AMERICAN LEGION HISTORY

Mammoth Spring, Ark., native and former West Plains R-7 School District teacher and administrator Ron Estes has penned a book outlining the 100-plus year history of one of the first American Legion posts in the nation, American Legion Post No. 55 in Mammoth Spring. Estes is the current commander of the post, which was founded following WWI in 1919.

“Getting back to my roots and giving back” is how former educator and school administrator Ron Estes describes his recent life.

One way he has done that: He spent a year researching and writing about the establishment and history of American Legion Post No. 55, established a little over 100 years ago in his hometown of Mammoth Spring, Ark.

Estes is the current commander of the post, and his father Lowell L. “Jack” Estes was the commander in 1950, 1951 and 1953.  

It is one of the oldest in the nation and Estes’ book, “A History of Forrest-Stone Post No. 55,” includes soldier’s photos and military service records, a snapshot of Mammoth Spring’s past, and membership roll books that might be of interest not only to veterans, but historians and genealogists.

Birth, marriage and death information of Ladies Auxiliary members dating from the late 1920s and early 1930s is also included.  

The post is named in honor of PFC Troy Forrest and Sgt. Fred Stone, both of whom lived in Mammoth Spring at the time they were inducted into the service during WWI. Estes notes Forrest was a native of Izard County, Ark., and Stone was born in Liberal, Mo., eventually moving to Thayer.

Both probably moved to the area to find work, Estes speculates, as Mammoth Spring at the turn of the 19th century had textile and grist mills powered by the turbines of the Spring Lake Dam, along with the other businesses the small city attracted.

Forrest was killed in action in April 1918 in France, and Stone died about two weeks later in Louisiana from the Spanish flu.

About 900 Arkansas soldiers died from illness and of the soldiers from Fulton County who died in WWI, half died from the Spanish flu, which was epidemic at the time, Estes notes.

The post saw a membership of about 130 WWI veterans, a larger group following WWII and smaller numbers during the Korean and Vietnam wars and recent Middle Eastern conflicts.

When it was chartered, American Legion Post No. 55 included members from Fulton, Izard and Stone counties in Arkansas and Oregon and Howell counties in Missouri.

Estes served in the Army during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1972 in the National Security Administration’s military branch, stationed on bases throughout the South Pacific collecting radio intelligence.

After his return to Missouri, Estes had a 31-year career in education, including four as a teacher and 27 as a principal, most of them at West Plains High School.

Though his research took some time and patience, Estes is happy to provide a glimpse into the post’s history and the lives of some of the soldiers and their families.

“I did enjoy it very much,” he concluded.   

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