On June 7, 1919, an application for the American Legion charter was granted by the State of Illinois. Sixteen World War I

servicemen signed and submitted this charter. The original sixteen servicemen are: Kenneth George Lamphier, Logan S. Voight, Robert Coyne, Emil A. Lind, Oscar W. Bergquist, Leo D. Pesavento, Rudolph G. Fredrickson, Elmer Fredrickson, Clayton A. Pitts, Leonard F. Roblee M.D., Healy H. Alexander, Ralph B. Harpham DDS, Fred T. Swanson, George S. Robinson Sr., John Frigo, and LeForest Bentley.

Initially, the American Legion post was to be named the Blaksley Post at Lockport, IL. Temporary officers were elected until the final formation of the organization was to be decided by the first National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 10 – 12, 1919. The temporary officers were Leonard F. Roblee, Chairman, and Fred J. Swanson, Secretary.

During the month of June 1919, the members decided to change the post name. This change was received at the State Headquarters on June 9, 1919 and the temporary state charter was issued on June 30, 1919 changing the name to John Olson Post 18, Lockport, IL. John Olson was a local serviceman that was killed in action on September 26, 1918.

Temporary charters were given nationally to ensure the validity of the post. The requirement of a permanent charter was a minimum 6-month grace period of the temporary charter.

The John Olson Post 18 Lockport, Illinois Post was permanently approved with a National Charter on December 18, 1920. Approximately 1½ years after the temporary charter was approved. The members elected Leonard F. Roblee as the First Commander and T.P. Swanson as the First Adjutant of John Olson Post 18, Lockport, Illinois.

John Olson Post 18 has been serving veterans, families, youth organizations, and the community since December 18, 1920. The original purpose of the American Legion was to “preserve the memories and incidents of our association in the great war”. Today, the American Legion defines their activities as the four pillars. These four pillars are Veteran Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children & Youth. These guiding principles still hold true today for our organization.

John Olson (born Johan Olofsson) was born on February 15, 1891 in Degerfors, Vasterbotten, Sweden.  John’s parents, Olof Leonard Andersson and Maria Augusta Gabrielsdotter, lived as farmers in Degerfors, Sweden.  John was the third child of seven siblings.

John immigrated to the United States in October 1910 through Ellis Island.  His destination was Lockport, IL where his aunt and uncle lived.  His Aunt Sophia Gabrielsdotter married Frank Johnson and they lived at 1519 Sisson St., Lockport.  For seven years, John lived with his aunt and uncle and worked at the Texas Company in Lockport, IL.

On April 29, 1918, John was selected to serve in World War I and left for Camp Dodge, Iowa.  He was assigned to the 179th Brigade, 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division, 2nd Company.  John was killed in action on September 26th, 1918.  He was laid to rest at the Lockport Cemetary located at Madison and E. 6th Streets, Lockport, IL.

New John Olson Headstone, Lockport Cemetery

Post 18, through the efforts of historian Shawn McElwee, arranged for a replacement headstone at Lockp[ort Cemetery provided by the Veterans Administration. The original stone had been seriously eroded over time and has since been relocated to the Post 18 Memorial site. The replacement and relocation of the headstones was commemorated at the Post’s Memorial Day Ceremony, 2001.

(Award donated to Post 18 courtesy of the Donald Wall family of Lemont)

G.I. Bill of Rights

The G.I. Bill of Rights was born in the Luther B. Easley Post No. 128 of the American Legion in Salem, on November 4, 1943. It was drafted by Omar J. McMackin – Salem, Earl W. Merritt – Salem, former Governor John Stelle – McLeansboro, Dr. Leonard W. Esper – Springfield, George H. Bauer – Effingham, William R. McCauley – Olney, James P. Ringley – Lemont (photo center right), and A. L. Starshak – Chicago. The plan was taken to Washington D.C. by Governor Stelle, who was with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he signed it into law on June 22, 1944. The law was officially titled as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act and was created to assist veterans of active service in the Armed Forces during World War II. (City of Salem, IL website)

The GI Bill had a major effect on the way colleges were perceived in the United States. Previously, they had been rather elitist; the GI Bill of Rights was able to open them up to the common man. Previously, poor and older people rarely attended college. The GI Bill of Rights sent many poor people to college, many of which couldn’t have gone otherwise. By one estimate, 40% of all who attended college under the GI Bill of Rights wouldn’t have otherwise. Veterans seemed to dominate the classroom, in the peak year of 1947, 49% of all college students were veterans; this caused the mean student age to rise considerably. With the huge influx of students and funds, colleges expanded greatly. Between 1940 and 1950, the total number of degrees granted by colleges doubled. They hired more teachers, offered more classes, and built more buildings. Despite all this, colleges in the era was often characterized by overcrowding of classrooms.

Another aspect of the GI Bill of Rights, one that isn’t as emphasized as education is, yet is equally important, is housing. The GI Bill of Rights had a $2,000 home loan guarantee and offered loans for small businesses and farms as well. Returning veterans were thus able to buy their own homes. Despite the cost to the government of $33 billion for all the loans; they allowed a great overall increase in the economy. Approximately 20% of all homes purchased in the years following the war were purchased by veterans. (Everything2.com)

Thank You

(We wish to acknowledge and thank those who contributed and assisted with the preparation of the Post 18 history:
Lewis University:    Librarian Bob Pruter, Prof. Bill Patterson and the Adelmann Regional History Collection
Jack Buss, Mngr, Lockport Cemetery Assoc
Kimberley Bernard, VA National Cemetery Administration for Memorial Program Services
Lockport Library
Donald Wall Family, Lemont
Patricia Jarog, Branch Mngr, Lockport Library
Christy Rich, Exec. Secy, American Legion Dept. of Illinois
Timothy Montague, Analogue Free Media, Lockport)

Prepared by Shawn McElwee, Post 18 Historian