A pair of American bald eagles near their nest on Unalaska Island in the Aleutians. The bald eagle was chosen to adorn the Great Seal of the United States on June 20, 1782. The Eagle Scout award, in emulation of this selection, was approved as the highest award in Scouting in August 1911. The first Eagle Scout, Arthur Rose Eldred of Long Island, New York, was awarded this honor about a year later. Seventeen years after that, Troop 401’s first Eagle Scout was likewise honored. Photo by Ben M. Angel.
Auburn, Washington, in 1923 appeared in writing to be no more than a simple railroad junction. Sitting in the middle of some of King County’s most valued farmlands, the town was serviced by both steam train and an electric interurban railway, the latter of which faced imminent closure with the expansion of automobile roads in between Seattle and Tacoma. About 6 years later, the opening of Highway 99 provided officials the excuse the authorities needed to shut down the electric trains, and shut off the deadly third rail that frequently electrified stray cattle and careless track-crossers.
That was also the year that the Boy Scouts of America expanded into South King County. In 1923, Troop 401 held its first meeting, bringing together a group of boys that would immediately and enthusiastically begin pursuing merit badges and earning rank on their way to the coveted Eagle Scout badge, the highest honor bestowed on a Boy Scout.
When I was in the troop, I would see at the few Eagle Courts of Honors we had at the time the list of those boys who had earned the rank before whoever was the current honoree. It was fascinating for us to look over the list, and wonder why there was this big break for something like a (baker’s) dozen years spanning the 1950s when no one in our troop earned their Eagle Scout. No matter the actual answer to this question, this period did effectively divide the first ten Eagle Scouts of our troop from those that came afterward.
Next year, in 2018, the troop will be celebrating its 95th anniversary as one of the pioneer units of Scouting in Washington State. Additionally, as of January 2017, the troop has already produced some 96 Eagle Scouts, and it’s very likely that the troop will soon produce its 100th before too long. It seemed to me that it was time that there be some remembrance of the first among our troop who achieved Boy Scouts greatest achievement.
Unfortunately, being in western Poland, I couldn’t delve very extensively into the actual thoughts and efforts of the first ten Eagle Scouts of Troop 401 while achieving their awards. Indeed, out of all of the first ten, only two are still alive as of this writing (one in Tacoma, Washington, and the other in Pasadena, California). So, instead, I chose to study what I could of their family histories for insights, and now I want to share a little of where their families came from, and how their family might have helped shape the success stories that belong to them. Perhaps this will someday contribute to a more authoritative work on this part of the history of South King County Scouting.