The history of Eagle: beautifully nestled in the Boise Foothills

Eagle Island homestead
Eagle Island homestead

 

The city of Eagle is a rare beauty: a friendly and family-oriented country setting of some 20,000 citizens, which offers plenty of amenities for all who live there, and for everyone that visits.

The mild climate and ever-changing seasons in this part of the state encourages outdoor activities year-round. Where it’s fishing in the Boise River, which flows straight through the city, or mountain biking on more than 250 acres of trails and a BMX track, there is never a dull moment if getting outside is high on your to-do list. For our colder weather fans, a ski or snowboard trip is no more than an hour away.

But how did Eagle come about?

Early settlers began establishing in the area during the 1860’s. The town was named Eagle and Eagle Island after the bald eagles nesting along the Boise River. To this day, walking the length of Eagle Island will almost surely reward you with the sight of our country’s bird.

Thomas Hugh Aiken
Thomas Hugh Aiken

Who founded it, you ask? None other than Thomas Hugh Aiken, from Nova Scotia. A determined land surveyor, he was designated the “Father of Eagle”, once what was then called Illinois Island after the original settler’s home state became Eagle Island in the 1870’s. He decided to buy land on the north side of the river, which would now be State Street, and named the city after the bald eagles that nested along the river where he colonized.

This new location was very desirable due to the bridge crossing the Boise River. But it would not have been so, except for some quick maneuvering by Mr. Aiken.  When the location for the bridge was put to a vote between Eagle or Star, Aiken hired a luxury horse drawn carriage to transport veterans from the Old Soldiers Home to the polls.  Their vote carried the day and the bridge was built where it now stands. Perhaps this is where Eagle’s present-day air of glamour comes from.

Once the bridge was built, people started settling right away.. By 1896, there were:

  • About 30 homes in the Eagle area
  • At least one church
  • A Community Hall
  • And soon after, a school, grades 1-8
    • With a very small high school, about 10 students – held in the Odd Fellows Hall in about 1904

      Early Eagle Intersection
      Early Eagle Intersection

 

A town growing at this pace most certainly needed its own Fire Department, especially after the incident on July 4, 1946, when fireworks went awry and started a fire at the back of the Eagle Merc, located on the northeast corner of Eagle Road and State Street (the parking lot of Smokey Mountain Pizza).

But back then, these heroes (mostly volunteers!) were a far cry from a simple dial of 9-1-1. The standard fire procedure back then was:

  • —Fire alarms were taken on a special phone at the Idaho First National Bank, across the street from the fire station
  • —The banker :
  • —Would hurry across the street
  • —Blow the siren
  • —And put a message on the blackboard to inform incoming volunteers the location of the fire
  • —The first three to arrive would take the truck and others would follow in cars
Fire Truck from the 1940s
Fire Truck from the 1940s

All of this just gives you a taste of how this “gem” of a city came to be. For those of you who have the pleasure of living in Eagle: next time you cross over the bridge, I encourage you to close your eyes and revel in the history. For those of you who want to live there, give me a call!