Celebration of 100th Anniversary: American Legion Post 116

by Shirley Simmons

American Legion Post 116 built this log cabin on S. Main Street, dedicated in 1927. Museums Collection

The oldest organization of citizens chartered in Fuquay Springs is the North Carolina American Legion Post 116. Their charter of November 3, 1920 lists 15 members. The museums have located descendants and family members of 10 of these gentlemen known to have connections to our area today. The other five were veterans of World War I who resided in the area at that time. Our archives would welcome further information.

The American Legion “dedicated its original club house and set about living in it” on April 17, 1927. Located just north of the Fuquay Mineral Spring, the building quickly became the headquarters for visitors to the spring on Easter Monday and other occasions. This building, known as the Log Cabin or Log Bungalow, occupied the properties of the present Crazy House Brewing at 330 S. Main Street.

According to research of deeds, the American Legion under Commander W. S. Cozart sold the property to J. C. Tilley, Adjutant (Secretary) on March 18, 1946. Post 116 then purchased the property known as the Beale Johnson House and the Old Mill Farms from the State Board of Education of North Carolina on April 1, 1949.

Since that time, American Legion Post 116 has resided on Johnson Pond Rd, presently occupying their own buildings across the road from the original Johnson house at the mill on Johnson Pond. After the Legion moved to Johnson Pond, many residents documented using the American Legion house for family reunions, parties and special occasions.

One of the early BBQ events held at the chamber showing unidentified serving of plates. Courtesy of Proctor family.

The story of the original log building is colorful and touching. In 1922, Commander W. W. Seawell undertook to begin building a house for the American Legion. Seawell and the Legionnaires began collecting money to finance the construction and people began to offer logs. The members went into the woods, cut logs, and hauled them out. This became slow business during the 1920’s and they ran out of money. Seawell came down with disease and was hospitalized at Oteen near Ashville, NC. From his hospital bed, he continued to urge the men to complete the log structure.

The BBQ events were fundraising events attended by the town, at least the male population, it appears. Photo was undated but appears to be early in the history of the log cabin. Courtesy of Proctor family.

The newspaper record gives glowing praise to the townspeople for materials contributed and wholesale prices given them, until finally “after five years,” they managed completion of the log cabin. The American Legion Post 116 declared this structure “a community center” in recognition of the contributions of wonderful local citizens.

On the dedication day, a barbecue “as good as can be made” was served and the public was invited to help celebrate. Officers then were L. Bruce Gunter, L. E. Stevens, and P. K. Honeycutt. Dr. W. S. Cozart took charge of the BBQ. The speaker was Colonel John Hall
Manning, head of the Veteran’s Loan Fund and Oliver Smith of Raleigh. S. T. Proctor recounted the building saga deemed “a right heroic story.” The Fuquay Springs Baptist Church Pastor, Rev. J. P. Harris gave the dedicatory prayer. The Woman’s Auxiliary was in charge of music. Sadly, Ex Commander Seawell was not well enough to be present.

The Beale Johnson house on Johnson Pond Road was purchased by the American Legion Post 116. This post card version of the “Southern Mansion” is part of the museums collection. The house was owned by government agencies for a period of time. Courtesy Tim Carroll.
This photo of the Beale Johnson House was taken by the Fuquay Springs Questers for their video. The house was then in possession of the Lynwood Turner family. It has recently been sold to another private owner. Courtesy Fuquay Springs Questers.

Over the museum’s research history, many citizens recount the building as a USO center during World War II. Former residents of the Ben Wiley recall events across the road especially the use of the building as a polling place for elections. Others have related that the Cozart family tore down the building and used the logs in construction of a log home on Angier Road. Since the Legion’s removal from S. Main Street several persons have owned the property and other buildings have been constructed thereon.

True to its origins, the American Legion continues today to cook and serve BBQ dinners either for political events or as fundraisers for their organization. Their organization has remained a major player in school and community activities within Fuquay-Varina and Wake County. Want a fish plate? Or a Christmas tree?

Congratulations on 100 proud years! Help them Celebrate June 24, 2022!

(Source: unidentified news clipping) April 18, 1927. Oral accounts.