The Wisconsin Soldiers Home at Milwaukee
The Civil War like all major wars produced huge numbers of destitute, disabled and homeless veterans. Even before the end of the war Milwaukee’s civic minded ladies groups were already running temporary shelters for these veterans in a collection of vacant store fronts and houses. By 1865 the Federal Government was looking for four locations to build Veterans Homes. To make Milwaukee one of the chosen sites the ladies of Milwaukee held a Soldiers’ Home Fair in June of 1865 which raised the then amazing amount of 100,000 dollars! Part of that effort was the “Childrens’ Fund” which sold shares to the children at ten cents per share.
Illustrated here is one of those Childrens’ Fund Shares. The actual certificate is 10.25 by 7.75 inches in size. In the center section starting at the top beneath an eagle and flags is the inscription, “WISCONSIN SOLDIERS’ HOME, This is to certify that, Willis Hebard (written in fading ink), by payment of 10 cents is, entitled to 1 Shares in the, Soldiers’ Home, Milwaukee 1865, CHILDRENS’ FUND Wm Plankinton (printed signature), No. 15266.” The under print features a partial brick wall with “ONE SHARE REPRESENTS 20 BRICKS IN THE BUILDING”
At the left is a wall flag inscribed “WE OBEY OUR COUNTRY’S CALL.” hanging above a soldier leaving a woman holding a child. In the left section is “OUR COUNTRY FIRST, THEIR GLORY AND PRIDE, LAND OF THEIR HOPES, LAND WHERE THEIR FATHERS DIED.”
In the right section is “WHEN IN THE RIGHT, THEY’LL KEEP THY HONOUR BRIGHT, WHEN IN THE WRONG, THEY’LL DIE TO SET IT RIGHT.” On the right side is another wall flag with “WELCOME HOME” above a one legged soldier on crutches returning to a woman.
The effort was a success and a few years later the Wisconsin Blue books carried this illustration of the “Soldiers Home” which I remember as “Woods” and is now the Zablocki Veterans Center. The home was built on a hill which eventually over looked Milwaukee County Stadium enabling the residents to watch the Braves games from their own stands with the aid of the radio broadcasts.