By Karen Dye
The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) was founded in 1919 to support the mission of the American Legion. Following the formation of the American Legion, several existing women’s organizations wanted to become affiliated with the Legion. Instead of joining with a pre-existing group, the Legion decided to build a new organization from the ground up, made of those most closely associated with the Legion. In less than one year, 1,342 local units of the American Legion auxiliary were formed in 45 states.
Today, the ALA has nearly 700 thousand members and more than 8,000 units nationwide. From helping to draft the GI Bill in 1944 to advocating for veterans on Capitol Hill, the American Legion Family has been instrumental in advancing legislation that improves the quality of life for our nation’s veterans.
The beginnings of the Newkirk American Legion Auxiliary is tied closely to the Newkirk American Legion Post, named after Otto G. Abbott, first young man from Newkirk who died in World War I.
The Republican News Journal reported on April 8, 1921, that a military funeral was held for Otto G. Abbott, who died in action in France and whose body arrived here from Camp Pike, Little Rock, Ark. All business houses in Newkirk closed in his honor while the funeral services were being conducted.
The funeral was held at 2:30 p.m. at the Methodist Church. The Rev. A.D. Lindsey preached the sermon, and the American Legion boys, whose post here gets its name from the dead soldier, had charge of the ceremonies. The body was buried in the Newkirk Cemetery.
Otto G. Abbott was born in 1892 in Missouri and came to this country at the opening of the Cherokee Outlet. He lived in Newkirk since that time. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1913 and was wounded in 1918, recovered from the wound, but was again wounded later in the year, and his death resulted on May 28. He leaves his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Abbott, brothers and sister and other relatives.
According to the Democrat Herald on March 10, 1921. the first meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Otto G. Abbott Post of the American Legion to this city was held in the Legion Club rooms.
Temporary chairman, secretary and treasurer were appointed until permanent officers were elected. Several committees were appointed to report on the Constitution and also to get as many members as possible by the next meeting. All mothers, sisters, daughters and wives of the American Legion were eligible to join the ALA.
The ALA immediately began to work in conjunction with the Legion on all their projects. The local post of the American Legion and the Newkirk Ladies Auxiliary entertained informally at the Legion club rooms in honor of the Legion post and Ladies Auxiliary of Ponca City, with about 50 persons present.
Members of the Auxiliary elected officers of the organization at this time. They were: President, Mrs. F. C. Groshong; Vice President, Mrs. James Aney; Treasurer, Mrs. Dan Bain and Secretary, Miss Hazel Haney.
In May 1921 the Republican News Journal reported that the ALA met at the club rooms to discuss plans for Decoration Day. Newkirk observed Decoration Day with a community program in which hundreds of citizens took part. All business houses were closed and there was only one mail delivery during the day.
Ceremonies in honor of the country’s dead heroes began Sunday with a special Decoration Day sermon by the Rev. A.D. Lindsay, at the Methodist Church Sunday morning. About 300 persons were present at the services. Members of the GAR, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the Relief Corps attended the church in a body.
Monday morning, a parade formed of citizens of the town as they marched to the high school building, where cars were provided to take persons to the cemetery. Dr. C.W. Richards was marshal of the day and had charge of this part of the Decoration Day program. The parade of cars to the cemetery was blocks long. Members of the local American Legion post decorated the 10 graves of the boys who died in the recent war. Members of the GAR also decorated the graves of their comrades.
Women’s auxiliary of the American Legion met Wednesday with the American Legion to discuss plans for carrying out the Fourth of July celebration. The auxiliary would fix a ladies rest room and dressing room in the IOOF Hall, providing it with combs, mirrors, etc. They were also to have charge of the taking of the tickets at the different shows and amusements and they wanted the home girls to help them. Volunteers needed to contact Mrs. Isabel Groshong or Miss Hazel Haney.
The American Legion and the Women’s Auxiliary met in joint session at the Legion Club Rooms. A good attendance was present and several matters of importance were discussed. The charter was prepared and filed with the Post Commander of the American Legion to be sent to state headquarters for ratification. After all business was disposed of the members of both organizations spent a pleasant social evening.
It was hoped that the charter would be returned in time for the next meeting on March 22. All relatives of the members of the American Legion were eligible to join the Auxiliary
The Women’s auxiliary to the Otto Abbott post of the American Legion here had made application to the state leader of the organization at Chickasha, Okla. for recognition of the auxiliary post. Application was made about six months ago, which was lost in the mails. A charter had been drawn up and nineteen signed as charter members.
Among the charter members two wear gold stars, Mrs. J.W. Abbott and Miss Vera Abbott, the mother and sister of Otto Abbott killed in action, for whom the local post is named.
The charter members were Mrs. James Aney, Miss Grace Aney, Mrs. G.P. Endicott, Mrs. E.F. LaGess, Mrs. Dan A. Bain, Mrs. Stanley Sharp, Mrs. A. Sharp, Mrs. J. W. Abbott, Miss Vera Abbott, Mrs. Isabel Groshong, Mrs. C.T. White, Mrs. E.E. Patterson, Mrs. Ford Snow, Miss Grace Snow, Miss Hazel Haney, Mrs. George Murray, Mrs. C.M. Curry, Mrs. Dewey Hall and Mrs. D.D. Cottrell.
Apparently there were issues with the charter as according to National, Newkirk’s charter was not approved until July of 1925 – about four years after their organization.
ALA units in all 50 states proudly host ALA Girls State, an amazing week of learning focused on responsible citizenship, leadership and love for God and country. Girls State began in 1937 and since 1948 had been a regular part of the ALA’s better citizenship. Each year the Newkirk ALA in partnership with the Newkirk Business Club sends two high school juniors to Girls State.
Although Newkirk’s American Legion has disbanded, Newkirk’s American Legion Auxiliary Post 165 Otto G. Abbott is still going strong. In 2021 they have 20 members, three of whom are Junior Members. Newkirk’s ALA is currently sponsoring the Walk of Warriors project in partnership with the city of Newkirk. The Kay County Walk of Warriors is a part of the Newkirk Pathway project. The vision for the Walk of Warriors project is to honor all who have served this great nation in the Armed Forces.
The Walk of Warriors is a brick paved walking path that will be located on the Kay County Courthouse grounds in historic downtown Newkirk. Each 4 in. x 8 in. paver will be engraved using state of the art laser technology. Each paver will have the veteran’s name and branch of service crest. More than 400 brick pavers have been purchased.