Joseph B. Westnedge Post 36, P.O. Box 19248 , Kalamazoo, Michigan 49019

Our Beginnings

Kalamazoo Veterans Were Quick to Found American Legion Post in 1919.

Kalamazoo Gazette, 1969 By Llyle Rapp, (Past Commander Post 36,1925), It didn’t take the Kalamazoo veterans who had already returned from service in WWI long to formalize plans for an American Legion post here after receiving notice that such an organization for United States veterans had been organized at the caucus in Paris, France March 15 17, 1919. The first informal meeting of local veterans to organize a post was held Friday night, March 21, 1919 in the Armory. Between 28 and 30 Kalamazoo veterans attended. Their first meeting was devoted entirely to a review and explanation of actions taken at the Paris caucus, especially a study of the principles and objectives approved by the Americans in Paris. So much interest was evidenced at the first local meeting that a second meeting was scheduled the next week on Friday, March 28, when all veterans present were asked to invite other veterans to attend. Ralph Henshaw and Milton Courtney were named co-chairmen. Several more organizational meetings were held during April, and one action taken by the local veterans was to postpone the official organization of the post until “Kalamazoo’s own” Company C., 126th Infantry, 2nd division had returned home. The arrival date was May 20. With the Co. C boys back, the organization process quickened and by mid-August the Kalamazoo post, which had been unanimously named in honor of the late Col. Joseph B. Westnedge, commander of the 126th Infantry and who died of pneumonia in France shortly after the Nov. 11 signing of the Armistice, elected officers and applied for a charter. The charter was granted in September. The only difficulty encountered in recruiting charter members in the post- a minor one- was the belief on the part of some veterans that a clouded purpose of the American Legion might be to obtain signatures of veterans who might later be obligated by the United States government to return to military service. This misconception was successfully overcome within a few weeks. Capt. James M. Wilson of Company C. was elected the first commander. Among other officers were Wilbur W. Kramb; Milton Courtney; Alfred Eagelton; Lt. W. Douglas Hall, Company C., who attended the Paris caucus; Ralph Henshaw; Nell Priester; Truman Strong; and Llyle Rapp. After completion of the organization in August, the new Post rented the former Knights of Pythias hall on W. Michigan, where it met for a year. The post then moved to quarters over the former Home Savings Bank on W. Michigan, until it outgrew those quarters. In the meantime, even before the Armistice, patriotic citizens of Kalamazoo had drafted a plan to erect a veterans’ memorial building on the vacant lot on E. South St. and had obtained pledges of several thousand dollars, but the plan did not materialize. Somewhat frustrated, and without a post home, the Legionnaires assembled forces late one night in 1924 and with shovels, picks and carpenter’s tools, swarmed in the vacant lot on E. South (proposed site of the memorial building) and built a post “home” which they dubbed “the Legion Dugout”. Half under and half above ground, the dugout served as a meeting place for several weeks. The Legionnaires in the meantime inaugurated a campaign to collect on pledges previously made toward the memorial under direction of past commander Wilson and the post home committee. The campaign yielded sufficient funds and the post purchased the Charles Peck home at 421 W. South St. with an additional generous contribution from the Peck family. The post moved into the home in 1925. The only later move was a few years after World War II when the former Jewish synagogue at 433 E. South was purchased and still serves as the post home. * Kalamazoo has been the home of six American Legion posts since World War I. Most active now are Joseph B. Westnedge Post 36 and Kalamazoo Post 332. Outpost Post, organized during World War II, still has its charter. Posts which have become inactive were the Hanes-Molloy Post, Phillips Carr Post, and Dr. Caroline Bartlett Carr Post for women veterans.

American Legion Post 36 Officers, 1919

1- R. Wheeler Rickman, Finance Officer 2- Carl D. Proctor, Vice-Cmdr. 3- James M. Wilson, Cmdr. 4- Charles B. Bietry, Historian, 5- J. W. Kramb, Adjutant 6- Grant Church, Chaplain, 7- Wm. Waite, Sgt. at Arms.
American Legion Joseph B. Westnedge Post 36 home in 1925