Order of the Arrow was founded to serve a useful purpose:
causing the Scout Promise and Law to spring into action in
all parts of the nation. To this day, we are dedicated to
this high purpose.
Order is a thing of the individual rather than a thing of
the masses. The principles of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and
service spring to life in each of us. What each Arrowman does
counts toward the success we have as an organization.
Order is a thing of the outdoors. It was born in an island
wilderness. It needs and is nurtured by the sun and the rain,
the mountains and the plains, the woods, the waters, and the
life in the wilds comes a precious ingredient that our country,
and any country, needs to survive - self-reliance, making
us strong in times of stress. One of the Order's greatest
achievements is, and will continue to be, the strengthening
of the Scouting movement as an outdoor experience.
E. Urner Goodman, founder of the Order of the Arrow, once
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 the spirit are what count:
a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad
a day when the pessimists have the floor and cynics are
a day when millions are interested in getting or grasping,
rather than giving"
the Order's role includes service to Scouting on a national,
regional, sectional, and local level, it is our own council
that needs us most. The Order is not an end unto itself, but
is for a higher purpose.
Order of the Arrow was founded during the summer of 1915 at
Treasure Island, the Philadelphia Council Scout camp. Treasure
Island was part of the original land grant given to William
Penn by King Charles II of England. The camp was located on
a 50-acre wooded island in the Delaware River between New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, 30 miles upriver from Trenton and
3 miles from Point Pleasant. Historical records show that
it was an early camping ground of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware
May 1915, a young man named E. Urner Goodman was selected
to serve as summer camp director of Treasure Island. Another
young man, Carroll A. Edson, was appointed assistant director
in charge of the commissary. Both men were 24 years old.
had been a Scoutmaster in Philadelphia and had considerable
experience in Scouting and camping. Edson was a graduate of
Dartmouth College and had also been in Scouting for several
years. After their appointments were announced, they spent
many hours together planning their summer camping season,
and both did considerable reading and research to better prepare
themselves for their new responsibilities.
the books Goodman read, several were about camping. One of
these that impressed him the most, a book dealing with summer
camp operation, contained a description of a camp society
that had been organized at a camp to perpetuate its traditions
and ideals from season to season. Goodman and Edson agreed
that they wanted to establish a similar society at their camp.
They wanted some definite form of recognition for those Scouts
in their camp who best exemplified the spirit of the Scout
Oath and Law in their daily lives. Since the Delaware Valley
was rich in Indian tradition, and the island had been used
in early times as an Indian camping ground, it seemed only
natural to base this society, this brother hood of honor campers,
on the legend and traditions of the Delaware Indians.
after it had been announced that he was selected to serve
as assistant camp director, Carroll Edson went home for a
weekend visit. During that visit, he attended a meeting where
Ernest Thompson Seton, Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts
of America, was speaking. Seton described how, when organizing
an earlier youth movement called the Woodcraft Indians, he
had much success by utilizing American Indian ceremonies at
camp. This crystallized Goodman and Edson's idea of using
the lore and legends of the Delaware Indians in their new
a result, they prepared a simple yet effective ceremony that,
in turn, led to the organization of what was later to become
known as the Order of the Arrow. It was agreed from the beginning
that the procedures and programs of the organization
were to be based on the ideals of democracy. In their initial
decisions, Goodman and Edson reflected those ideals by planning
to elect members into the first lodge from the troops encamped
at Treasure Island.
from the beginning, a unique custom was established in that
members were elected by non-members. There has been no change
in this since that time. The original name, Wimachtendienk,
Wingolauchsik, Witahemui, was suggested by Horace W. Ralston,
a Philadelphia Scouter. Ralston and Horace P. Kern had done
most of the research on the Delaware Indians.
after camp opened, Goodman explored the island in order to
find the most appropriate setting for the ceremonial ground.
He selected a site in the south woods of the island, far removed
from the ordinary activities of camp, and Edson agreed that
it would be an ideal spot. It was considerably off the beaten
path, and because of its location was an excellent site.
site chosen was a natural amphitheater formed by a ravine
in dense woods. There was a clearing with sloping ground on
one side, which lent itself well to spectator seating. The
site was cleared of brush and a path cut through thick underbrush
from the camp to the site.
July 16, 1915, dawned bright and clear on Treasure Island.
In addition to the heavy heat that often hangs over the valley
of the Delaware, there was something else in the air. It was
an almost indescribable feeling of expectancy and mystery.
By sundown the air was charged with a tense excitement. Those
who were present always remembered the first induction into
what is now known as the Order of the Arrow.
darkness fell, the campers were lined up in single file by
Harry Yoder, who acted as guide and guardian of the trail.
In total silence the campers followed the guide by a roundabout
route through the woods to the site of the council fire. The
path led down a small ravine across which lay an old fallen
tree. The boys were unaware that they were approaching the
council fire until suddenly it was revealed. It was built
in a triangular shape. Behind it, in long black robes, stood
the cofounders of the Order of the Arrow-E. Urner Goodman,
Chief of the Fire, and Carroll A. Edson, Vice-chief of the
Fire. The Chief of the Fire wore on his robe a turtle superimposed
upon a triangle, denoting leadership, and the Vice-chief of
the Fire, then called Sachem, wore a turtle without the triangle.
(The turtle is the totem of the Unami Lodge.)
original ceremony was quite different from that which developed
later. There were three lessons taught that night:
The candidate attempted to encircle a large tree, individually,
with out stretched arms. Having failed, he then was joined
by several of the brothers who together had no difficulty
encircling the large tree, thus teaching lesson No. 1, Brotherhood.
The candidate was directed to endeavor to scale a steep bank
at the edge of the
council ring. Failing in this, he again was assisted by the
brothers, with whose help he was able to climb the elevation,
thus teaching Service.
The candidate then was given a bundle of twigs and told to
place some on the council fire, where the twigs caught fire
and blazed brightly, thus show ing Cheerfulness.
the first year, 25 members were inducted into the Brotherhood.
Many of the members wore a black sash with a white arrow on
it. The black sash was used because it offered an excellent
contrast to the white arrow. In the original plan there were
two degrees; the first was much like a combination of the
Ordeal and Brotherhood memberships, and the second an early
version of the Vigil Honor.
perpetuate the brotherhood, a membership meeting was held
on November 23, 1915. George W. Chapman, the first lodge chief
of Unami Lodge, served as chairman of the organization committee.
This meeting marked the first formal founding of the Order
of the Arrow. Goodman and Edson served as advisers to the
1917, news of the organization, Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik,
Witahemui, spread to other Scout camps and inquiries began.
Goodman spoke to many interested Scouts and Scouters, and
as a result, lodges were established in New Jersey, Maryland,
New York, and Illinois.
1915 until 1921 the Order grew slowly. World War I kept Scouts
and leaders busy with many other problems and projects. In
1921 steps were taken to establish the Order on a national
basis. The early years had produced sufficient experience
to form a foundation on sound basic policies.
first national convention was held on October 7, 1921, in
Philadelphia, at which a national lodge was formed, composed
of four delegates from each of the local lodges. This group
adopted a constitution and a statement of policies. Committees
were appointed to develop plans for making the Order effective
as a national honor campers' brotherhood.
the convention there was a steady growth in lodges and membership.
In 1922, after the national lodge meeting at Reading, Pa.,
the Order of the Arrow became an official program experiment
of the Boy Scouts of America.
several years conventions of the national lodge were held
annually. After 1927, they were held at 2-year intervals.
During the Philadelphia convention of 1929, it was suggested
that the Order become an official part of the Boy Scouts of
America and a component part of its program. At the session
of the national lodge in 1933, held at the Owasippe Camps
of the Chicago Council, this proposal was made and ratified
by the delegates.
June 2, 1934, at the National Council Annual Meeting in Buffalo,
N.Y., the Order of the Arrow program was approved by the National
May 1948, the Executive Board, upon recommendation of its
Committee on Camping, officially integrated the Order of the
Arrow into the Scouting movement. The Order's national lodge
was dissolved and supervision shifted to the Boy Scouts of
executive committee of the national lodge became the national
committee on Order of the Arrow, a subcommittee of the national
Committee Camping and Engineering, and a staff member was
employed as national executive secretary. In the 1974 reorganization
of the Boy Scouts of America, the national Order of the Arrow
committee became a subcommittee of the national Boy Scout
growth of the Order of the Arrow through the years has never
been based on an aggressive promotional plan. It came about
because councils believed in the ideals expressed by the Order
and voluntarily requested that lodges be formed. The soundness
of providing a single workable honor campers' brotherhood,
rather than many, is evident. More than 1 million Boy Scouts
Scouters have been inducted into the Order during the past
83 years. There are now more than 175,000 active members.
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