Among the requests received for Order of the Arrow Charters by the National Boy Scouts of America in 1938 was one postmarked Florence, South Carolina. Apparently, Mr. Rucker Newberry had inspired local scouts to become part of the rapidly growing organization of honor campers. The lodge chartered to the Pee Dee Council was the 116th Order of the Arrow Lodge. After a selection period, the name “Santee”was settled upon and duly registered with BSA. The lodge grew slowly, suffering numerous difficulties, which eventually led to a return visit by Mr. Newberry to reorganize the group. After his return, the lodge began to expand and become more involved in the Order and service to the Pee Dee Area Council. Two totems were adopted prior to the middle of the 1950’s. The Carolina Parakeet became the official lodge totem when the first patch was issued in 1955; just before Santee Lodge hosted the Dixie Fellowship for the first time. The actual bird used on the patch was adapted from the Audubon painting of Carolina Parakeets. At this time, the patch sold for fifty cents. At approximately the same time, the first newsletter was published. Its name, the Santee Arrowman, has survived the years and still remains as the title of the current newsletter.
On February 28, 1958, the lodge held its first Winter Banquet. Banquets have been held at a variety of locations including Marion, several meeting rooms in Florence, Darlington, Hartsville, Cheraw, Conway and Sumter. Featured speakers have included the world’s strongest man – Paul Anderson, National Order of the Arrow Chiefs Brad Starr and Jeff Herman, American Indian specialists, and many military, political and community leaders, including Lt. Governor Nick Theodore in 1992. A special feature of the banquet is the presentation of the Santee Lodge Red Arrow Awards for outstanding contributions by non-Arrowmen and Founders Awards to one or two brothers who have given outstanding service and example to the lodge.
The lodge’s primary functions are its fellowships, held in the Fall, Spring, and the end of summer camp. These events have varied in dates and occasionally in location. The Spring Fellowship in March of 1963 was held at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Over the years, the main purposes of these weekends were the induction of new Ordeal members, conducting the Brotherhood and Vigil Honor Ceremonies, and service projects. Like most lodges, Santee Lodge is closely tied to its summer camp, and it spends a great deal of time helping to make improvements to Camp Coker. These projects have included preparatory and repair work to campsites, the re-roofing and repair of many buildings, the construction, maintenance and improvements to the Council Ring and COPE Course, construction of the Dining Hall buttress, restrooms, basketball court and archery and rifle ranges, and numerous bridges, check dams and trails.
Santee was the first lodge to conduct an OA member’s only week of summer camp. The tradition began about 1958 when Arrowmen were encouraged to attend the last week of camp to present a special parent’s night program. In the 1960’s, original scripts were written as the parent’s night program evolved into a full-scale production. Since 1969, only OA members have attended the last week of summer camp with the lodge offering a special program of merit badge sessions and activities. It is at this time that most Ordeal candidates are inducted into the Order. The annual Pageant is presented on Friday night, which also kicks off the Summer Fellowship during which more members are inducted, and officers of the lodge are chosen for the coming year.
Over the past sixty years, Santee Lodge 116 has become an active, viable part of the Pee Dee Area Council. Many former youth members of the lodge are still involved in Scouting as Volunteer Leaders. Several members have become professional Scouters and one cannot enter a city, town or community without finding someone that has been touched by the Lodge. Many members have gone on to become Section Officers and serve with distinction. Jody Clark became the first Santee Lodge member to become a national figure as he was elected Southeast Region Chief. Both he and Mac McLean have been honored with the Distinguished Service Award, the National Order of the Arrow’s highest honor. Current Lodge Adviser David Surrett also holds the DSA from prior service as Section SR-5 Chief, NOAC and NLS Staff member and Region OA Committee member. Members account for about 85% of all Eagle Scouts from the Pee Dee Area Council. Many of the adult members have been awarded the Wood Badge, District Award of Merit and the Silver Beaver.
At the National Convention in 1995, Santee Lodge was honored as recipient of the E. Urner Goodman Camping Award, one of only eight presented nationally.
For the past several years, Santee Lodge has been honored as a National Honor Lodge. In 2005, Santee Lodge was one of only two lodges in the Southern Region chosen to receive the National Service Award, an award given on the basis of significant service to the home council.
Endowed with this tradition, Santee Lodge is not afraid of initiating new ideas. With its rich memories of the past and vision of the future, Santee Lodge 116 stands ready to play a continuing important role in Scouting in the Pee Dee Area Council.