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Oceanside lays claim to the first Eagle Scout

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It has long been known that legendary local Arthur R. Eldred was the first Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. There is some dispute, however, as to where Eldred was from. 

Despite local historian Richard Woods’ claim that Eldred was an Oceanside resident, Rockville Centre has long laid claim to Eldred being one of their village. Over the years, Rockville Centre has heavily publicized its claim that Eldred was one of its own — that he lived and was raised there. It claims that he joined Troop 1 of Rockville Centre, which was later renamed Troop 40. The village has hosted numerous Boy Scout celebrations heralding its claim to fame as being the home of the first Eagle Scout. It has had countless state and local officials speak to this claim. Rockville Centre even went as far as establishing Eagle Scout Park, located at the corner of Centre Avenue and Parkwood Court, and placing a memorial to Eldred.

The confusion goes back to when Eldred became an Eagle Scout in 1912. He was listed as being from Rockville Centre when he was examined for the Eagle Scout pin. A local newspaper at that time, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, separately referred to Eldred as “a Boy Scout of Rockville Centre, L.I.,” as well as the “first Eagle Scout…of Oceanside, L.I.”  When he traveled around the state speaking about his experiences as the first Eagle Scout, he was frequently announced as being from Rockville Centre. 

This all begs the question — where was Eldred from? And what town should rightfully claim itself “home to the first Eagle Scout?” Shortly after his father died in 1899, Eldred’s mother, Irene, moved from Brooklyn to Long Island with her two sons, Hubert and Arthur. But where exactly did they move?

A review of archival documentary evidence places the Eldred family as living in Oceanside. While the 1910 U.S. census records lists them on Silver Lane, all subsequent census records place the Eldred family as living on Terrell Avenue — still in Oceanside. The 1920 census has Arthur living with his mother on Terrell Avenue in Oceanside. The 1930 record continues to have Irene Eldred living in her house on Terrell Avenue in Oceanside.

In addition, the U.S. indexed county land ownership maps also clearly placed the Eldred family within the Oceanside hamlet. Both the 1906 and 1914 maps show Irene Eldred’s property on a sizeable plot of land north of Terrell Avenue where the street bends from its northeasterly direction to the northwest. Based on those maps, Eldred’s property encompassed the present-day sports fields, handball courts, playground and part of the parking lot at Florence A. Smith School No. 2. There is no doubt that all of the school is in Oceanside, including its track and ball fields. 

Lastly, Arthur Eldred was a student in the Oceanside School District and graduated from Oceanside High School in 1912. It is believed that he was the first person to be bestowed a New York state Regents diploma from OHS.

In regard to establishing a connection to being a resident of Rockville Centre, there is no objective, first-hand evidence, through historical documentation or otherwise, that Arthur Eldred ever lived in the incorporated village.

This exercise only examined where Eldred grew up and lived. While it undoubtedly establishes that he lived in Oceanside, it did not examine his connection to Rockville Centre’s present-day Boy Scout Troop No. 40.

Can the Village of Rockville Centere stake a claim to Eldred for his Boy Scout activities? That would require a closer review of the connection between his Boy Scout Troop No. 1 and the current Troop No. 40, but that is a story for a different day.