The History of Eagle
The city of Eagle, located near the Boise River in Ada County, is jam-packed with history! Want to learn more about this awesome city? Keep reading!
The story of Eagle begins in 1862 when gold was discovered in the Boise Basin, as well as other locations in the mountains farther north. Many people decided to continue looking for their fortune in the mining business. However, others soon realized that the mining towns needed some agricultural growth if they were ever to settle down somewhere. Eventually, these people started their journey to find some decent land.
A man named Truman C. Catlin realized that his true "gold" would be found in the farming business. Originally from Illinois, he used a preemption claim to gain 160 acres on Eagle Island during the end of 1863. Eagle Island was originally named Illinois Island after Catlin's home state, however, he was soon persuaded to change the name after they realized there were a number of bald eagles making their home there.
With the help of his friendly neighbor, Polete Mace, they built the first irrigation ditch in the area sometime in 1864. This helped divert the water of the Boise River to irrigate about 700 acres of Eagle Island. It also started the 40-year effort to take water and crops to higher elevations. Because of these efforts, there are now nine canals that, by 1903, were created to irrigate what is now modern-day Eagle.
Even though Catlin and Mace did a great job with these irrigation ditches, the person who is credited for the actual development of Eagle is given to Thomas Hugh Aikens. This Nova Scotian surveyor moved to Eagle Island somewhere in the 1870's. Although the actual date isn't known, there are documents from when he bought his first water right to the Boise River, which included some property from Eagle Island is dated around mid-1877. In 1883, he married the daughter of one of Boise's founders, Henry B. Conway. Conway had a home and stage station which happened to be near modern-day downtown Eagle. However, Aikens decided to move to a homestead on the island instead.
In the 1890's, Aikens decided to buy some property on the Boise River's northern bank. Owning this property also made him the owner of what is now known as State Street. At this time, State Street was the main highway between Boise and other small towns to the west. As he moved his family from the island property to this new home, Aikens began a campaign to have a bridge built across the Boise River to connect his two properties. The location for this bridge was put to a vote between Eagle and Star. Star was a bit unconvinced of the need to even have a bridge since Eagle's sight was nearly empty. However, Aikens had an idea that would help him get the vote.
Aikens decided to hire a luxurious horse drawn carriage. The carriage was used to transport the veterans from the Old Soldiers Home, which is now known as the Veterans Parkway, to the polls. The veterans were also given a bonus - a complementary picnic! Because of this, Eagle was able to win the vote and built the bridge where it now sits.
After the building of the bridge, the community started booming! William Goodall and other fathers built the Enterprise School to give the children a closer school in 1900. Shortly afterwards, they built a grocery store in 1902, as well as the Odd Fellows Hall, which served as a very small high school, built by John Carpenter.
In 1904, both Aikens and Carpenter decided to sell fifteen acres as a part of the new Township of Eagle. However, the name of the township wasn't named Eagle until a small class of students at the high school held a vote. Eagle was eventually chosen as the name by Aikens own daughter, Clara.
Besides the building of the bridge, nothing affected Eagle's future more than the trolley which travelled down Valley Road. Starting in 1907, it was used for commuting and tourism, but by 1915, it connected Eagle to all the cities and towns in the surrounding area. This track was called the Boise Valley Loop.
Other buildings and businesses began to show up along with this development of the trolley line. In 1906, L. B. Harris, a pharmacist, opened up the Eagle Drug Store, or the Orville Jackson Drug Store. In 1916, when the company moved to a new location, they expanded it to include a soda fountain. Then, in the 1920s, the drug store included a general store and a post office as well. It served customers for over 100 years, with only three owners! A bank and hotel was also built during this time, the bank being built on the corner of Valley Road and 1st Street and the hotel being across the street from the bank. They are still standing but are now known as Da Vinci's restaurant and an office space, respectively.
Soon, a food processing center (sporting the "Eagle Brand" label) was made and lasted for about 76 years. In 1928, the automobile was starting to take place of the trolley, but it didn't hurt their business. Two years later, the Eagle Island Prison Farm was opened; next door, the Eagle Fish Hatchery was opened seven years later. After World War II, the Eagle Public Library was opened originally as a volunteer effort, but still thrives today. There was also a fire department and barber shop as well.
The town of Eagle wasn't called to be a new city until February 26, 1971 by the County Commissioners. It was a bumpy start, considering they didn't get property tax revenue until 1973. However, from this small beginning, the city of Eagle is now thriving more than ever! For more information on the beginnings of Eagle and the contributors of the city, feel free to visit the Eagle Historical Museum, now located in the original library building.