SMETHPORT — Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Bucktail Post #138 Smethport American Legion being chartered.
Considering that the national American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, was chartered by Congress on Sept. 16, 1919, the Bucktail Post ranks among the earliest local posts. In McKean County, only Bradford Post #108 is older.
As recorded in “Timeless Home,” the official publication of Smethport’s sequicentennial celebration in 2003, a group of veterans formed a committee in 1919 to lay the groundwork for organizing an American Legion post. E. G. Potter was the chairman. When the post was officially chartered the following year, Dr. William Ostrander was the first commander.
When planning for the centennial observance began last year, organizers had drawn up a one-day schedule of events that included a parade and food and music at the Smethport Fire Hall in case of inclement weather. Unfortunately, though, these plans were scuttled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Post Commander Pat Miesowitz and Adjutant Bart Barton who spoke with The Era.
A banner now hanging across West Main Street informs the public about this significant development.
The meetings were initially held at the Smethport Lyceum at the corner of West King and Mechanic streets, property that the Legion purchased in 1924.
In a later transaction, contractor J. Alfred Johnson paid the Legion post $1,500 for the Lyceum Building and the lot it occupied. This amount was added to the $7,000 gist that the post and auxiliary agreed to accept from Orlo J. Hamlin and Mrs. Eugenie H. Merrell, which provided for the construction of the current post home in the 400 block of West Main Street, as stated in a McKean County Democrat article.
Johnson built the several-story brick structure on the site of the J. C. Hamlin Building, formerly occupied by C. W. Masser Hardware and the Fry Company store. It obliterated one of the eyesores left by the disastrous fire of Jan. 25, 1933.
The post’s only expenses were for furniture, kitchen range and utensils.
That same McKean County Democrat article continued, “The movement for a new home for the Bucktail Post and auxiliary was commenced in the fall of 1939 at the urging of Mrs. Marion G. Potter, auxiliary president. A committee appointed by Commander Paul Woodcock on November 20, consisted of O. Albert Johnson, Robert Hull and attorney E. G. Potter.
The dedication of the new brick building was reported in the McKean County Miner’s June 26th edition.
The building was recently upgraded. Miesowitz built the new U-shaped bar in the Bucktail Club, which occupies the downstairs. The remodeling also included a new ceiling, flooring, kitchenette and bar sinks.
A later phase included painting, changes to the kitchen and new flag pole on West Main Street.
At the time of the initial renovations, then-Commander Jack Rosenswie said, “It’s our obligation as veterans to leave a better post for future generations.”
On Flag Day 2019, post officers conducted a dedication ceremony of the new 25-foot aluminum flag pole in front of the post home. Attached to the pole is a plaque that recognizes the post members, Bucktail Club, auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.
In keeping with the national American Legion’s commitment to not only veterans but also the community, Bucktail Post sponsors Smethport’s Cub Scout Pack 501, Little League Baseball, as well as offering annual scholarships.
Besides Miesowitz, who has been commander since 2015, the other officers are Courtney Cole, first vice-commander; “Bud” Abbey, second vice commander; Barton, adjutant; Bob Funk, sergeant-at-arms; Carolyn McCaslin, judge advocate; Reid Mattison, financial officer; and Seth Digel, chaplain.
In the American Legion’s Department of Pennsylvania’s 23rd District, Miesowitz serves as first deputy commander, and Barton is adjutant.
“We’re always looking for new and younger members,” Miesowitz said, adding that members can be currently in the military or those who have been honorably discharged.
Having been chartered on Dec. 22, 1922, the auxiliary is also one of the earliest organizations of its type since the national auxiliary was founded in 1922.
The Bucktail Post’s Auxiliary has been very supportive in their role as dedicated to serving veterans, the military and their families as they cooperate with the post membership in various activities.
Education, Americanism, and outreach activities to children and youth are just a few of their endeavors.
For example, the late Helen Cole, whose membership spanned more than 50 years, volunteered at annual Veterans Day dinners. A former auxiliary president, Cole also held other offices at the local and district levels.
As fundraisers, auxiliary members collect donations for poppies, with all proceeds benefiting veterans and military families.
Also, the auxiliary sponsors high school girls entering their senior year who have been selected to attend american Legion Auxiliary Girls’ State, a week-long non-partisan program where the participants develop leadership skills, while learning about the government process.
Marilyn Rosenswie is the current president.
Another support group for the post is Squadron #138 of the Sons of the American Legion, which was chartered April 25, 1994. These members are males of all ages whose parents or grandparents served in the nation’s military.
According to the national American Legion, the Sons’ squadrons are paired with a local American Legion post, but they retain the flexibility in deciding their services to the community and planning activities to meet their needs.
The Sons maintain the Goodwin Cemetery in Farmers Valley, where there are 12 graves of veterans who died prior to 1900, according to Squadron Todd Witchen.
The Sons, with the support of the McKean County American Legion Riders, have also supported the annual Ride of Pride that remembers the visit of the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall that was in Smethport’s Hamlin Lake Park in 2006.
In another cooperative activity, Squadron #138 and the McKean County American Legion Riders initiated the project that placed in Hamlin Lake Park a commemorative memorial marker listing the names of the county’s armed services personnel who died in the Vietnam War. This marker is located at the apex of the original site of the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall.
This SAL Squadron also donates to area organizations, such as the food pantry, Boy Scouts and the splash pool, a project of the Smethport Rotary Club.
Other officers are Gerry Ford, treasurer; Jason Anderson, adjutant; and Bill Wilber, chaplain.
Marcia Jordan is manager of the Bucktail Club.
It is now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barton, as president, leads the executive officers. Bob Funk is vice-president, Carolyn McCaslin is secretary, and Courtney Cole is treasurer. Bill Wilber is chaplain.
Serving as directors are Miesowitz, Witchen, Connie Copeland, Jason Anderson and Katie Freer.