Peek into Topeka history as we learn about the man who brought scouting to Topeka and became a respected figure in the Oakland community. Today, we learn about John H. Fazel.
Move to Topeka
John Henry Fazel, born in Wisconsin on July 10, 1855, moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1882 with his wife Phebe and their six children to work as a clerk in a law firm and study law. Right before he was to sit for the bar exam, he veered in a different path and decided to go into ministry. He became pastor of Murdock Avenue Presbyterian Church in Wichita. In 1907 Fazel and his family moved to Topeka to preside over two congregations: Oakland Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church.
During his time with these two congregations, Fazel also worked to organize eleven Presbyterian churches in Oklahoma. An article in the Topeka Daily Capital spoke about his personality and abilities as a minister, saying “He is really a business man in the pulpit, and has the personality and address that will attract men to him”. [Topeka Daily Capital, October 7, 1917]
The work he put into the community of Topeka demonstrated his ability to lead, and he earned the trust and respect of many families throughout the area. In Oakland, Fazel became known as a man who the children could count on.
Scouting Comes to Topeka
As Fazel worked in his two congregations, the formation of the Boy Scouts of America was brought to his attention. Fazel was intrigued by the lessons that scouting sought to teach. By September of 1911 Fazel became Shawnee County’s first Scout Executive and chose to organize Troop 1 at Oakland Presbyterian. Scouting appealed to many of the families in the area and the number of boys who became scouts hovered around fifty.
The next couple of years saw Fazel increase the presence of scouting in Topeka and helped add 32 additional troops throughout the city. He also created the first scouting summer camp in Topeka in 1913 and formed the Topeka Boy Scout Band, which he also directed.
By 1921 the city of Topeka had 621 scouts. Fazel helped many of his scouts attain Eagle Scout (the highest rank a scout can receive). He even assisted Dr. William Menninger to attain Eagle Scout.
Fazel and his family moved to San Antonio Texas in 1936 to pursue a passion for linguistics and passed away in 1938.
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