History of Clinton & Post 259

American Legion Post 259 is named for the small town in which it is located, Clinton, Maryland. The Clinton neighborhood is in Prince George's County, just southwest of Andrews Air Force Base. It encompasses an area of almost 7,000 acres around the intersections of Old Branch-Brandywine Roads and Piscataway-Woodyard Roads. The Post Home is located on Piscataway Road, near that intersection, on property which was once part of the tract of land called "His Lordship's Kindness", and which was deeded to the Board of School Commissioners on August 10, 1878.

This area was the "crossroads", the juncture of an old stagecoach road that led out of the District of Columbia, via the Anacostia River Bridge, and a main county road which ran from Piscataway on the Potomac River to Upper Marlboro on the Patuxent River. These were the main routes of travel in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became identified as Surrattsville in 1854 with the appointment of John Surratt as Postmaster. The Surratt family had begun a small tobacco plantation there in 1840. Surratt's House, now a historical landmark, is just around the corner from the Post Home on Brandywine Road.

The Old Branch-Brandywine Road and the Surratt name sprang into prominence in 1865, when President Lincoln was assassinated and Mrs. Mary Surratt was accused of complicity in the shooting. John Wilkes Booth was a boarder at Mrs. Surratt's rooming house in the District, and it was alleged that she furnished Booth with guns and ammunition, as well as a meeting place for the conspirators. Booth used the old stagecoach road as his escape route and stopped briefly at the old Surratt farmstead, which was by then a Tavern. After Mary's conviction and execution, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered that the name Surrattsville be abolished and the crossroads renamed. The Postmaster General officially changed the name of the postal station to Robeystown, after another prominent family in the area. In 1878, it was renamed Clinton. Published records are unclear whether it was named for Dewitt Clinton, American statesman (1769-1828), or George Clinton, Vice President of the United States from 1805 to 1812, under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Local folklore tells that the Postmaster General named the town after himself or a relative, and he allegedly named a "Clinton" in every State at that time.

In the early 50's, the area was still very rural, with no water or sewage, no Route 5 as we now know it, and almost all the buildings were wooden frame. Mr. Miller had built his brick store, and about that time Clinton Motor Company and Ripple Hardware were built. The closest American Legion Post was in Upper Marlboro, but a majority of the members were from the Clinton area, and they voted to obtain a charter for a new post. Two men, Paul Duke and Frank Dent, are given credit for canvassing the area to see if there was interest in starting the Post in Clinton, however neither man appears to have been a Charter member of Post 259. An organizational meeting was called for January 23rd, with about eighteen members and $1,300 (half of the Upper Marlboro Post's treasury). Officers were elected and dues were set at $3.50. The first Post meeting was conducted on February 8, 1951, with assistance of Dr. Jim Bradley from Oxon Hill Post 248, who "loaned" the Post Commander, Thomas S. Gwynne, Jr., a Post Handbook and Manual of Ceremonies. The books are still handed from Historian to Historian. Mr. Gwynne was succeeded by an up-and-coming young lawyer who was just getting his feet wet, now retired Judge Ernest A. Loveless, an American Legionnaire for over fifty years.

Early meetings were held in a local school, then moved to Old Shrive's farm on Woodyard Road, the current site of the K-Mart Shopping Center. "Tinker" Miller began bringing cold cuts from Miller's Store to serve after the business meetings, which began the tradition of serving a meal after every meeting, which continues today.

In 1955, Post 259 bid on the present building, which had been a one-room "colored" school house, built in 1926, with an addition built in 1949. A deed dated July 12, 1955, shows the purchase price of $4,300. A fire in 1958 which destroyed the rear portion of the building also destroyed most of the records of the Post, including the original Charter. Some architectural changes were made during the repair process. The present large hall was added in 1981. In 1994, the Post purchased 5.97 acres of property at the intersection of Woodyard and Dangerfield Roads, upon which a new, larger Post Home will be built in the future.

In January 1967, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 259 was chartered; in 1968, the first Constitution and By-Laws were adopted by the Post membership; and in 1969, Past Commander Mike Morton was appointed to the Department Executive Committee, believed to be the Post's first "White Hat." When he became Department Finance Officer, Morton passed the White Hat to Lewis "Buddy" Britton.

Historian's note: Information in this history was "gleaned" from a 1969 scrapbook, which was apparently the first recorded history book of the Post. Most of the earliest history came from a talk given by the first Commander, Thomas Gwynne, at the membership meeting in February 1977, which was printed and distributed by Adjutant Paul Brannon.

Post 259 Charter Members and other Charter Information

Clinton Post 259 was first formed in February 1951. With a number of members from the Upper Marlboro Post as the nucleus, more members were recruited.

These Charter Members were:

Thomas S. Gwynn, Jr. Donald Kramer Paul C. Fowler
Thomas V. Miller, Sr. John Duffy Charles E. Lohr
B. K. Miller, Jr. Robert G. Wells, Jr. Salvatore S. Leo
Erwin Schweizer Whitney Z. Webb Henry F. Weyandt
Richard K. Clifton John E. Kessler S. M. Shackleford
Everett Boswell William K. Thompson Wesley J. Adams
John Herr William B. Sonntag Charles W. Boyer
Lester C. Hale Dewey E. Large, Sr. Nelson Money, Jr.
Horace F. Berger Michael K. Morton, Jr. Eugene E. Tolson
Theodore B. Middleton Roland V. Warder Louis Pinto
Henry K. Rowell Pete C. Lund William A. Gann

A temporary Charter was granted to Post 259 on April 5, 1951. This document, the list of original Charter Members, and the first seven years of historical documentation were destroyed in a fire in the Post Home in 1958. This list was reconstructed by the Historian in 1969, who was not identified in the Scrapbook. The list may not be completely accurate as there is no mention of the two men that were given credit for canvassing the Clinton area for members to start the Post, Paul Duke and Frank Dent. These two names came from a written history prepared by the first Post Commander, Thomas Gwynne.

The Post applied for a Permanent Charter in November 1965, which was granted, and all the Charter Members signed it. On March 10, 1966, Post 259 incorporated and applied for a Supplemental Charter. This was approved by Department of Maryland and was issued on May 4, 1966.


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