Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

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On March 15-17, 1919 members of the American Expeditionary Force convened in Paris for the first American Legion caucus. On Sept. 16 same year the U.S. Congress chartered the American Legion

One week later, on Sept 23,1919, Cambridge held a parade for her returning service men and nurses. It was followed by a ceremony at the Old School. The celebration proceeded to the Grange Hall for supper and dancing. It was there acting secretary Malcolm Parrish collected signatures requesting a temporary charter.

A year later, in Dec 1920, a permanent charter was approved with 43 charter members. Lorenzo L. Connor was elected the first Commander of the Cambridge Post. In that same year, the Post opened their first headquarters in north end of the Cambridge House (the Hotel)

(click on any image to enlarge)

AmericanLegion 2019

The Legion Auxiliary was organized the next year in February 1921. My great, great aunt, Marion Robinson, was one of the first presidents of the auxiliary. Other early leaders were Mary Arnold, Theresa Ford, Helen Connor, and Elsa Parrish. Everyone from my generation vividly recalls president Corrinne Fairbanks, with her white gloves, proudly marching in the Memorial Day parades of the 1950s and 60s.

In the May 1922 Memorial Day parade, Commander Conner and the Post demonstrated their respect for all soldiers as they escorted the five remaining Civil War veterans of McKie Post #309 of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R).

In 1926 the Legion purchased their first building. It was located on the south side of West Main Street where Clark's Pizzeria is today, just west of the Cambridge Creek. They rented the lower part of the building to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as the A&P. Yes, Cambridge had two A&P grocery stores well into the 1940s (Shushan had one too)

When the Ketonen family renovated the old Legion Hall in the 1950s, they came across several WWI rifles tucked away in the farthest corner of the attic (northwest) from the attic hatchway (southeast in the Legion hall bathroom). They were turned over to the Legion. Joel Ketonen doesn't remember if they were captured German rifles or American rifles. One other found item, which the Legion didn't want, was a German 155MM shell casing. Joel still uses this as an umbrella stand.

The 1934 American Legion Beauty Contest drew over 500,000 votes. In May, Commander Louis Drolet announced that Elizabeth Maxson was slightly ahead of Rebecca Green and Beatrice Parks, each with about 50,000 votes.

In 1937, the West Main Street bridge over the Owl Kill was dedicated to the "comrades who made the supreme sacrifice". Post Commander Malcolm Parrish led the ceremony as Capt Maxson Post #634 saluted the plaque on the bridge that states "may they not have died in vain"

Also in 1937, the Sons of the Legion band was created under the direction of Art Center and Martin Church. They played at the Legion state convention that year. They marched in local parades, winning first place in a Hoosick Falls event. For several years, the band played on Sunday afternoons at the Lake Lauderdale Pavilion.

Post commander William McInerney announced plans for Memorial Day in 1940. Members of the Legion and Auxiliary met in front of the American Legion Hall on West Main. They boarded buses to Woodlands and St Patrick's cemeteries where graves of departed comrades were decorated, and the Legion ritual recited.

The members then returned to the Legion Hall to begin the parade. The parade route went westward from the Legion Hall to Academy street where it turned around. Then they marched eastward to Park Street, turned around, and returned westward on Main Street to the school grounds for the ceremony (the Old School was south of the Public Library). I have no idea how you turn a parade around.

In the late 1940s the Legion purchased the old A.B.McNish home on the northwest corner of West Main Street and St Luke's Place, kitty-corner from the fire house. They stayed there until they moved into the basement of their current building in 1967. A 1983 upstairs fire following a bingo event caused considerable damage that required rebuilding.

Earl Wesley Maxson, 1883-1918

Earl was born in Berlin, moving to Cambridge shortly after. His family ran a laundry business on the west side of South Union Street where the New Life Church is located today.

Earl was a member of the Class of 1904 of Cambridge Union School. He was a star athlete in football, track, and bicycling. Midway through the 1904 football season, the first undefeated season in Cambridge school history, Earl left to join the Marines. The entire village and school went to the train station to see him off.

Earl served eight years in the Marines, including service in the Philippine during the War with Spain. He often represented his ship in all-Navy athletic contests.

After his discharge, he married Bessie Rice of Cambridge, moved to Schenectady where Earl went to work for the General Electric Co.

In August 1917, his Schenectady National Guard unit was activated. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in the 105th Infantry.

On September 29, 1918 along the Hindenburg Line of the Somme Offensive he was killed leading his men "over the top". His promotion to Captain was approved just prior to his death.

The Battle of Argonne, which lasted from September 26 until the Armistice, is the most lethal American battle ever fought with over 26,000 American soldiers killed. Argonne Forest is between Verdun and Somme, where Earl is buried.

It wasn't until November 22, 1918, almost two months after his death and eleven days after the Armistice, that a telegram arrived in Cambridge officially notifying Earl's family of his death.


AmericanLegion c1920

From 1920-1926 the American Legion occupied the rooms at the north end of Cambridge House (the Hotel facing Broad Street). These 46 men may be the charter members.


AmericanLegion 1920s 1940s

From 1926 to mid-1940 the Legion owned the building that in 2019 is the parking lot of Clark’s Pizzeria. In the 1950s the building was Pelgas propane. In the 1960s it was Art Murrell’s Lamplighter restaurant.


AmericanLegion 1940s 1960s

From mid 1940s until 1967 the American Legion owned the building on the northwest corner of Main Street and St Luke’s Place. In 2019 it is an apartment house


AmericanLegion 2019

In 1967 the Legion moved into the basement of their new building on the east side of NYS Route 22 one mile north of the village

Names of the American Legion members in the 1920 photo. I had difficulty reading the handwriting so there may be some errors. I matched the names with the Honor Roll list in the Washington County Post newspaper. I also inserted notes about some members regarding their involvement in World War I.

  1. Ambrose Kelly
  2. Geo Robertson (Richardson?)
  3. Lansing Smith; veterinary corp, France
  4. Harry Curtis
  5. ??
  6. Orrin Mitchell
  7. Ben Russell
  8. Robert McDurfer
  9. Bill Welch (?)
  10. James Murphy
  11. M.M. (Malcolm) Parrish; Sergeant, transferred from Camp Meade to Officer Training School at Camp Lee, VA
  12. Joe Arnold
  13. Henry Qua
  14. Bernie Shaffer
  15. Tom Shiland
  16. ??
  17. Fred Barker; SATC (student army training corp)
  18. ??
  19. Warren Gibbons
  20. ??
  21. Wallace Bentley; corporal, coast artillery
  22. Robert Coulter
  23. ??
  24. Wm Noteman
  25. Leonard Flannigan; Corporal Ammunition Train
  26. Wm Watkins; In October 1918, Pvt William F Watkins wrote his parents from a hospital bed in France after receiving shrapnel wound in the leg. He had gone “over the top” for two days and two nights before being wounded on the third day. His 147th Infantry took over 1500 prisoners, Bill capturing seventeen himself. He signed his letter “I am the same ‘Old Boy’ Bill”.
  27. Geo Wortley; sergeant; home over Christmas from the Plattsburgh camp
  28. ??
  29. ??
  30. Nelson Meader; Sergeant; referee at basketball game with Saratoga May-1920
  31. Clinton Vetal
  32. Walter LeGrys
  33. Brede Peterson
  34. ??
  35. George Hodge; 22-Nov-1918 of USS Huntington is home for 10-day furlough. has crossed ocean 7 times in course of war
  36. Joe Powers
  37. Jerome Barton?; corporal, supply train, France
  38. Sanford (?) Bates; coast artillery
  39. Ben Green
  40. Lawrence (Laurence) Wilson
  41. Geo Roby
  42. Judson Center; Navy; 27-Dec-1918; LeRoy Holden stationed at Municipal Pier, Chicago is home for holidays; from here going to Pelham Bay Naval Training Station. Judson Center is home, honorably discharged from Navy
  43. Harry (?) Hover
  44. Isaac (Ike) Granger
  45. Geo Mc
  46. Rene Connors