On Dec. 3, 1885, The Quincy Whig reported on celebrations in the city after the announcement that Quincy had been chosen as the location for the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home. It had taken years of legislative deliberation, followed by a five-month search and more than 200 votes by the Committee on Location to select Quincy from among the 42 Illinois cities and smaller communities vying to be the host city for the new home for Illinois veterans of the Mexican and Civil wars.
Once the euphoria of celebration had settled, however, the planning and work shifted into making the home a reality. The Quincy Daily Journal noted on Dec. 4, 1885: "We are credibly informed that the expenses of the Soldiers' Home commission have been $3,000. This leaves $7,000 of the $10,000 set apart to pay the expenses of the commission and to apply to a site. $11,000 have already been subscribed by our citizens. This amount added to the $7,000 just referred to makes $18,000 now provided for the site. The site (the E.H. Dudley homestead) is to cost $22,500. There are a few incidental expenses to be met, so that we have yet to raise $5,000. This can be done without any trouble."
As part of the presentation package by the local committee on location, the cost for purchasing the property was contributed by the citizens and merchants of Quincy. Soon members of the finance committee were visiting those who had pledged money through subscriptions and urging them to honor their pledges.
On December 10, responding to a presentation by the finance committee, the Adams County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to contribute $1,000 to the purchase fund. The Quincy Daily Whig warned on Dec. 13: "Those who subscribed to the fund to purchase the site selected for the Illinois Soldiers' home should pay the amount at once. Many have already done so. The trustees will probably meet in this city during the present week, where the transfer of the property will be made."
The effort was successful, and on Jan. 20, 1886, the abstract of title to the Dudley property, including 142 acres of land, home and outbuildings, was accepted by Attorney Gen. George Hunt and Gov. Richard J. Oglesby on behalf of the state. Once the transfer had been made, it became the responsibility of the state and the newly appointed board of trustees (Gen. Daniel Dustin of Sycamore, board president, Col. L.T. Dickason of Danville, and Maj. J.G. Rowland of Quincy), to develop the necessary architectural, engineering and landscaping plans, and begin constructing the buildings in the spring.
Quincy merchants eagerly anticipated the boost to local commerce of thousands of visitors and guests for the coming grand dedication and opening celebrations.
The Quincy Whig noted on March 11 that since the decision was made to locate the home in Quincy, "the attention of capitalists in Chicago has been attracted to this city." New committees were established to plan for and raise further funding for a celebration that would eventually stretch over three days in October, 1886, at a cost of over $6,000.
However, there also were more practical matters to consider. Many Quincy streets were unpaved, and household livestock could often be found roaming at large. A city ordinance prohibiting cattle and other livestock from running free and fining their owners was often ignored. The proceedings of the council for July 5, 1886 noted, under the heading "CATTLE ORDINANCE," that "Henry Prante and others, representing owners of cows, petitioned the Council to repeal the ordinance prohibiting cattle running at large. Referred to Ordinance committee."
Before the home had been dedicated or the first resident accepted, temperance-minded Quincy citizens and trustees of the home also were expressing concerns about saloons near the grounds. At the July 26 meeting of the City Council, J.G. Rowland asked that "no saloons be licensed within four blocks of the soldiers' home. The petition was referred to a special committee of three and the city attorney."
Of even greater importance was the lack of public transportation and the condition of city streets. As early as Dec. 11, 1885, The Quincy Daily Journal noted: "The locating of the Soldiers' Home in Quincy gives the city a duty to perform. Locust Street will need immediate attention. As soon as the work can be done this street should be nicely graded from Sunset Hill east to Twelfth Street. We call the attention of the board of public works to the matter now, so that they may take it into consideration. We deem it advisable to attend to this work as early as may be in the spring."
In fact, the Dudley property was outside the city limits of Quincy, in the "village" of Ellington. No paved streets ran north of Locust, and there was no public transport within a quarter mile of the home. In February 1886, the County Board of Supervisors voted to construct a bridge across Cedar Creek on North Fifth Street, and The Daily Whig noted that with the construction of the home, "North Fifth Street will be one of the avenues leading to it, and during the summer months hundreds of carriages will go to the institution on that street."
Despite the challenges, as the date of the opening of the home approached, all were looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges its presence would bring to the Gem City. The Quincy Daily Journal on Feb. 24 quoting from the "Ellington Scribe," opined that, "Ellington is gradually assuming a degree of notoriety. If the proceedings of the past five years were written it would comprise a history both interesting and astonishing. The greatest boom that Ellington will ever experience will be when the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home is completed. Whoop!!"
Lynn M. Snyder is a native of Adams County, a semi-retired archaeologist and museum researcher, a former librarian and present library volunteer at the Illinois Veterans Home, and a Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County board member and volunteer.
"City News." Quincy Daily Journal. Dec. 4, 1885, p. 4.
Code of the City of Quincy, Ill., 1858. Published by the authority of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Quincy, Ill., in book form.
Curry, Charles. "History of the Illinois Veterans Home." Quincy, Ill.: White House Press, no date.
"Enforcement of the Cow Ordinance." Quincy Daily Herald, July 28, 1886, p. 1.
First and Second Biennial Reports of the Board of Trustees and Officers of the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Quincy. 1886, 1888. Springfield, Ill. Springfield Printing Co., state printers.
"Quincy Celebrates the Location of the Soldiers' Home." Quincy Daily Whig. Dec. 3, 1885, p. 1.
Report of the Commissioners of Location. In First Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees and Officers of the Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Quincy, Oct. 1, 1886.
Resident Action Group. "A Promise Kept: The Story of the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy." Quincy, Ill. 1996.
"Soldiers' & Sailors' Home." Quincy Daily Whig, Dec. 13, 1885, p. 3.
"Soldiers, Sailors, and Suzanne's Saloon: Adventures, Misadventures at Eighth and Locust." Quincy Herald Whig, Jan. 4, 2013.
"The Cedar Creek Bridge." Quincy Daily Whig, Feb. 18, 1886, p. 6.
"The Sayings and Views of the Ellington Scribe." Quincy Daily Journal, Feb. 24, 1886, p. 4.