Legion charter from 100 years ago on display at library

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Spring Valley American Legion Commander Nik Schmidt stands next to the Spring Valley American Legion Post 68 charter, which now hangs in the Spring Valley Public Library's fireside room.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The charter of American Legion Post 68 has gone from a box in the basement to a prominent display in the Spring Valley Public Library.

“Paul Ness handed me a box, a metal box, and I was going through it all and pulled out an envelope. I didn’t know what it was, but when I opened it, I found that it was the Legion’s charter,” related Spring Valley American Legion Post 68 member Vince Mangan.

The document discovered by Mangan showed that American Legion Post 68 became a chartered Legion on Aug. 11, 1919.

For years, Mangan hadn’t given thought to the box that he’d received from Ness. He had that box at his home for quite some time, but never realized the importance of the contents. His decision to go through boxes in his basement led to the key discovery just in time for the Legion’s 100th anniversary celebration this past summer.

After the celebration concluded, there remained some question as to what should be done with the document that shows that the Everett H. Hale Legion post was founded in late summer 1919, at the close of World War I.

The post has an important history as post member Jim Cavanaugh pointed out just before the anniversary celebration that The Fillmore County Council is the oldest Legion council in the United States. Cavanaugh also pointed out that “normally, those who were wounded or killed in battle got a Purple Heart, but they had just started the program in 1917, so Everett Hale didn’t get one…it was either bureaucracy or his family kept it, because the post doesn’t have it.”

Cavanaugh is also uncertain when the post took the name of Everett H. Hale in its title.

In November, the Legion’s membership chose to have the charter professionally framed for preservation, then determined that a place to hang it in public view should be found.

“We decided on that last month, and we needed a place to hang it,” Mangan said. “We asked if we could hang the charter in the library. It’s not been anywhere public before because we just found it. People are more apt to look at it there than any other place.”

Commander Nik Schmidt is proud to be able to stop in the library and see the charter hanging where everyone can take note of it as they’re checking out books and using the public computers. He and Mangan also hope that it reminds potential Legion members that their local organization is here to serve them and to help them serve the community.

“Like any other club, people all know who we are. And like any organization, there’s less and less of us. It’s hard to get new recruits,” Mangan said. “We’re always open for new members. It’s a different time, and maybe those who are eligible are busy with their families, like those from the first and second Desert Storm. I think right now, we have 74 or 75 members. We’re lucky if 20 percent of us are under 50, and the youngest of our bunch are Nate Pike’s boys and Nik.”

Schmidt invited interested veterans to join the Legion at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Spring Valley Fire Hall on Washington Avenue — with the exceptions of the months of January and February because the Legion membership has chosen to take a winter’s break – to become part of the Legion’s rolls.

Schmidt and Mangan reiterated that library patrons are now able to stop at the Spring Valley Public Library just off Broadway Avenue in downtown Spring Valley to see the names of everyone who was present at the Legion’s founding 100 years ago, as Mangan observed, “Most of them are from World War I on the charter.”

The Spring Valley Public Library is open Monday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. and the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 507-346-2100.