History of Eagle Idaho
Eagle Idaho has always been a part of my life. My childhood was spent on a 68-acre farm just east of where City Hall stands today. My grandfather, Reid Merrill, and his wife bought the farm after WWII.
The census data shows there were 352 people in Eagle when I was born. Today, the population is approximately 35,000. It took over 100 years for the population of Eagle to surpass 300 people. Today, the city grows at the rate of about 5 people a day, when you consider births and migration.
The first number of permanent settlers came around 1862. The original township was first farmed by Truman Catlin and Polete Mace. Catlin built the first irrigation ditch here in 1864. By 1903, the nine major irrigation canals were constructed to irrigate the 700 acres of Eagle. One of the most influential early settlers was Thomas Aikens, a surveyor from Nova Scotia. He bought acreage on Eagle Island on what is now Eagle and Highway 44. He petitioned Ada County to build a bridge joining his holdings. He was challenged by the city of Star but emerged the victor by hiring a touring carriage to transport the voters at the Old Soldiers Home to the polls and providing them with a fancy picnic.
So, the Eagle Island Bridge was built, followed by a school in 1900, a grocery store in 1902, and a high school in 1904. The township was officially named “Eagle” by Aikens’ daughter Clara for the large number of bald eagles that made their home on Eagle Island. In 1907, Eagle was connected to the rest of Ada County by the interurban trolley, which lead to an economic boom for the town. In 1916, L.B. Harris opened the Eagle Drug Store and in 1920, Orville Jackson opened a general store.
Downtown Eagle was anchored by a bank (now DaVinci’s restaurant) and a 16-room stone house owned by Aikens (now the Eagle Hotel). Boise Valley Packing Company opened a food processing plant there which operated for 76 years and the Creamery of Meridian opened a cheese factory there as well. In 1930, the state opened the Eagle Island Prison Farm and in 1937 the Fish and Game department opened a fish hatchery next door to the prison farm. In 1963 the Eagle Public Library was opened.
Eagle was officially incorporated into Ada County as a new city in 1971 with its city council meetings held in the library. The Eagle Historical Museum opened in 2001 and highlights the community’s grand spot on the Idaho landscape. It can be found directly west of Eagle City Hall.
Growing up on the farm gave me years of working side-by-side with my Grandpa, Reid Merrill. My favorite memories include sitting in his office and learning from his wisdom and character traits. He taught me the value of hard work, positivity, perseverance, and above all, kindness to everyone.
For decades, my Grandpa would write a newsletter every other week to his employees and include it in their paychecks. The newsletter always ended with a motivational quote or inspirational message of gratitude. Our family dinners often had a person who was a stranger to me – someone my Grandpa had invited or was quietly helping out in some way. He appreciated every single day living in “Beautiful” Eagle.
I am blessed for my Grandpa’s influence in my life and for instilling in all of his kids and grandkids the entrepreneurial spirit that lives on. This May, he would be 101 years old. Enjoy his legacy when you visit Reid Merrill Park in Eagle.