lodges in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. 1945 marked the first Fall Conference, which has become an annual event.
In 1946, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was made an honorary member of the lodge, honored the lodge with a visit. In turn, he presented the lodge with a letter and a sword, which are now located in the Archives Room at Camp Tesomas. The sword was part of his family for many generations and is indicated by the original spelling of his family name - Eisenhauer.
In January 1947, Kurt Krahn wrote our version of the Lenni Lenape legend used in the Calling-Out Ceremony. That same year the National Order of the Arrow Bulletin published this dramatization and gave full credit for its original development to Tom Kita Chara Lodge. The National Committee adopted the lodge’s version of the legend. In fact, Krahn's legend is still used by TKC as well as many other lodges in the Order. 1947 also marked the first Winter Banquet, which has become an annual event.
Although there had previously been many nationwide gatherings, the first National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) was held in 1948 at Indiana University. In the early 1950s, our lodge was invited to participate in the weekly Pow Wows on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation. These experiences expanded the repertoire of both groups; we learned more about the heritage of the Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, while they learned some dances of other Indian groups in the United States. In 1961, the lodge celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Winter Banquet set a record attendance. That banquet was also notable because the Eagle Feather Bonnet was formally presented and first used. The bonnet is now a symbol of the Lodge Chief.
During the 1970s, some reorganization of our lodge and the Order of the Arrow areas took place. In 1974 the Order recognized its 50 years of establishment by returning the National OA Conference to Indiana University. Reorganization efforts continued in the early 1980s as the lodge continued to try to better serve the changing needs of Samoset Council and Camp Tesomas. Reorganization also took place in the early 1990s placing TKC in Section C-1B, within the BSA's Central Region.
In 1985, the Lodge made significant contributions as part of the 50th anniversary celebration for Camp Tesomas. The most notable were the construction of the current gateway to the Grand Council Ring and the Camp Tesomas Archives Room, both of which were dedicated in the memory of William E. Hoffman. The following year marked the 50th anniversary of the Lodge. The anniversary year include many memorable ventures, including a look back to the previous 50 years. The Lodge Executive Committee issued a special anniversary year flap patch, neckerchief, and bolo tie. Among the Fall Conference activities was a re-enactment of the original Call-Out Ceremony and the unveiling of the new lodge history albums.
The Order of the Arrow celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1990. Highlights included a special celebration hosted by Unami Lodge at Treasure Island in July and a spectacular National OA Conference at Indiana University in August. Throughout the 1990s Tom Kita Chara participated on the national level by sending a contingent to every NOAC held. In 1993 Samoset Council established Akela's World Cub Scout Adventure Camp. TKC took an active role in setting up the camp through service weekends and Spring Work Treks. Tom Kita Chara also provided Akela's World with an Arrowman to play the part of Chief Akela, the spirit of Cub Scouting, at the session-end ceremony for second-year Webelos.
In 1996 the lodge celebrated its 60th anniversary, and hosted a spectacular Section Conclave at Camp Tesomas. TKC commissioned a special anniversary flap patch for that year and all Arrowmen called-out in 1996 received a unique purple deer bone for their totem.
Throughout the late 1990s, Tom Kita Chara continued to offer service and brotherhood to the Scouts and Arrowmen of Samoset Council. In 1999 Samoset Council founded the Crystal Lake Scout Reservation, which includes Tesomas Scout Camp, Akela's World Cub Scout Camp, and the then new Hanna Venture Base. The 2000 Fall Conference was heavily attended due to the simultaneous CLSR camp staff reunion. Over 200 former and present staff members and Arrowmen attended the event.
When Camp Tesomas celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2005, the lodge had the opportunity to welcome Robert Tank, its first Lodge Chief, back to the Camp for a weekend of remembrance and celebration. All former chiefs of Tom Kita Chara Lodge present at the anniversary banquet signed a Vigil sash, now on display in the Archives Room at Tesomas.