American Legion Post 91
William J. Hocking
Temporary Charter Granted - April 18, 1928 ("Post Anniversary")
Permanent Charter Granted - April 5, 1929
History Committee 2016-2018
The goal of the committee is to assemble stories, facts, photos of the Post over the last 90 years. The information collected will be compiled, organized, and then edited. The end product will be a written history of the Post, with a heavy emphasis on photos and personal anectdotes, presented in a bound book. The Post History book will be publised by 2018. Your contributions are essential to capturing the spirit and activities of Post 91.
Please share your information with any of the following committee members:
Award Given to World War I Veterans by the town of Wharton.
(No additional details regarding this award available)
Sometime in the late 1800's a building was erected on what is now 99 N. Main Street, Wharton, New Jersey. This building was used as an office for the Joseph Wharton interests of Philadelphia and was the headquarters for the operation of the Wharton Furnace and Mines of the area until another office was built at the Furnace Proper. This second office is now known as the KUSSUTH HALL AND TAVERN. Soon after this office was completed on the Furnace Proper the building on N. Main Street was converted to a residence and was occupied by an old mining boss, Captain Joseph (Capt. Joe) Richards. Capt. Joe occupied this building until 1916 when the Furnace was purchased by Mr. Leonard Replople. In 1917, a Mrs. William Berryman took over the occupancy of the building with an agreement between Mr. Peplogle and herself that she would supply meals for the office force and board and lodging for the iron workers and bricklayers who were brought in for the purpose of reconditioning the Furnace. In return for this service Mrs. Berryman was supplied with fuel (coke) from the furnace and was not charged any rent. This agreement was continued through by both parties for approximately 12 years during which time the Company become known as the Warren Foundry and Pipe Company.
In about 1925 the low iron market slowed operations at the Furnace and in 1929 Mrs. Berryman moved out. The building was then turned into a real estate office for the purpose of disposing of all holdings of the Warren Foundry and Pipe Company. The building remained as a real estate office until the transfer of the property to the William J. Hocking Post #91 American Legion.
The Post (taken from old records)
The William John Hocking Post #91 American Legion was formed in the old Town Hall which was situated on the corner of Poppenhuesen Street (now Central Avenue) and Roberts Street and held its first meeting on April 16, 1928. The following officers were elected at that meeting for a term of one year:
Commander John Heslin
Sr. Vice Commander Daniel Jones
Jr. Vice Commander Arthur Ellis
Adjutant James Tregenza
Finance Officer Moses C. Lowry
Historian Carl Ritzer
Service Officer Lloyd Williams
Chaplain Reverend Curtis Geyer
A temporary charter was secured until such time as a permanent one could be issued. The permanent charter was finally received on April 15, 1929.
Meetings were held in the Town Hall until our financial condition would allow us to invest in a piece of property to build our own home. A fund was started by investing our monies in the Wharton Building and Loan Association. On information that the Warren Foundry and Pipe Company was disposing of their holdings a committee of four was formed at a meeting of January 1936; they were Commander Leonard Waldenberger, Adjutant Moses Lowry, Charles Williams, and John Heslin. They were to contact a Mr. Ludwig H. Dohm, who represented the owners, in preparation to buying the building and land which ran 400 feet from Main Street to the Washington Pond, with a water front of 150 feet.
A report was introduced at the next meeting reporting that the selling price of building and land, as is, was $3500.00. On February 13, 1936 a special meeting was called to discuss the proposition and it was decided that the Legion would like to have additional information. As a result the following letter was sent to Mr. Dohm:
Wharton, New Jersey
P.O. Box # 631
February 17, 1936
Mr. L. H. Dohm
Warren Foundry & Pipe Co.,
Phillipsburg, New Jersey
The proposition we were discussing last Wednesday, February 18th, was presented to the Wm. J. Hocking Post American Legion of Wharton at a special meeting, February 13th. The Legion would like to have additional information.
FIRST: The price of $3500, they feel is a little high. The building is at least fifty years old and there will necessarily be some remodeling to the interior for our purposes. Can you reduce your price somewhat?
SECOND: The initial payment of $1000, we believe we can make. You spoke about a bond or mortgage to cover the remainder, what would be the interest rate on a mortgage?
Finally, what would be your price if the property was purchased outright?
We would like to have this information before our regular meeting on Thursday night, February 20th. Since you come to Wharton every week we could meet you any day before Friday that would be convenient for you, or if impossible we would appreciate a letter instead answering the above queries.
I will keep in touch with the lady who is at your real estate office in Wharton so that you need not notify me direct of the day you will be in Wharton. My telephone number is, however, Dover 545R in case you wish to phone.
Charles A. Williams
(This is a copy of the original letter)
Upon receiving the answer to our request of February 17, 1936 that the price stood at $3500.00, preparations were made to accept the price and buy the building and land by withdrawing $1000 from the Wharton Building and Loan Association. The papers were drawn up and the transfer of the property completed. The transfer was handled by Louis Freeman, the Legion Attorney, a World War One Veteran and a member of the Post.
NOTE: Mr. Freeman is at the present time the Judge Advocate, Legion Attorney, and also a Life Member of Post #91.
Our first duty was to renovate the upstairs for an apartment and Club Rooms on the first floor with the tenants in the apartment to be custodian for the Legion. As the cellar only had space for the furnace and a walkway just large enough to get to it, the boys went to work expanding the cellar by digging a space large enough for a game room as there was no cellar under the building.
In 1937 we had gotten information that an old double house was to be sold at the Richard Mine and Walter Sarles found out that one of his men that worked for him at the Naval Depot had put in a bid of $100.00 for it. We, therefore, put in a bid for $105.00 and got the house. As we had already built a footing across the front for a porch we went to work tearing the old house down, (pictures of this are on the bulletin board at our Post Home), and used some of the lumber to build a porch upstairs for the tenants and a stairway from the lower porch to the upper porch for a front entrance to the apartment. After transporting the lumber from the Richard Mine we found that the 2 x 4’s measured 2-1/4 x 4-1/4 and the lumber that we had bought measured 1-3/4 x 3-3/4, this made it difficult to fit. After the renovation of the apartment was completed, Leonard Waldenberger took possession and named custodian, which he accepted. The meetings were held in the room now occupied by the bar.
In 1939, having lumber left over after building the porch, it was decided to build a cabin for the Boy Scouts so we set to digging the footing for a 30 x 40 foot building. The concrete was poured but unfortunately we only got the footing in, (it lies under the banquet room now).
About this time Walter Sarles organized, and was responsible for, receiving a charter for the Sons of The Legion but after receiving the charter Walter had the misfortune of losing his eleven year old son, (a charter member), after which James Tregenza took over and worked with the boys for a time but due to some unknown circumstances, the Sons of the Legion became disorganized. In 1941, Edward Borkwardt and Walter Sarles were busy with the Drum Corps and later the Girls Drum Corps. This brings us up to World War Two.
In 1942, American Legion Commanders were requested by the 1st Army Command to set up Spotting Airplane Posts throughout the Eastern part of the Country. Post #91 was to set up a post at the top of Flanders Mountain and it was to be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each watch was to consist of two men, or women, for a period of two hours. The Commander at the time received orders and a piece of map the area of which was three inches square with a one inch circle in the center of the piece of map representing one mile in diameter where we were to be stationed, curtailing activities except those that were necessary.
We set up a tent and a six foot pole for the 1,000 feet of telephone line that stretched to the top of the mountain from a farm house half way up. This gave us a direct line to New York. Our instructions were to give the type of plane, the speed, and the direction it was traveling. In the tent we had a small kerosene burner as the winter of 1941-1942 was approaching and it was getting cold. There was as many as three cars frozen by midnight and there were times when we were unable to get up the mountain to relieve the watch on duty because of the ice and snow so they just had to stay on watch until someone could get up to relieve them.
Then, during World War Two the younger boys started coming into the Post and a few of them, George Johnson, Catty Letego, and Frank Sheplak joined with other members in the proposal of a bar and club room. Meanwhile, the Service Officer, James List was kept busy filing the claims for the Veterans of World War I and II, and getting burial flags for the Veterans that passed on. At that time it was the duty of the Service Officer to see that every Veteran had a flag for his casket and there were only three Post Offices in the area where they could be gotten, they were Wharton, Netcong and Morristown. Wharton and Netcong could only carry one flag on hand and so there were many times when a trip to Morristown had to be made to get a flag.
With the World War II Veterans joining the Post it was decided to organize a uniformed group consisting of, Color Guard, Firing Squad and Bugler, and pallbearers. These groups were under the leadership of Martello Jones and was formed for the purpose of attending the funerals of all members of William J. Hocking Post #91, and other Posts if necessary.
In early 1946, the proposal to build a bar in the meeting room and hold our meetings in the large front room was passed and a committee of three was picked to proceed in getting the necessary equipment to set up the bar as follows: Hap Alexander, Chairman--James List and John Bolotto to assist. The committee of three went to Paterson, New Jersey and ordered wash basins, a cooler, stools, glasses and all necessary equipment that goes with it at a cost of $600.00. Drains and other plumbing was installed by Frank Ritzer.
A carpenter was hired by Paul Procter to build the bar and we ran into difficulty as there was no material to be had, and so the carpenter was put to work building the stairs to the cellar.
We finally got some lumber to begin the bar and there being no plywood available at any lumber dealers, Hap Alexander found out that some could be gotten from the burning grounds at Picatinny Arsenal for the top of the bar. A novelty bar was proposed by splitting barrels in half, but there was no barrels available so it was then decided to build it entirely of knotty pine but there was no knotty pine available either in this area Finally, Paul Proctor heard of some that was to arrive in Hackettstown and through friendship and it being for the American legion, 175 feet was received September 23, 1946: price, $35.00.
After completing the stairs to the cellar the carpenter, Carl Derema started to build the bar but covering for over the plywood on top of the bar was needed and also for the edges. James List went to Dover to order linoleum and Harry Loory had just enough of what we wanted but said he could not sell it to us. George Johnson, knowing Loory well, talked to him and got it for us, (there was none available in the entire area).
That completed the bar, except for the back bar, this was in September, on the 26th, 1946. The bar was all set to do business but we couldn't sell drinks as we had no license. The Federal Form for resale of liquor was received Sept. 28th, 1946. The form was completed, notarized and placed in the mail the following day. The bar officially opened on October 1, 1946 with John Belotto appointed as bartender at $30.00 per week; a week was considered from Friday to Thursday.
The back bar was not completed by Carl Derema due to illness; therefore, we had to find another carpenter, and after a short while it was completed by Glen Burrows at a cost of $487.50, including a few other jobs.
Our problems were not over yet as we needed more equipment so one of Krueger's drivers (name not known) drove to Paterson with John Bellotto to get more stools and glasses, this cost $192.75.
Some of the members of the Post who were not mentioned by name in the story and the Post Commanders of that period are:
Harry Gibson Service Officer prior to 1941
Daniel Jones Commander 1930
Harold Alexander Commander 1931
James Tregenza Commander 1932
Carl Ritzer Commander 1933
Dr. Edward Carberry Commander 1934
John Bolotta Commander 1935
Leonard Waldenberger Commander 1936, 1937, 1938
Walter Sarles Commander 1939
James List Commander 1940, 1941
Charles Emigh Commander 1942, 1943
Richard Jenkins Commander 1944
Charles Williams Commander 1945
(All are World War I Veterans)
With the boys joining the Post during and after World War II and the members of World War I working together great improvements have been accomplished and are still being carried on to this date -- 1970.
(The following history of our Post Home and Post was compiled and written by Mr. James (Jim) List. Jim is a life member of Post #91 and he has not only researched the data to write its history but was in fact a very significant part of that history. )
Wharton Borough - 50th Anniversary