by Jim Houck, Jr.
Note: This is the story titled “History of the Francis X. Elder Post, No. 121 American Legion From its Beginning,” as written by “Abigail,” a writer for the Emmitsburg Chronicle. The article was published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle in 1940.
Original Post Founded In 1920. Present One Originated in 1936. Lester J. Damuth and Charles J. Rowe Instumental In Its Formation.
An American Legion Post was organized here in 1920 for the first time and was named Francis X. Elder Post No. 75. The original Post was the nucleus of American Legion activities in the community and undoubtedly served as an incentive to augment the membership and the splendid spirit that is a part of the present Post.
It was not until March 12, 1936 that the present Francis X. Elder Post, No. 121, Department of Maryland, was organized by Mr. Lester J. Damuth and his committee. State Commander Charles S. Houck, of Walkersville, addressed the veterans and assisted in the organization of the new Post. Those veterans who were members of the organization at that time follow; John H. Rosensteel Jr., C. C. Combs, Charles J. Rowe, Louis H. Stoner, Clarence Baumgardner, Gerald N. Ryder, Lester J. Damuth, Maurice H. Moser, Clarence G. Fraley, James M. Alvey, J. Ward Kerrigan, George Wagerman, Raymond Baumgardner, Guy C. Angell and J. Ralph Angell.
It was agreed to name the Post the Francis X. Elder Post in honor of the first Emmitsburg boy to enlist and the first to be killed in action. Francis X. Elder, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. James B. Elder, was born in Emmitsburg on June 30, 1893. He inlisted in the service of his country on May 9, 1917. He was in France from June 15, 1918 until death. He was killed in action on October 11, 1918. Others killed in action were Captain Henry higbee Worthington and Martin Hahn. Killed by accident was first lieutenant john Reading Schley. Died of disease, Charles Francis Gelwicks, Francis Edward Rowe. Robert Bruce Reifsnider, Arthur Bentzel and Vernon Ross Ohler.
The following Officers were elected for the year of 1936-1937; Post Commander, Lester J. Damuth; Post Adjutant, Charles J. Rowe; Vice Commander, Maurice H. Moser; Finance Officer, Louis H, Stoner; Historian, C.C. Combs; Sergeant -at-Arms, George Wagerman; Chaplain (Temporary), Reverend Father Francis Dodd; Membership Chairman, Clarence G. Frailey; Grave Registration Chairman, Gerald N. Ryder; Service Officer, Charles J. Rowe; and Child Welfare Chairman, Clarence Baumgardner. The Executive Committee was composed of John H. Rosensteel Jr., Clarence Baumgardner and James M. Alvey, and was asked by the Post Commander to draw up the by-laws of the newly formed Post.
During the year, the Post took an active part in flood relief by sending food, clothing and money to the relief committee of the Francis Scott Key Post in Frederick. They were one of the first Post to receive the “Community Service Citation”.
All veteran’s graves were marked and registered this year. In November the by-laws submitted by the above named executive committee were unanimously approved. The Armistice Day Services were held on November 8 in Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Rev. Francis Dodd, Post Chaplain was in charge of services.
A military funeral was conducted for John S. Hobbs, a World War veteran, at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in December of that year.
In February 1937 the Post donated $47.00 for flood relief in the Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio River section. The money was sent to the Red Cross. Again the Post received the “Community Service Citation”.
In March 1937 the local Legion Post celebrated its first anniversary in the Fireman’s Hall with a banquet and dance at which 135 Legionnaires and their guests were present. The Colors of the Legion were presented to the local Post by Bryon Hobbs, Department Commander. At the same time C.L. Shrine, Vice Commander of the Western Maryland District and Morris Frock, Post 42 of Hagerstown, presented the charter and citation. Among the notables present were; Major Elmer J. Munshower, Superintendent of Maryland State Police; Rev.John L. Sheridan, President of Mt. Saint Mary’s College; Rev. William J. Groeninger, Pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; Rev. E.L. Higbee, Pastor of the Reformed Church of the Incarnation; Rev. Phillip Bower, Pastor of the Elias Lutheran Church; Rev. Francis Dodd, Chaplain of the local Post; Miss Louise Sebold, President of St. Joseph’s College Alumnae; and Mr. John D. Elder, brother of Francis X. Elder and Editor of this paper.
In May of 1937 the Post sponsored the Walk-a-Show, on Decoration Day the services were held in the Methodist Episcopal Church at 3 pm; Rev. Raymond E. Cook, Department Chaplain, delivered the sermon. Charles J. Rowe, Post Adjutant introduced the speakers after a brief talk and introductory remarks.
In July the following Officers were elected for the year 1938; Post Commander, Maurice Moser; Vice Commander, C.C. Combs; Adjutant, C.J. Rowe; Finance Officer, Louis H. Stoner; Sergeant-at-Arms, John Walter; Historian, William S. Sterbinsky; Chaplain, Rev. Francis J. Dodd; Raymond Baumgardner was named to the Executive Committee. A committee of two was named to investigate insurance for the colors, Charles J. Rowe and James Alvey.
In September Adjutant Charles J. Rowe announced that the Mayor and Commissioners granted the Post permission to take over the Doughboy War Memorial. The Armistice Day services were held in the Reformed Church of Incarnation and the Pastor, the Rev. E.L. Higbee, delivered a very eloquent address for the occasion. About 30 members were present.
In January 1938 the Posttook action to reduce hazards to motorists on Tollgate Hill. On January 19, the Legion turned out for the funeral of Mrs. James B. Elder, mother of Francis X. Elder, for whom the Post was named. in March of 1938 about 75 Legionnaires, Ladies of the Auxiliary and friends attended the second annual banquet of the Post held in Hotel Slage. Post Adjutant, Charles J. Rowe, presented two rifles to the Post, purchased by his mother, in memory of her son, Francis Edward Rowe, who died at a Naval Training Station during the war.
The memorial services in this year were held at the Presbyterian Church, with the Pastor, Rev. Irwin N. Morris, delivering the impressive sermon. In June the following Officers were elected for 1939; Commander, C.C. Combs; Vice Commander, Raymond Baumgardner; Adjutant, J.E. Prendergast; Chaplain, Rev. Francis Dodd; Historian, William S. Sterbinsky; Treasurer, Dr. O.H. Stinson; Finance Officer, Charles D. Gillelan. Charles J. Rowe and James Alvey were appointed as delegates to the State convention with C.C. Combs and Allen Rosensteel named as alternates.
In August the newly-elected Officers were installed by the State Commander, Bruce Blair. A bugle was accepted as a gift from Mr. Ralph S. Sperry. In September the Post was honored in having one of its members elected as one of the State’s Vice Commanders. This outstanding Legionnaire was Charles J.Rowe. The Armistice Day services were held at Elias Lutheran Church. The Pastor Rev. Phillip Bower, gave a very appropriate and impressive address. In the afternoon the Armistice Day Parade was held with the following
Posts represented; Drum Corps of the Francis Scott Key Post No. 11, Frederick, members of the same Post with the Forty and Eight; Members of the Morris Frock Post, Hagerstown; Carroll Post, No. 31, Westminster; Hesson-Snyder Post, No 131, Taneytown; Drum and Bugle Corps of Albert J. Lentz Post, No. 202, of Gettysburg; and the colored Post of Frederick of Frederick with its band. Immediately following the parade all assembled on the local Community Athletic Field where the Hon. Judge J. Fred Johnson, of Washington gave the principle address. State Commander Herbert L. Rhodes, and past State Commander Bruce Blair, both spoke briefly. There was singing by the entire assembly led by Post Historian, William S. Sterbinsky, accompanied by the Fairfield High Band.
On November 20 the Post attended the funeral of Mrs. Edward H. Rowe, the mother of the Vice Commander, Charles J. Rowe, which was held from her home.
On March 23, 1939, the Post celebrated its third anniversary in the Green Parrot Tea Room with about sixty guest present. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Frailey was the principal speaker and District Vice Commander, Charles J. Rowe, disclosed some interesting information concerning the local Post.
Memorial services were held this year at the United Brethren Church, in Thurmont. The Rev. Ivan Naugle, a recent member, and the Pastor, was in charge of the services. At a meeting held on September 4 the following Officers were elected for the ensuing year of 1940; Commander, Raymond Baumgardner; Vice Commander, L. Mackley; Adjutant, J.E. Prendergast; Treasurer, Lesley Fox; Historian, Allen Rosensteel; Sergeant-at-Arms, Henry Warthen. The new committees were appointed by the Commander.
The Charter Members of the Post follow; James Alvey, Guy Angell, Ralph Angell, Morris Barrick, Clarence Baumgardner, Raymond Baumgardner, C.C. Combs, Lester Damuth, Francis J. Dodd, Lesley Fox, Clarence G. Frailey, William Frailey, Edgar Freeze, David Gall, Vincent Hartdagen, J. Winfield Houser, Luther Kelly, Harry Knight, Arthur Malloy, William Miller, Maurice Moser, Allen Rosensteel, John H. Rosensteel Jr., Charles J. Rowe, Gerald N. Ryder, Arthur Starner, William Sterbinsky, Dr. O.H. Stinson, Louis Stoner, Harry Valentine, Robert Valentine, George Wagerman, John Walter and Curtis Weddle.
The deceased members of the Post are John H. Rosensteel Jr. and Robert Valentine.
The present total membership is sixty-one.
I would like to share with you the last words written by Francis X. Elder in a letter to his mother from the front line in France.
As I am about to enter the big fight for Democracy it is my desire now, whilst I have the opportunity to pencil you a few lines briefly, and bid you, Papa and all, a sincere farewell and may our dear and most precious God always protect you in this life, and knowing this, I will die cheerfully for a good cause, if it to be his holy will, otherwise it will be the happiest moment of my life when I can once more kiss those motherly lips. If the worst happens to me, take the news, courageously be brave!, as I am going to try and be. If I come through O.K. I will write at once and let you know.
Hoping for the best and trusting I will see you all on earth, or that we will meet in Heaven, I am your most affectioate and loving son.”
Farewell, Priv. Francis X. Elder
Happy Birthday, Francis X. Elder American Legion Post 121.
God Bless America, God Bless our American Veterans, and God Bless You.