Glimpse of the Past: St. Peter Legion post one of state's oldest

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Aug. 29—The Free Press

ST. PETER — St. Peter American Legion members belong to one of the state's first posts.

Two celebrations were held earlier this month to mark the centennial of when the veterans organization's charter was acknowledged by the national American Legion office Aug. 1, 1920.

Post 37's origins go back to a sidewalk conversation in St. Peter between two men in 1919, documented in a St. Peter Herald story published in 1930.

"Don't you think, Maj. Quane, that it is time to organize an association in which to enroll these returning war veterans?" Capt. J.W. Daniels reportedly said.

Area World War I vets began meeting at St. Peter about a year and a half before William R. Witty Post 37 was chartered. Their first gathering happened was about the same time members of the American Expeditionary Force met in March 1919 at Paris to found the American Legion.

The 20 people who attended an organizational meeting at the St. Peter Armory March 21, 1919, decided on World War Veterans as a name for the group.

Those attendees later would be charter members of an American Legion post named for a St. Peter soldier killed in France during World War I. William R. Witty had been assigned with the 9th Infantry of the 2nd Division when he died in a field hospital from battle wounds suffered in October 1918.

Ralph Weisgerber was the first commander for the post. Its early membership flourished when men who had been overseas or in concentration camps signed up soon after they returned home.

Old city directories and phone books indicate post members were meeting in 1929 at 201 S. Minnesota Ave., an address shared with Anderson Dry Good Store. Between 1947 and the mid-1960s, post meetings took place at various downtown St. Peter locations, and 229 W. Nassau St. has been the post's home since 1966.

Throughout its history, the veterans organization has continued to support several civic activities and participated in patriotic observances and community drives. Post 37 has sponsored a Boy Scouts troop, a junior baseball club and an American Legion drum corps that earned honors at competitions during state conventions.

The post sponsors a baseball team for players age 19 and younger. Its building continues to be a gathering place for veterans as well as American Legion auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion members. Community members also use its facilities for social events.

Information from Post 37.

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