Wisconsin Veterans Home, King, Wisconsin 54946 (715) 258-5586
Veteran's Memorial Cemetery (Located at the home), (715) 258-4251
When the Civil War began in 1861 Wisconsin had not entirely been developed from her pioneer condition. Most were virtually pioneers. So when President Lincoln called for volunteers, this left many women and children behind to keep the homes going as best they could.
Thousands of the men who had been strong and hard working as they left for the war, returned sometimes crippled and many in poor health. Of over the 12, 300 Wisconsin soldiers who served atleast one third were heads of the family or adult sons that these pioneer families relied heavily on for support. Pensions were developed for the widows and their children and these pensions of $8.00 a month for the widow and $2.00 a month for each child under sixteen were hard to obtain. Pensions for the invalid soldier was just as hard to obtain and not near enough to meet their needs. Besides the small pension, the returning soldiers found the currency they were paid in was only worth less then half what it was worth before the war. Yet with all of these hardships no general pension law was passed until 1907 a full forty-two years after the war.
Many of the disabled soldiers of Wisconsin were admitted to the National Soldiers' Home in Milwaukee. Although the disabled veteran was admitted, if the veteran was married his wife was not admitted. Therefore if the wife could not support herself or have support from other family members the wife would end up in the poor house. As the information, regarding the veterans wives, made it's way to some of the Grand Army Men and the Robert Chivas Post No. 2 Grand Army of the Republic of Milwaukee discussion began for petitions be presented to Congress for establishing a National Homes for soldiers' widows. As the result of knowing that a number of soldiers and wives, also widows of soldiers were being cared for in almshouses, a resolution was made to have Comrade A. O. Wright, Secretary of the State Board of Charities and Reform to make a report on this matter to the Commander of the Department hoping to obtain admissions for them to the National Soldiers' Home of Milwaukee. While putting his information together Comrade Wright found there were approx. 100 soldiers and 25 widows in poor houses or receiving outside help of some kind.
Meanwhile, many Grand Army men were unsettled at the fact that the National Home in Milwaukee was inadequate to care for the numbers requesting admission. These men felt there should be a State or Grand Army Home developed and placed into operations as soon as possible. Comrade Henry Fischer stated this was of great importance. He suggested it might be possible for the monies to come from the home fund to help support those who had their own small homes, leaving the veteran and wife able to remain together. During this time a bill was passed to develop a tax levy to create a fund for the use of soldiers, marines, sailors, their wives, widows and any minor children. From there a committee of five, Dr. F. A. Marden, B. F. Bryant, A. O. Wright, J. H. Marston and James Cumberledge, was elected to develop the possibility of establishing a home. Many of these discussions were held during the GAR encampments through this time.
At these encampments the following resolutions was made to: 1- That this Department Encampment take steps at once to establish a Veterans' Home for honorably discharged Soldier, Marines and Sailors of the Civil War, their wives and widows who were such during the time of the war and to secure from the state legislature an annual appropriation depending upon the number of inmates. 2-That a committee of five be elected, who shall have full power to act as incorporators for the institution; to receive gifts of land, buildings or money and to solicit contributions from the Grand Army Posts, to locate the institution and to do whatever it might take to expedite matters in establishing a Veterans' Home and the report at the next encampment. These five people were elected on Feb 16, 1887.
Once this committee began their work, things began to move swiftly. By March 10, 1887 the Wisconsin Veterans' Home was duly incorporated, by April 14, 1887 the bill was passed asking for state aid and published on May 3, 1887. By the November 14, 1887 the home was running. At the Encampment on February 15-16, 1888, the committee reported they had secured legislature for funds, incorporated the Wisconsin Veterans' Home, acquired property to the value of $15,000.00 and had established the Home at Waupaca. The home consisted of a central building, six cottages and a farm house and accommodated 50 people.
Waupaca was chosen for the site from many offers. This was not an easy choice to make. From the many offers, it was narrowed to six sites: Berlin, Waupaca, Sheboygan, Evansville, Watertown and New Lisbon. After visiting these sites and much discussion the Greenwood Park Hotel site , just outside of Waupaca was chosen. The property was obtained in October 1887, with a small number of members moving in at that time. Renovations started immediately with cottages for the veteran and his wife to live in. The dedication of the home was held on August 29, 1888. Estimates established there were approximately six thousand people in attendance at the dedication. Funds were continued to be raised from a large number of areas. In early 1888 the Federal government recognized the Veterans' Home as a State Soldiers' Home and began paying the home $100.00 a year for every male member at the home. This money went to the state and grew from $4,279.89 in June of 1899 to $30,575.00 in 1911. In 1906 the Home laid on a seventy-eight acre tract of land.
Many changes developed over the years as follows: 1923 - Law amended to admit a limited number of Spanish American War Veterans; July 1, 1923 Total men 114 and 220 women. Too numerous of changes too be listed.
At the present time (June 2000), the home still has cottages for married couples, chapel, four nursing care buildings, bowling alleys, theater, museum, library, etc. Click here to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Home website.
Books on the Wisconsin Veterans Home
History of Wisconsin Veterans' Home 1886-1926 by Hosea W. Rood (Co. E. 12th WI Inf.) and Chaplain E. B. Earle Printed 1926
Miscellaneous Wisconsin Veterans Home Information and Transcriptions
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