History Of American Legion Post 312
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In August of 1919, 54 young men from St. Charles, freshly home from World War I, using the doctrines and guidelines established by the National American Legion, decided to establish an American Legion Post in St, Charles.
But, in order to fully tell the history of Post 312, we must also tell you a little bit about the history of several other St. Charles Landmarks that were to play an important part of the History of Post 312.
The idea to establish a public park system in the City of Saint Charles was conceived on July 2, 1914. This occurred when a group of citizens petitioned the City Council to place a bond referendum before the voters, in the amount of $90,000 to acquire a public park. The land in question was a 42 acre tract commonly known as the “Saint Charles County Fair Grounds,” which had been put up for sale. The official name for this property was the “Saint Charles County Driving Park and Fair Association”, so named in 1890, when stock certificates were sold for $10.00 each. From 1875 until that time, the land was privately owned and called Mittleberger Park. During these periods the property was used as a track and fairgrounds for the racing of horses, dogs, bicycles and other exhibitions.
It could be said that the park system was born on September 26, 1914, with the passage of the bond issue. The citizen vote was 1,090 for and 16 against thus beginning the publicly owned system of parks. The land was acquired on December 2, 1914 at a cost $78,920. On December 7, 1914, Charles G. Kansteiner – City Clerk, petitioned the City Council to name this property “Blanchette Park”, in honor of Louis Blanchette; the Founder of Les Petite Cotes (City of the Little Hills) later to become City of Saint Charles. His suggestion was endorsed and by motion of the Council, “Blanchette Park” was named.
During its infancy, administration of park development and management of Blanchette Park was one of the direct responsibilities of the City Council. Because of the progressive nature of Saint Charles numerous problems were encountered throughout the City. To resolve those associated with the park, the City Council decided that an “Administrative” Park Board should be established to manage the park system, via an ordinance modeled on State Statue language.
Stepping up several years, it seems appropriate to elaborate on the history of the Saint Charles County War Memorial, located in Blanchette Park. On May 6, 1919, the State of Missouri General Assembly enacted a law that would provide a $1,000 grant to any county who added $250 toward construction of a World War I Memorial for veterans who perished during that conflict.
On Labor Day, 1919, American Legion Post 312, along with the Saint Charles –Loyal Order of Moose, sponsored a picnic in Blanchette Park to honor all those brave young men who had just returned home. Although, this was in 1919, with the Stock Market crash ten years in the future, this event netted $2,006.43. These funds plus a $700 contribution from Post 312, and the $1,000 grant (plus accumulated interest), coupled with $17,500 from the park fund allowed for the construction of Memorial Hall. This was to be Post 312's and the Auxilliary's home for about the next 15 years. I learned recently, that the Auxilliary also met in a building on the Northwest corner of Kingshighway and Clark Street, supposedly, 500 or 502 Clark Street. On June 22, 1929, The Memorial Hall in Blanchette Park, was formally dedicated with a bronze tablet bearing the names of those from Saint Charles County who lost their lives during the “War To End All Wars”. The next time you're in Blanchette Park, stop by Memorial Hall, and reflect for a moment, on what it stands for, and how many sacrificed so much for it.
To continue our next chapter of Post 312's History, we need to go back to 1891, when businessman Henry B. Denker, purchased a tract of land on the Northeast corner of 3rd. and Washington, upon which he proposed to build a house. Mr. Denker, born in Hanover Germany in 1839, had came to this country in 1859, ultimately stopping in St. Charles. He owned and operated a grocery store, Denker and Pieper, from 1869 to 1895. He had been St. Charles County Treasurer from 1865 to 1875. In 1889, he was instrumental in founding The St. Charles Car Company, (later to become ACF, American Car & Foundry), and then went on to become Mayor of St. Charles from 1902 to 1910. At the time he purchased this land, he was Vice-President of ACF. In 1895, he became president and general manager. Mr. Denker completed his house in 1894. Originally, it was known by locals as the twin tower house, because of the 2 distinctive towers on the top of the third floor on the South side. Although, the approximately 10,000-square-foot structure had numerous fireplaces, it was the first house in St. Charles with a furnace. Furnished throughout with ornate woodwork, immense sliding wood doors, and decorative glass, the 3 story structure commanded a beautiful view of the Missouri River. (As an aside, Mr. Doug Boschert, a 60 year member of the Post, took me down to this historic structure, introduced me to Mr. William Webber of the Law Firm, "Hazelwood & Webber LLC", who currently own the building, and we got a grand tour of the old Post.)
The members of Legion Post 312, having met in Memorial Hall for about 15 years, on May 4, 1944, decided that the returning Vets should have a place to return home to, so they embarked on an ambitious campaign to raise $20,000.00 for a permanent Legion Home, and for a place to meet in "When the boys came home". When the old Denker property, mentioned in the above paragraph was put up for sale, the Post 312 members took a two month option to purchase it. By April, 1944, pledges amounted to a little over $1,900.00, with over $1,500.00 of that in cash, and in the bank. Quoting from Post 312's Newsletter from May, 1944:
"The great reason for being of the American Legion is stated in one quotation from the preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion as revised to include veterans of the two Great Wars: "To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars." The new Legion Home which has been purchased will help to make this COMRADESHIP possible. ....... The great purpose of the new Legion Home is that we may have a real place in which to welcome the returning service men and women. It will mean more than we know to them, if we can have the Home prepared for their return with the latchstring out, and a hearty welcome on the hearth,"
Again, remember, this was 1944, 15 years after the "Wall Street Crash", when a lot of foodstuffs were rationed, and most everything else, including money, was in short supply. They took pledges, had "Schnipple Bean" suppers, held picnics, begged, but NOT borrowed, and on July 4, 1944, they purchased what would become the Post Home for the next 30 some years. By August 17, 1944, they had amassed $10,772.00 towards the purchase price of $11,400.00. A short example will show how determined the Post members were to secure 200 N. 3rd. for the returning Vets. The "HEROS DAY PICNIC" on July 30, 1944, in Blanchette Park grossed $5,490.24 for the Post. A short time later, they had reached the $20,000.00 goal, the rest of the money being used for improvements, and modifications to their new "Legion Home".
Quoting from an interview I had with Mr. Doug Boschert, a 60 year member of Post 312, about some of the history of Post 312,:
"The old boys (World War I Veterans), bought that building, and presented it to us when we came home from the war, and that was our American Legion Home. So, that was a godsend to us, as we had no funds or anything, and here they give us this building. Boy, we had some times in the basement of that building. Now when we came home, that was something, everybody was all wrapped up in it, the boys were coming home, the War was over. I was one of 4 brothers in the service during the war. The 5th one didn't go in until right after the war ended, on account of age. When we came home, all of the old-timers were out there trying to get us to join the Legion or the V.F.W. We had a Softball team, composed of members of the Legion. We did a good job around here for some years. It was real popular. Blanchette Park was the place for ball games. People didn't have automobiles running around all over the place then. I know I had to wait until 1949 before I was finally able to buy a car, because there weren't any cars available.
We used to go down to the Legion after the games. Go down there and drink a few beers, at the bar in the basement in the Legion home. Beer was 10 cents a bottle. We had a Drum and Bugle Corps when we were down there, and they won prizes and awards for the show they put on."
Apparently, some of the members of the Legion Post, back then, had some far reaching goals, as they bought the rest of the land in that block, thus owning the whole block, although it consisted of only two houses, their post, and one other house, just to the north of them. They, then approached the owner of the St. Charles Hotel, which was situated right behind them on N. 2nd. Street, about purchasing it. A gentleman by the name of Mr. Fishbach, instead purchased it, and he would have sold it to Post 312 for the same amount he had paid for it, $85,000.00. Well, that must have seemed like too much money for some of the membership, as they could not get a majority to go along with the deal, so Mr. Fishbach sold the hotel to the city.
After 30 some years at 200 N. 3rd., Post 312 again, grew to such an extent, the members decided it was time to seek larger quarters. This time, they decided to build a new facility, where they could tailor it to their exact needs. After looking at what was available, they found a desirable piece of property at 2500 Raymond Drive in St. Charles. On August 6, 1974, almost exactly 30 years and 1 month after they purchased 200 N. 3rd., ground was broken for the original part of our current Post home. On March 1, 1975, Post 312 Legionairres held a dedication ceremony to dedicate the new Post home. In 1979, they sold the old Post home at 200 N. 3rd. for $85,000.00.
Experiencing those growing pains again, on February 23, 1994, ground again was broken for an addition to our current Post, adding an additional 7,000 square feet, and essentially making a 1 big and 1 small hall, or 1 large hall, depending. On July 27, 1994, the new addition was completed.
A few other interesting tidbits, I gathered while researching the history of Post 312. Dues in January, 1920 were $1.50. By October, 1921, they had jumped to two whole dollars. (inflation).
Although, we members here at Post 312 are justifiably proud of our 85 years of longevity, and feel that it is some mark of accomplishment, and rightly so, it may come as somewhat of a surprise when you learn that, according to the computer folks at National, there are 3,209 American Legion Posts, still active, that have a charter dating to April 1, 1921, or earlier. The following is from National Legion Headquarters.
When The American Legion was in the early years, various groups of veterans were encouraged to apply for a charter from the National Headquarters. Applications came in and temporary charters went out, all at about the same time. The George Washington Post No. 1 in Washington, DC claims to have the oldest charter (May 19, 1919). However, there may be other posts with similar dates, so we here at National Headquarters can only state that the May 19th charter is only the earliest that we know of.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of the history of American Legion Post 312. I literally pulled this together in the course of about 3 months, and hope to add to it as time goes on. I'm sure there are a lot of the older members of the Post and Auxilliary that will have pictures, letters, and other memorabilia that I might borrow to scan in or copy. This will be an ongoing project, that hopefully someday will result in a more complete detailed history of the post, that current and future members may draw some inspiration and insight from.
Past Post Historian
Last Updated: 01/24/2009.
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