There were 953 residents of Yavapai County, Arizona, that served during World War I, 17 died in that war. Ernest A. Love was one of them, dying on 16 September 1918 in France. Ernest was a Prescott High School football star. He was attending Stanford University when the United States entered the Great War and promptly volunteered to become a pilot. He went to France with the 147th Aero Squadron and was shot down on 15 September 1918, dying the next day in a German field hospital.
Morale was low among the troops of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe on the Ides of March, 1919. The Armistice had been signed 4 months earlier and millions of men were still awaiting transport home. AEF headquarters ordered a gathering of officers and enlisted from various commands to meet in Paris to come up with ideas for improvement of morale. Many who were not ordered to the meeting showed up. On March 15, 1919, the Paris Caucus began and many ideas were bandied about. Soon, the discussion turned to what the troops could do when they returned home. One officer, Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., proposed an organization of veterans, made up of officers and enlisted who served during the war. During the next 2 days, those troops hashed out the basic tenets of what was to become the largest veterans service organization in the world. Dedicated to 4 major purposes, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, Americanism, National Security and Children and Youth, The American Legion was born.
Throughout April and May of 1919, articles appeared in the Prescott Journal Miner discussing this new organization, The American Legion, and its goals, and reporting on the May 8-10, 1919, St. Louis Caucus where the name was officially adopted. Continuing the work of the Paris Caucus, the St. Louis Caucus set up the organizational structure of The American Legion, from the local to the national level. It fleshed out the Constitution and Bylaws and scheduled the first national convention to be held in Minneapolis in November, 1919, where officers would be elected and the Constitution and Bylaws would be adopted.
Prescott area veterans followed closely the newspaper reports and, at the request of temporary State Chairman E.P. Conway, met at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce meeting rooms the evening of June 25, 1919. George W. Nilsson chaired the meeting where 20 men signed the application for charter. Harry W. Ulmo moved that the name for the new Post of The American Legion be Ernest A. Love Post. That motion was seconded and unanimously approved. Fred Blair Townsend, temporary secretary of the Arizona organization, presented the charter to Ernest A. Love Post, Arizona No.2, of The American Legion, signed by Henry D. Lindsley, temporary Chairman of the national organization. The next day's Prescott Journal Miner ran a banner headline on the front page reading “Ernest Love Post of The American Legion is Formed.”
By Saturday, 50 members had joined the new Post. The Constitution and Bylaws had been adopted. A nominating committee was formed to submit names for permanent officers of the Post, to be elected at the first annual meeting scheduled for July 3, 1919. Annual dues were set at $2.00 per member, with an entrance fee of $1.00.
Harry T. Southworth was elected as Commander at the July 3 meeting, held in the Superior Courtroom on the upper floor of the courthouse because the Chamber of Commerce meeting rooms were being used by the Frontier Days Rodeo. Dr. Southworth had been a Major in the Army and was the City Health Officer for the City of Prescott. George W. Nilsson was selected to represent Ernest A. Love Post 2 at the Tucson “Caucus” on July 11-12, 1919, where the Department of Arizona was officially organized. Nilsson became Commander in 1920 and continued to assist the growth of the Department of Arizona. It was under his command that The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 6 was formed, with its first President being the wife of Harry T. Southworth. He remained an active supporter of the Ernest A. Love Post and The American Legion for the rest of his life.
Throughout the Twenties, the Post was the largest Post in Arizona but had no Post Home. Meetings were held wherever a site was available, often at the Chamber of Commerce, or the Courthouse, or Fort Whipple. Legion and Auxiliary flags and accouterments were kept at the homes of members and brought wherever the meetings were to be held. Efforts were made to find a permanent Post Home. Funds requests were mailed to other Posts across the country to help with securing a permanent home with little response. A 5 ½ month lease was signed in September of 1928, with Arizona Lodge No. 1, International Order of Odd Fellows, for the entire second floor of the Odd Fellows Hall for the purposes of dances and entertainments each Saturday night(dancing of the dance known as the “stomp” was specifically prohibited). Dances were held each Saturday while the Post continued to meet at various locations.
Sometime in 1929, the Post purchased four acres in Cortez Park on Copper Basin Road on which to build a Post Home. A local architect drew up plans for a 40'x75' building to include an auditorium that would seat 450 people, a kitchen and card rooms. The estimated cost of the building would be $7,500. A letter was sent to Post members soliciting funds on September 5, 1929. Apparently, the plans never came to fruition and the property was sold.
The Prescott State Bank failed in November, 1925, and the State Banking Examiner began selling off the properties the bank had owned. The house at 202 S. Pleasant Street had been the residence of the President of Prescott State Bank and was among those properties for sale. It was a 3 bedroom, 3 bath house with living room, dining room, library, den, kitchen, service porch, front porch and unfinished basement. The original offering price was too high to generate any interest, but when the Bank Examiner dropped the price to $11,000, the Post formed a committee to negotiate with the Bank Examiner. Bill Aven, the fifteenth Commander of Ernest A. Love Post, chaired that committee and offered half the asking price. The Bank Examiner came back with $5,600, and a contract was signed. Many Post members had lost money when the bank failed, so it seems fitting that the Post got the property at nearly half the asking price.The Ernest A. Love Post moved in in 1930 and had the mortgage paid off by September of 1930. Throughout the Thirties, community dances were held at our new Post Home.
Our flagpole was originally at a mine in Humboldt. It was moved to the Post Home and installed by a crew from Arizona Public Service. Our juniper tree was much smaller eighty years ago.. The tree is now heavily trimmed on one side to prevent interference with the flags, but looks great from the street side, and stands taller than the flagpole. We are in the midst of creating a Memorial Park around our flagpole, selling engraved bricks to pave the area.