The American Legion, a national organization of veterans, was founded in 1919, after World War I. Boone County has two local chapters: Boone Post No. 4 in Florence, and Johnson-McElroy, KY Post 277 in Walton. 1)
Many Boone County residents were drafted into “The Great War”, so it is no surprise that local veterans were quick to organize their own charter. An article in the Boone County Recorder from July 3, 1919 reports that the chapter was established June 25, one month after the Legion constitution was approved. 2) The charter members of Boone Post No. 4 were:
The post held its first meeting on July 8 and elected its officers: 3)
Boone Post No. 4, the fourth post in the state, 4) became an active organization in the local community. Other issues of the Recorder indicate that Boone Post No. 4 held meetings around Boone County, including in Constance, Walton, and Petersburg, to promote the Legion and increase membership. One article says that they would have a booth at the Florence fair “in all probability.” 5) This would be “[a]n opportunity to renew their war time acquaintance,” a chance for other Boone County draftees, veterans, and soldiers to reconnect and share their experiences.
A letter from Benjamin H. Riley, charter member and first Post Commander, discusses this event, which was in fact held on August 30th at the Florence fairgrounds: the first reunion for veterans in Boone County 6). TheBoone County Recorder's column promoting the event prints a quote from Riley: “We have stood together–let us stick together.” 7) Riley, in addition to being a WWI veteran and Post Commander, was a notable attorney in Boone County. During the war, he was stationed in Maryland but was not sent overseas. Nonetheless, he was clearly devoted to the concerns of veterans in his community. The first year of Post No. 4’s existence, Riley was sent as a delegate to the state convention, held in Louisville. 8) According to the article, he represented the chapter's interests in the agenda of the convention, which included deporting resident non-citizens who did not fight in the war, in addition to naturalized citizens who broke the Espionage Act, meaning they spoke against the government, military, or both. 9) The war had ended less than a year earlier, and tensions were still high. Riley died in 1936 and was buried in Hopeful Lutheran Church Cemetery. 10)
Boone Post No. 4 also gained some notoriety later in a disagreements with state legion officials. In 1923, the Kentucky legion made a resolution condemning the Ku Klux Klan. Boone Post No. 4, “following the action taken by other local legion posts,” protested the resolution because, they argued, it would condemn non-fundamentalist Protestant groups by extension, and it would oppose the Legion’s policy not to deny people based on religious beliefs. 11)
Although Boone Post No. 4 had its share of controversy, it continued to be active in the community and to serve local veterans. In 1949, members helped put up hay at a WWI veteran’s farm, according to a photo in the Images of America book, Florence, by Michael D. Rouse and Tim Moore. In 1952, the headquarters of Boone Post No. 4 was at 313 Main Street, along with the Florence Post Office, Building & Loan Association, Boone County Health Department, and a couple other businesses. 12)
In 2019, the post will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary.