Historic treasure trove uncovered at California American Legion post

Photo credit American Legion
By Connecting Vets

An Eagle Scout project at an American Legion post in Sanger, California has led to the uncovering of a time capsule that was buried in 1923.

Christian Gonzalez, a senior at Sanger High School and a member of Scout Troop 223 contacted American Legion William Lee Netzer Post 23 Commander James JD Bennett to propose the project.

“It was a beautification project that would conform to water conservation measures in California, as well as install a pedestal with a bronze plaque in front of the flag pole,” wrote Bennett.

Christian is the son of Post 23 member Army Lt. Col. Cesar Gonzalez of the 144th Fighter Squadron in Fresno.

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According to Bennett, while Christian was jackhammering concrete around the post’s flag pole he spotted a metal box. 

“Thinking it might be an electrical box he stopped and began chipping away with a hammer,” wrote Bennett. “What he found was a shocking surprise to him and members of American Legion Post 23 – a time capsule from June 14, 1923, when the post was chartered.”

Inside the time capsule was a:

  • Bible with the name Eugene Bradford inside the front cover; he was listed as the post adjutant on the charter roster. The Bible marker was on John 3:16, one of the most quoted verses in the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"
  • Charter membership roster. The roster included the name of Frank Netzer, who is believed to be related to William Netzer whom the post is named after
  • Roster of what is believed to be the Auxiliary unit
  • 48-star small American flag
  • Photo of a young soldier kneeling next to a tent, believed to be possibly from World War I
  • Two newspapers: The Sanger Herald dated June 14, 1923, and The Fresno Republican dated June 16, 1923. The Sanger Herald had a front-page story featuring the dedication of American Legion Post 23

“Post 23 will be looking for a way to preserve this piece of history and possibly find family members alive today of the Bible, charter members, and the soldier in the photo,” added Bennett.

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Post 23 decided to fill the time capsule with some modern treasure, Bennett continued. The 2020 time capsule features a:

  • Bible donated by Post 23 member Chris Conway that he received at basic training prior to leaving for Vietnam, where he too had underlined John 3:16
  • Current Post 23 and Auxiliary unit membership roster
  • Local Mid Valley Times newspaper
  • 2017 issue of The American Legion Magazine. On the cover is then American Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt with President Trump as he signed the VA Appeals Modernization Act on stage during the National Convention in Reno, Nev.
  • 100th anniversary American Legion pin
  • 2020 American Legion Post 23 100 percent membership pin
  • Department of California bear logo pin
  • Few challenge coins

“And nothing in 2020 would be complete without a mask, a few sheets of toilet paper, and a bottle of hand sanitizer,” added Bennett. “We do have a sense of humor, because hey, it describes this year fairly well.”

All of the items were wrapped in plastic prior to being placed in the time capsule to help preserve their integrity. The time capsule was resealed and the concrete was poured to encapsulate it.

“Post 23 would like to extend our thanks to Christian for all of his hard work and congratulate him for the historical treasure find,” added Bennett.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com
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