At the annual encampment of the Illinois Department of the Grand Army of the Republic in February 1885, the State Commander stated, “I believe that the time has come for a soldiers’ and sailors’ home to be established and maintained by the State of Illinois.” The Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization for Union veterans of the Civil War, had been organized at Springfield in 1866 by Major Benjamin F. Stephenson, Surgeon of the 14th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Article I, Section 2 of the Illinois G. A. R. declaration of principles included the following expected results, “for the protection and assistance of disabled soldiers, whether disabled by wounds, sickness, old age or misfortune….”
In 1885, 20 years after the end of the war, aging veterans were in failing health, but if unable to prove disability as a direct result of war time service, were barred from receiving a government pension. For those who could prove war related injuries, the amount of their pensions was determined based on a complicated schedule of disability. For veterans who survived the war without injury, poverty and ill health often forced them into county poor houses throughout the state. It was for these comrades that the Illinois Department of the G.A.R. developed a bill calling for an Illinois home for veterans of the Mexican and Civil Wars, which was presented to the legislature, passed in June, and adopted as law July 1, 1885.