1929 : Eagle Scouts Begin Serving as Fort Mackinac Guides

August 1, 2020 all-day

Eight Eagle Scouts boarded a Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company boat for a trip to Mackinac Island. They were the first of thousands of scouts to serve as guides and honor guards at Fort Mackinac.

The First Eagle Scout Honor Guard at Fort Mackinac, August 1929. Future President Gerald Ford is in the center.  The 1929 Eagle Scout honor guard inaugurated an enduring tradition, one that continues to this day.

Gerald Ford Among the First Group

Towards the end of his staff tenure at Camp Shawondossee in the summer of 1929, Jerry Ford was offered the opportunity of his Scouting career. Earlier that year, a member of the Michigan state parks commission had the idea to install an “honor guard” at the historic fort at Mackinac Island, a small island situated between Lakes Huron and Michigan. This group would be comprised of the best Eagle Scouts the state had to offer, and their task would be to present the history of the fort to the visiting public. The Grand Rapids Boy Scout council named Jerry Ford as the city’s representative, and instead of going back home from camp to prepare for the coming football season, Jerry was sent to Lansing to meet with the seven other members of the honor guard and have a photograph taken with Governor Fred Green.

After an overnight voyage on a steamship, the Scouts found themselves on Mackinac, where they would remain through the month of August. They camped inside the fort and cooked their own meals, living primitively compared to the amenities visible less than a mile away at the lavish Grand Hotel. The Scouts gave daily tours of the fort, and fired the fort’s cannon with every sunset. With their time off, they were free to relax and explore the natural beauty of the island.

Ford, though, had brought a football along and was busy preparing for his senior year season. Jerry enjoyed his time at Mackinac Island, but his Scouting days were coming to an end, with his focus shifting towards the business of football and the pursuit of college.

Flag Ceremony Conducted by Boy Scouts Outside Barracks on Mackinac Island

Boy scouts conduct a flag ceremony outside the Scout Barracks on Mackinac Island in the 1950s.

First Lady Helen Milliken was instrumental in expanding this program to include the Girl Scouts in 1974.

Growing Up Grand : Michigan’s Own Gerald R. Ford, courtesy of the Gerald Ford Library Museum.

Scouts carry on patriotic Mackinac Island tradition that goes back to Gerald R. Ford“, Mackinac Island Web Site, July 3, 2019.