History Of The Order of the Arrow

goodman_1The Order of the Arrow (OA) was founded by E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson in the summer of 1915 at the Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council, Boy Scouts of America. When they formulated their idea of the Order, Goodman was a 24-year-old Scoutmaster and had recently been appointed as Summer Camp Director of Treasure Island, and Edson, also 24, was appointed Assistant Director in charge of the Commissary.

edson_1In preparing for summer camp, Goodman and Edson learned of a society at another camp dedicated to preserving that camp’s traditions from year to year. The pair hoped to create a similar organization at Treasure Island Camp. The organization would be founded on the principles of democracy, creating the unique principle that members would be elected by primarily non-members. Additionally, Goodman hoped to stress each Scout’s embodiment of the Scout Oath and Law over mere proficiency in scoutcraft.

They found a basis for their organization in Native American lore. Horace “Shorty” Rolston and Horace Kern, Philadelphia Scouters, helped research the tribes and language of the Delaware Indians, who were once native to Treasure Island. The idea for Native American roots was strengthened when Edson, visiting home for a weekend, attended a meeting where BSA Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton recalled his success utilizing American Indian ceremonies in organizing the Woodcraft Indians, an earlier youth movement. Combining these values with characters from James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans, Goodman and Edson created dramatic inductions ceremonies.

Goodman and Harry Yoder of Troop 3 identified and prepared the site of the first induction ceremony. They chose a natural amphitheatre on the south tip of the island, away from the heavily used areas of camp.

On the evening of Friday, July 16, the first candidates for the Order of the Arrow, each the single elected candidate from a troop at Summer Camp, met at the flagpole on the parade grounds and followed Yoder in silence on a winding path through the woods to the ceremonial grounds. In this capacity, Yoder is remembered as the first guide and guardian of the Order. The scouts arrived at a triangle-shaped arena where the entire camp was assembled. Goodman and Edson stood in the center of the ring, wearing black robes. Edson, the Vice-Chief of the Fire, wore a turtle on the front of his robe, and Goodman, Chief of the Fire, wore a turtle superimposed on a triangle, the sign of leadership. A totem decorated with a tortoise also stood at the ceremonial grounds. The tortoise, adopted from Cooper’s writing and the symbol of one of the three major Delaware Indian clans, became the totem of the first Order of the Arrow lodge: Unami Lodge.

The candidates were challenged with three tasks: first, to encircle a large tree, then to scale a steep bank, and finally to add kindling to the fire. Finding that none of them could individually encircle the tree, the group of candidates joined together and easily surrounded the tree, learning Brotherhood. Likewise, failing to independently scale the bank, the candidates worked together to climb the embankment, learning Service. Adding their sticks to the fire taught them Cheerfulness. The candidates spent the following day, in silence and without food, assisting the farmers on the mainland.
black_sashBy the end of the first year, twenty-five members, including Goodman and Edson, wore the white arrow on a black background signifying membership in the Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui, a name suggested by Ralston.
devils_tea_tableDuring this year Dr. William Hinkle devised the ritual for the second degree, later known as Brotherhood in the 1930s. The third degree, known as the Vigil Honor, was first awarded to Goodman in August of 1915. Goodman held his Vigil at the Devil’s Tea Table, a historic rock formation along the Delaware River in New Jersey. Upon his return, Goodman received the Vigil name “Nuwingi”, meaning “willing”, but no other symbol of the Vigil Honor existed at the time. Edson received the Vigil Honor the following winter.

On November 23, 1915, the first membership meeting was held. George W. Chapman was elected the first Lodge Chief of Unami Lodge and chairman of the organization committee. Goodman and Edson served as advisors of this committee. The lodge also officially accepted the turtle and arrow as their symbols.

By 1917, lodges of the Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui had been established in New Jersey, Maryland, New York, and Illinois. Unami Lodge hosted the first Grand Lodge meeting on October 7, 1921. Four delegates from every lodge in the nation gathered in Philadelphia for the meeting and elected Goodman as the first Grand Chieftain. The group adopted a constitution and statement of policies, as well as created committees to spur the growth of the organization. Grand Lodge meetings were held annually until 1927, when they switched to two-year-intervals. In this same year, Goodman wrote the lyrics to the Order of the Arrow Song to the tune of the “Russian Czarist National Anthem” by Alexei Fyodorovich Lvov.

After the 1922 Grand Lodge meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania, the Order of the Arrow became an official program experiment. The BSA, under the leadership of Chief Scout Executive James E. West, permitted local councils to create lodges on a trial basis.

At the 1933 Grand Lodge meeting at Owasippe Camps of the Chicago Council, the delegates ratified a proposal for the Order of the Arrow to become an official part of the Scouting program. On June 2, 1934, at the National Council Annual Meeting in Buffalo, NY, the Order of the Arrow was officially recognized as a part of Scouting. This ended the program’s experimental period of more than a decade.

In May 1948, the National Executive Board, upon recommendation of the Committee on Camping, officially integrated the Order of the Arrow into the Scouting movement. This dissolved the Grand Lodge and placed supervision of the Order under the BSA. The first National Order of the Arrow Conference was held August 27-30 the same year at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

goodman_2Dr. E. Urner Goodman passed away on March 13, 1980, at the age of 88. Only six months before his death, he attended the National Order of the Arrow Conference at Colorado State University. He was a teacher before he became a professional Scouter in 1915, and in 1951 he retired as National Program Director. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1951 from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, and was a member of the Freemasons. Goodman continued to attend Unami Lodge events and entertain Arrowmen at his home in Vermont until he died. The E. Urner Goodman Camping Award, established in 1969, and the E. Urner Goodman Scholarship Fund honor the visionary founder of the Order of the Arrow.

founders_medallionAs the number of Vigil Honor members increased from year to year, lodge and national leaders petitioned the National Order of the Arrow Committee for another nationally-recognized award. These leaders saw many Vigil Honor members who continued their exemplary service and felt that adult Arrowmen warranted further recognition. In response, the National Committee created the Founder’s Award in 1981 to memorialize Goodman and honor Edson. Recipients of the award are Arrowmen who best exemplify in their everyday life the true meaning of the Order of the Arrow given to us by the Founders: the basic ideals of Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. Founder’s Award recipients receive a golden arrow pocket dangle, certificate, and a bronze medallion depicting Goodman and Edson.

goodman_edsonIn 1986, co-founder Colonel Carroll A. Edson passed away. Thus the 1980s witnessed the deaths of both Founders.

In 1998, the Order of the Arrow was declared as Scouting’s National Honor Society by the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1915, more than 1 million Scouts have been inducted into the Order of the Arrow, and more than 180,000 youth and adult members are active today.

This history was largely created with the help of the following sources, which you should consult to learn more:

Osceola Lodge History:

“Osceola Lodge was chartered in 1968 as Southwest Florida Council’s Order of the Arrow lodge. Oddly enough, the lodge was not named after the Seminole warrior, but rather after Cory Osceola, a 20th century Seminole Indian. Nevertheless, the totem of the lodge is the Seminole war chief Osceola, or Asi Yaholo. In its early years, the lodge held only two weekend activities, during which it performed service projects at Camp Miles. To boost and retain membership, the lodge introduced a third, fun weekend in the early 1980s. In 1984, Osceola Lodge hosted its first Section Seminar.

In 1995, Eckale Yakanen Lodge 552 merged with Osceola Lodge. Eckale Yakanen, chartered by Sunny Land Council in 1962, translates to “rising sun” in the Calusa language. Eckale Yakanen was responsible for projects at Camp Flying Eagle including building the rifle range, Council ring, equipment shed, and the bridge over the canal between Horseshoe Lake and Wilson’s Pond.

In 1999, Osceola Lodge hosted Section Conference at Camp Miles. The lodge’s years of service include building the sound and lighting booth at the Camp Miles council ring and maintaining the chickee huts at the ceremonial square grounds and near the Training Lodge.

It should be noted that both Eckale Yakanen and Osceola have origins in Calusa Lodge 219, which was chartered in 1942 and disbanded in 1956.”
(Source: Osceola Lodge First Year Arrowman Orientation Guide for the 2005 Lodge Year)

Wisdom from our Founder:

Perhaps Dr. Goodman best summarized the Order in his famous words:
“The Order is a thing of the spirit rather than of mechanics. Organization, operational procedures, and all that go with them are necessary in any large and growing movement, but they are not what counts in the end. The things of spirit are what count:

  • Brotherhood – in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad.
  • Cheerfulness – in a day when the pessimists have the floor and cynics are popular.
  • Service – in a day when million are interested in getting or grasping, rather than giving.”