Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories detailing the history of the American Legion in Wausau, including highlights about the men and women of Post 10.
By David Stenklyft, Wausau Pilot and Review
After 100 years of supporting veterans, veterans’ families, community projects and honoring fallen heroes, the Wausau Montgomery-Plant-Dudley American Legion Post 10 is preparing to celebrate its centennial this summer.
On July 12, 1919, Wausau became the 10th post in Wisconsin to receive a charter to the American Legion. Lieutenant Frank Talbot Montgomery, a Wausau native who was mortally wounded in the Argonne forest in the first World War, had the post name bestowed to him. He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Wausau.
Post 10 boasts a long and rich history that includes some surprising details. For example: in January 1924, when the Post was sharing space with the Eagles Club, three members were asked to investigate and “dispose of, as they saw fit,” a member of the Ku Klux Klan who was spreading and organizing an anti-American organization, according to current Post 10 leaders.
In 1928 the post moved into a new clubhouse in the 300 Block of Jefferson Street, paying a monthly rent of $1. Later that year, President Calvin Coolidge visited Wausau with a crowd of 32,000 people present. On September 6 of that same year, the Legion decided to build a public golf course, which opened in 1929.
The Legion vacated the Jefferson Street location in favor of temporary headquarters in the basement of the Metz Restaurant in 1941.
In an effort to raise funds for Post 10, a band was formed and performed in the 1920s and 1930s, wholly manned by Legion members. They performed at social events and city functions and weddings. They also planned and presented at events at the Grand Theater, minstrel shows, dances and movies.
Members of the post are known for their generosity in helping other veterans and their families in their time of need. In September 1930, for example, the Montgomery Post of the American Legion, along with Burns VFW Post, made full and complete arrangements for the burial of a man who had taken his life. He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery.
With the start of World War II, the Legion became active in assisting members of the military who were fighting in active combat. The legion collected and sent 10,852 phonograph records, six gross of sewing kits and hundreds of decks of cards to help support the troops.
Shortly after World War II, the Post changed its name to Montgomery-Plant Post in honor of Donald Duddleston Plant, a Wausau native who lost his life at the attack of Pearl Harbor and was the first Wausau-area casualty in the war. He died instantly as a result of enemy machine gun fire. The Dudley name was added in January 2015 to honor four brothers in the Dudley family.
Later, the Legion moved to a new location at Legion Hall on the ground of the Legion Golf Club. The cost of building and furnishings were to be paid by the Post, the golf club and private donations. A major renovation of the golf club launched in 1987. The $153,000 project, completed in 1988, included addition of restrooms, new offices and two meeting rooms. A $100,000 project to improve irrigation to the golf course was completed in 1993. Another renovation happened in 2011 that included numerous improvements to the Post and the golf course.
On June 24, 2008, the Post swore in Tamara Suchy as the first female commander in the Post’s then-89-year history. Suchy served in the U.S. Navy from 1988 to 1992 and served on the USS Yellowstone, which was stationed in the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War.
Since 1960, the Post has sponsored a Legion Baseball team, which never officially had a team nickname. That changed in 2008 when the Hammerblow Corporation donated uniforms, and the team accepted the name of the company’s premier product, the Bulldog trailer hitch. The team has been called the Bulldogs ever since.
After some difficult years with the golf course and headquarters, the course and clubhouse at 1001 Golf Club Road in Wausau were sold in 2012. The Post still operates a meeting area in a good faith agreement with the new owners, who remodeled the interior, made significant improvements to the course and grounds, and brought new life into the clubhouse, now named Bunkers. The golf course was renamed Tribute, as an honor to those who served.
In October 2018 a memorial wall bearing the names of all Marathon County veterans killed in action since 1917 was installed at Tribute Golf Course, located at the hole number one tee box. A name-reading ceremony of all 1,100 fallen Wisconsin service personnel is scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 27, Memorial Day.
The American Legion Post welcomes all military personnel serving our country. Their mission is to implement the goals, aspirations, dreams, peace and blessings for our country, friends and families. Membership is based on honorable service with any branch of the U.S. Armed forces during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon/Grenada conflict from Aug. 24, 1082 to July 31, 1984, Operation Just Cause from Dec. 20, 1989 to Jan. 31, 1990, and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, from Aug. 2, 1990 through today.
To learn more or to join Post 10, visit the organization’s membership page.