1860s • 1870s • 1880s • 1890s • 1900s April 12, 1861 Bombshell explodes over Fort Sumter, the beginning of the American Civil War. April 16, 1861 Dr. Lemuel Weeks calls meeting of Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce to devise ways and means to assist volunteer soldiers from Milwaukee who would see service. June 13, 1861 United States Sanitary Commission is organized by order of President Abraham Lincoln through Simon Cameron, then Secretary of War, to supplement U.S. Government in inspection of army camps and particularly field hospitals and to manage relief efforts. October 17, 1861 Chicago Branch of Sanitary Commission is organized for the Northwest to channel supplies, stores and goods to soldiers. October 23, 1861 Ladies’ Association of Milwaukee for the Aid of Military Hospitals is organized with Mrs. Alexander (Martha Reed) Mitchell as President to solicit money and supplies for Wisconsin soldiers. In November 1862 the name is changed to Soldiers’ Aid Society of Milwaukee. December 15, 1862 West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society is organized as an auxiliary of the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Milwaukee. September 1863 The Soldiers’ Aid Society of Milwaukee becomes the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Aid Society. March 9, 1864
Milwaukee Sentinel reports consolidation of aid efforts to support a temporary Soldiers’ Home.
April 20, 1864 The temporary Soldiers’ Home on West Water Street opens its doors and is inundated with applicants. Within weeks the residents number 155. February 3, 1865 The State of Wisconsin grants a charter and $5,000 appropriation for the renamed Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home. The bill also calls to support for a state-wide fundraising fair. March 3, 1865 An Act entitled “An Act to incorporate a national military and naval asylum for the relief of the volunteer forces of the U.S.” was approved by Congress. March 4, 1865 President Lincoln delivers his Second Inaugural Address, calling the nation to “care for him who shall have borne the battle, and his widow, and his orphan.” April 9, 1865 Lee Surrenders – Civil War ends. April 15, 1865 President Lincoln dies from gunshot wounds inflicted by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. April 19, 1865 Governor James T. Lewis signs the proclamation establishing the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home, Milwaukee. June 28, 1865 A mammoth fair, originally scheduled for a ten-day run, is opened in a huge temporary building erected solely for that purpose. By the end of July more than $110,000 is raised to construct a suitable home. March 21, 1866 The federal government proposes a revision of the original act to assume responsibility for the care of the disabled veteran. May 16, 1866 The first meeting of the National Board of Managers of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Site selection begins. July 1866 The United States government passes the act providing for national soldiers’ homes. September 6, 1866 The following resolution is adopted at a board meeting: “Resolved, that the Executive Committee be authorized to make arrangements for the temporary relief with the Lady Managers of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home at Milwaukee, and that they also be instructed to see and report upon a suitable site for the Northwestern Branch of the asylum in the State of Wisconsin, as near, as may be practical, to the city of Milwaukee.” December 7, 1866
The Board of Managers of the National Asylum for a Disabled Volunteer Soldiers appoints Dr. E B. Wolcott as one of a committee of three to purchase property for establishing the Northwestern Branch of the Asylum.
March – April 1867
The “Mitchell” tract containing more than four hundred acres and located one mile west of the (then) city limits, between Elizabeth Street (now National Ave.) and Grand Avenue (now Wisconsin Ave.), is purchased at a cost of $77,000.00 from Messrs. Tweedy, Mitchell and Company for the construction site of the Northwestern Branch of the Asylum.
April 12, 1867 A committee is appointed to select a plan for the asylum buildings at Milwaukee and to make and accept proposals for same, to superintend their construction for immediate use. April 30, 1867 Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home Association transfers all funds and property to the National Government. May 1, 1867 The first veterans are transferred to the new site and was housed in the Country house of John L. Mitchell. Dr. E. B. Wolcott is appointed the first Commandant of the Northwestern Branch, National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. December 11, 1868 “Resolved, that the Manager in charge of construction of the Asylum buildings at Northwestern Branch be directed to set apart in a new asylum building, a chapel to be also used for lectures, concerts, etc., and reading room and library with an amusement hall and work shop in the basement.” December 16, 1868 “Resolved: That Deputy Governor Cassels be and is hereby authorized to prepare the old Asylum building at the Northwestern Branch for a hospital, according to the plans and specifications (modified by Col. Cassels,) made to the Board, provided expressly that the said improvements shall not exceed the sum of $6,750.” October 1, 1869 “On motion, the Acting Governor was authorized to buy the necessary instruments for teaching Telegraphy at the North Western Branch, and to assign a room in the Asylum building for that purpose.” SOURCES
William Y. Hartman, History of Veterans Administration Center, Wood, Wisconsin. (1980), 43. Proceedings of the Board of Managers of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Volume 1, October 1, 1869, Page 45. Proceedings of the Board of Managers of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Volume 1, October 1, 1869, page 54.