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  History of the American Legion Department of Michigan

Today's American Legion began its journey when Colonel Fred M. Alger was appointed Chairman of the Michigan Temporary Committee of the New York meeting in April, 1919, which met under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. There, they crystallized the idea of anAmerican legion of World War I veterans, both male and female, developed at the Paris, France Caucus on February 16, 1919. On August 1, 1920, the American Legion, Department of Michigan received its permanent charter from the national organization. With Colonel Alger at that meeting were H. Stevens Gillespie, Truman Newberry, George C. Waldo and Charles J. Loos, acting Secretary; "a group of men probably as capable as any that could have been selected with this particular purpose in mind."

The Michigan Department of the American Legion held its first meeting in the Hotel Statler in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, May 10, 1919. The Michigan Department was incorporated under a State Charter and headquartered at Detroit. The headquarters relocated to Lansing in 1974, while maintaining a Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation office in Detroit. On May 17, 1919, application was made to the Michigan Patriotic Fund for money to organize in Michigan assistance for the 160,000 Michigan World War I veterans in obtaining employment and financial assistance as necessary. The Fund Trustees allotted $25,000 as the Department's first treasury.

The Michigan organization worked so efficiently that by the end of July, 45 Posts, representing 2,088 members, had been granted charters with seven more in progress. Today's membership consists of war-time veterans from all of America's wars. Michigan's first State Convention was held in Grand Rapids, October 13-15, 1920, at that time Michigan had 192 Posts covering every county in the state. Michigan's first ever resolution was a statement of partisan politics neutrality. Legislatively, the Department of Michigan enjoys a continuing positive working relationship with the Michigan Legislature; it continues to champion veterans issues, not political parties; a policy that mirrors the national  American Legion organization. From these rapidly expanding beginnings, the American Legion Department of Michigan is faithful to its origins and to the veterans and families it represents within the Michigan State Legislature and the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington DC.

The American Legion, The American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion, and Legion Riders are committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued  devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

A continuing effort during the entire WW2 period was that of giving all inductees a send off party, presenting them with a gift of a shaving kit and personal hygiene materials, plus a subscription to the Farmington Enterprise. As the later days of the war began to approach, there was an ever increasing number of lads returning home. Once again the members realized that a new and larger quarters would be needed. So, in Nov. 1944, a Memorial Home Association was formed, based on the articles of incorporation drawn by Judge John J. Schulte. The articles were approved and duly placed on file with the Michigan Security Commission. The first men to become officers of the new Memorial Home Board were: Joseph DeVriendt President, Clarence Barber Vice President, Leon L. Church Secretary, and Carl W. Matz Treasurer. The balance of the board was comprised of Carl A. Goers, James M. Nourjian and Clarence Willard.

On May 6, 1945 the members purchased the land where our present home now stands. Monies to start building were raised thru the proceeds of Gala Days, public contributions and the sale of the old Post home. Building operations finally got underway in the late spring of 1947. Work was done by Post members and friends, and progress was quite slow. The old Post home had to be vacated by January 1948, and the new home was still a long way from completion. Even so, the move was made. The first Thursday of February 1948 saw the men gathered in the basement of the new home, where the kitchen now is. There was no heat in the building, and the floor was coated with about six inches of ice. There were no chairs and everyone stood. The meeting was very cold… and very short. One month later, March 1948, the upstairs subflooring was completed, and the furnace was in. This is where the meetings were held until the basement was completed.

World War Two made its impact. In August 1948 the Post held an initiation of new members, the ceremony being hosted in the high school gym. 75 new members were initiated by the Oakland County Voiture 40/8 Ritual Team. 1949 saw the completion of both the upstairs and basement. In 1950 the Post purchased a bronze plaque in memory of all those from Farmington and Farmington Township who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2. In January 1951, Governor G. Mennen Williams came to the Post to dedicate this plaque. The relatives of those inscribed, as well as the general public filled the hall to capacity. The plaque now hangs in the upstairs foyer. 1951 also saw the last of the Gala Days, then being held in the Post parking lot. The end of these days were necessitated by the passing of an ordinance prohibiting carnivals within the city limits. The 1950’s saw a continued influx of WW2 people as well as some veterans of Korea. These years also saw continuing efforts to improve the Post home. Monies were raised in various ways, the most boisterous of which being a series of teen dances sponsored by the Post. It was in 1958 that the Veterans of World War 1 Farmington Barracks 1152 began to hold their meetings at Post 346. Many members of Barracks 1152 were also members of Post 346.

The 1960’s were upon us. We continued in the traditions handed down to us, and worked hard in the support of our Legion programs. In 1965 the Groves-Walker Post and Farmington VFW united their efforts to produce a truly fine Memorial Day Parade and ceremony. This has remained a continuing joint venture. In 1966 the Post helped with the soliciting and contributing of funds for the purchase and erection of the Farmington Veterans Memorial, now located in the triangle property to the west of the Masonic Hall. During the 60’s the first big change was accomplished in the upstairs hall, when the stage was torn out, replaced with the present bar, and the ceiling was dropped. A new modern kitchen was also installed. In March 1969 the Post went all out to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the American Legion. The speaker was Duane Brigstock, at that time our Alternate National Committeeman. In November 1969, we celebrated Veterans Day with a dinner and a party honoring our 50 year members. We had five such members, and three were present. Department of Michigan Commander Wayne Squires was our speaker for the occasion.

1967 - 1971 was a time of much bustling activity. The clubroom was carpeted and refurbished, the upstairs lobby was paneled, new rest rooms were installed, air conditioners were put in place top and bottom, a new coat check room was provided, and finally the main hall was re-worked to what you now see. Through all of this we maintained our programs, conducted parties at the Veterans Hospital and in general made ourselves useful.

Groves-Walker Post has had six past District Commanders, and at this time has the present District Commander. We also have had two Third Zone Commanders, and at present we are honored to have six life members. We have all worked hard these past 50 years, and during this time have enjoyed many honors. We are proud of our record, and of our excellent attendance at all Post meetings.

        Respectfully submitted,
        Fordon A. Niles, Post Historian

History of Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346
The Synopsis of the History of Groves-Walker Post 346    
Written for the occasion of the Groves-Walker Post 346 50th Anniversary 1973
by Fordon A. Niles (1895-1988), World War I Veteran, Post Historian 1963-64

The year was 1919. The war had ended the previous fall, and the lads were returning to their homes in the village and township of Farmington. They were now veterans of World War One. A new organization was growing across the land. The American Legion. Some of these men wanted to belong, and so they joined the first American Legion Post in the State of Michigan; the Charles A. Larned Post #1 in the City of Detroit. 50 years ago it was an arduous task to attend meetings that distant, therefore, those who had joined the Detroit Post got together with other interested veterans in the community and decided to form a Post of their own. A meeting for this purpose was called on April 23, 1923. The village officials donated the east end of the Water Works Building in which to conduct this meeting. The building was located on Liberty Street, just south of the site of the present City Hall. Attending this first meeting were Almeron Bidwell, Howard Eisenlord, Carl Goers, Carl Hogel, George Lee, Norman Lee, Fred Maas, Mark B. Owens, Roy Robinson, Fred Schaupeter, Alfred Smith, Stanley Smith, Harley Schroder, H. Culver Wood, and Howard Warner. After electing a chairman, Mark Owens, they proceeded with their application for charter, and forwarded it to the Department of Michigan.

The next meeting was on May 15, 1923. Chairman Mark Owens read the acknowledgment from Department along with the assigned number. They were now officially Farmington Post 346. At this same meeting the first Post officers were elected. They were: Howard Eisenlord Commander, Mark B. Owens Vice Commander, H. Culver Wood Adjutant/Finance Officer, Ray Robinson Historian, Alfred Smith Chaplain and Harley Schroder Sgt. at Arms. Serving on the Executive Board: Carl Goers and Norman Lee 2 years, Fred Maas and Marl Pettibone 1 year. At this time the meetings were moved to the Farmington National Bank (basement) at the corner of Grand River and Farmington roads. The first Gala Days were held in 1923. Sept. 1st thru Sept. 4th, proving most successful, which interprets as profitable. They were held on the four corners of Grand River and Farmington Roads. At a meeting on Nov. 2, 1923 a motion was made by Carl Goers, supported by Roy Robinson that Post 346 purchase a set of Colors. The cost at that time being $135.00. Motion carried.

It was realized by these early members that the post should have a commemorative name. So, at a regular post meeting on December 21, 1923 a motion was made by comrade Carl Goers, supported by Mark Owens that the Post be designated the Groves-Walker Post 346, in memory of the first two boys from Farmington to be killed in action. Bertraw Groves was killed in action on August 7, 1918 in the second battle of the Marne (France). Lemuel Walker was killed in action on October 11, 1918 in an attack on Kriemhilde Stellung, near Romagne (France). The first military service presented by the Groves-Walker Post was for Lemuel Walker, whose body was sent home for burial in October 1923.

In 1924 the village held a centennial celebration and built a log cabin for the occasion. After festivities were ended, the cabin was donated to the Groves-Walker Post for use as their Post home. In July 1925, the members sanctioned the formation of an Auxiliary Unit. The ladies proceeded with their organization, and on January 4, 1926 officially became known as the Groves-Walker Unit 346.

The next four years saw the Post expand its membership to the point where the “little log cabin” would no longer suffice. So, with gratification in their hearts for this increased membership, yet with a certain sadness in their hearts related to leaving their first Post home, the members moved into a two story house at 33109 Grand River; purchased through the efforts of comrades Howard and Harley Warner (sons of former Michigan Governor Fred M. Warner). The move was accomplished on Aug. 17, 1929. For the next decade this new Post home was the center of many activities in the community. Gala Days continued as a happy way of publicizing the Post while at the same time raising funds.

At the outbreak of World War Two the Governor of our state requested that the American Legion organize a civilian defense. On April 16, 1941 at a meeting attended by the public as well as Post members, Groves-Walker responded by forming the necessary committee and getting the program under way. Later, when the program passed to State control it became Civil Defense. It is interesting to note that the original appointments from the Post were retained almost 100%. To help the war effort, the Post engaged in a variety of activities. A notable success was the aluminum scrap drives sponsored by the Post. At one time, in a fenced off area 20 ft. square on the front yard of the Post, a pile of scrap aluminum nearly 12 ft. high rested; contributed by the people of the community.

American Legion Post 346

21023 Farmington Rd   Farmington Hills, Michigan 48336