By: Roy H. Green, Post Commander 1976-1977
Following World War I, on March 15, 16, and 17, in the year of 1919, a group of veterans met in Paris, France. At this meeting the foundation was laid for the creation of The American Legion. A second meeting was held in the furtherance of its organization in St. Louis, Missouri.
At the same time, groups of veterans throughout United States started organizing into Posts. The initial organizational period was complete that same year when delegates met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 10 to 12, for the first National Convention.
A couple of weeks after the Legion’s first National Convention, a small number of veterans met in Escondido. In the group were several from out of town including a Mr. Curran of Oceanside. Curran called the meeting to order and Murray Howell was elected temporary “President.” Then, in turn, the following were elected into temporary offices: Hugh Hoffman, Secretary & Treasurer; Lincoln Meeker, 1st Vice President; L. N. Turrentine, 2nd Vice President; Dean Howell, Sergeant-at-Arms; and Bert Wade, Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms.
Other members of the new organization mentioned in the minutes of this first meeting were: S. Holmes, Frank Axe, P. Kreekal, and H. Fry. In addition to Curran, out of town visitors included Messrs. Merrill, Higgins, and Clifford from Oceanside, a Mr. Peters from Fallbrook, and a Mr. Jones from San Diego.
The establishment of a cut-off date for Charter members was mentioned in the second meeting, but a cursory search of the records fails to show any list of Charter members and the Charter hanging on the walls of the Post today is dated as late as the 15th of September 1925. It is possible that early operations were conducted under some sort of a temporary Charter.
The first permanent officers were elected during the meeting January 6, 1920. At that time Murray Howell was elected Post Commander; L. N. Turrentine, Assistant Commander; Dean Howell, Secretary-Treasurer; J. Deggleman, Historian; O. Heggstrom, Sergeant-at-Arms; and Bert Wade, Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms.
Other names appearing in the minutes of the first few meetings of the Post are: Frank Lusardi, L. Meeker, W. Rice, Mr. Bowers, M. J. Rogers, and Mr. Soper.
During the first meeting of the group that formed the Post on the 24th of November 1919, it was decided to name the Post for J. B. Clark. He had been a friend of most of the organizers and had been well-known and well thought of in the little community. He had gone on duty with the Navy from Escondido and was one of the few who had not returned. Clark died of pneumonia in New York City on January 12, 1919 following an attack of influenza while still on active duty.
Joseph Burnside Clark was born in Des Moines, Iowa, December 8, 1885. In the early 90’s Clark’s parents moved to Hutchinson, Kansas, where he met Lloyd Woodnut. The two became fast friends, a friendship which lasted many years.
Lloyd Woodnut, a resident of Escondido, says that Clark, who as a boy was known to his friends as Bernie, later on as J. B., was about one year older. He said from his boyhood days J. B. was a likeable, most serious minded fellow who always had an interest in the military. As he grew older he became a tall, slender young man – a description of him when Woodnut last saw him.
When living in Hutchinson, J. B.’s father was a traveling man and was out of town a great deal. This left J. B. much of the time alone with his step-mother. He didn’t mind this so much but would have liked to have a man about. Soon J. B. was sent to the Naval Academy-Annapolis, Maryland after attending St. John’s Military Academy in Salina, Kansas.
Woodnut moved to Seattle, Washington, however, the two periodically corresponding with each other. In 1912 Woodnut received a letter which informed him that J. B. had resigned from the Navy and was marrying a childhood sweetheart from Hutchinson and was moving to Escondido where he was going to raise chickens. He asked Woodnut to visit him there. Woodnut did, and remained in Escondido.
J. B. Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904. Woodnut said J. B. Told him he had spent most of his time on destroyers and that he had made a trip around the world in President Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet.
In Escondido, J. B. bought 24 acres of land on Park Hill for $600, and built a home and started construction of chicken houses.
During that time in Escondido’s history there were about 1,200 people in the little community with their main source of amusement coming from dances and amature theatricals. According to Woodnut, J. B. was quite active in community life. Among his other accomplishments, he was a mandolin player and frequently used to play at dances and at other entertainments.
A few years after J. B.’s arrival in Escondido, the little town became somewhat disturbed by reports of a Mexican bandit named Pancho Villa, who was making disastrous raids across the border into the States. The men formed a Home Guard unit with the militarily trained J. B. at its head.
Adventuresome sould, J. B. and Woodnut made a trip to Tijuana, Mexico to visit a Mexican fort during a period of Pancho Villa’s rampage. The engine of the car they were driving died in front of the fort. The ramparts immediately were manned by swarms of Mexican soldiers. With a little difficulty the engine was started and the two young men beat a hasty retreat back to Escondido, Woodnut not being certain that he would ever be quite the same again.
At the beginning of World War I, J. B. Was called back into service, again assigned aboard a destroyer.
Following J. B.’s death his widow sold some of the property, later she remarried and moved to Phoenix, Arizona.