DANVILLE — The Frank W. Sidler Post 40 of the Danville American Legion, which marks the 100th anniversary of its founding this year, was the 40th Legion post to be chartered in Pennsylvania.
The post, along Northumberland Street, is named for the first person from Montour County killed in World War I, according to Dean VonBlohn, post historian and former post commander.
The national American Legion was founded in February 1919 and held its first meeting in Paris in March 1919. The national group, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, approved a charter in May 1919 followed by action by Congress.
According to legion.org, the Legion was chartered to focus on service to veterans, service members and communities. Membership totals nearly 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide with the organization bringing hundreds of benefits to veterans and important programs for children and youth, the website states.
The Danville post was chartered as of June 17, 1919, after certified and active duty WWI veterans submitted an application to the state organization.
Sidler, born in 1894 in Danville and an outstanding athlete at Princeton University, was among the first 22 students enrolled in a military aeronautics in the first graduating class of 1917. The Army first lieutenant was killed at age 24 on Sept. 13, 1918, in France.
He had been assigned to an Italian detachment, but his orders changed and he was sent to an aerial gunnery in Ayre as a pursuit pilot, VonBlohn said. He was shot down by German planes, buried near Beney and his body later moved to the American cemetery at St. Mihiel, France.
Danville Legion members first met in the Grand Army of the Republic building, which is the Odd Fellows building, until the mid-1920s and then moved to a Mill Street building near the former theater.
The current post, a former mansion, was built in 1839 by Alexander Montgomery, a son of Danville founder William Montgomery. Thomas Chambers, who owned the big iron mill across the road, lived there while his mansion around the corner was being built.
The Waltman brothers bought the building in 1938 and used it as a restaurant until 1942 when the Legion purchased it. "The outside is pretty much like it was," VonBlohn said with additions and renovations done through the years.
Carl Appleman, a former commander and Vietnam veteran, joined the Legion in 1970 and remembers when a flag pole was donated to the post. The Legion acquired a Vietnam-era tank through military surplus. The cannons, which also sit in front of the Legion, were there when he became a member.
"We pride ourselves on having a wall of 88 veterans from Montour County who died during wars," VonBlohn said. "I don't know of any other post that has a wall like that," he said of the display of photos inside the post. Two pictures are missing because family members preferred not to participate.
Last year, the post dedicated a veterans memorial wall in front of the Legion. Andy Hovi, former Legion honor guard commander, spearheaded the project, which took three months.
People can honor deceased veterans from anywhere on the wall as long as they were honorably discharged. Appleman said the wall contains 224 engraved stones. Each stone is 90 pounds and 4 inches high, 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Stones cost $200. Applications to order stones are available at the Legion.