History of the VA Center, Dayton, Ohio


Although not dated, it is believed that this brochure was written in 1972.


HISTORY OF THE VA CENTER

DAYTON, OHIO

 

Serving Veterans Since 1867

Veterans Administration Center

Dayton, Ohio

 

FOREWORD

     On the following pages is told the story of the Dayton Veterans Administration Center from its inception in 1867 until today.  For over one hundred years this institution has been an integral part of the Dayton community.  Many newspaper accounts have been written concerning the activities at this Center, and at least two other histories have been written.  One was written in 1875 by one of the members, and the latest was in 1950 by Chaplain George L.Cutton.

     Newspaper articles, histories, board minutes, and other documents, as well as conversation with people are utilized in composing this short history.  Numerous dates were used throughout this booklet and some were most difficult to verify, but those used are believed to be authentic.

     No attempt has been made to add footnotes to this history.  It is not intended that this be looked upon as a complete and detailed history, but rather as a narrative with pictorial highlights of more than a century of service to veterans.  For the sake of brevity many names, organizations, and buildings had to be omitted even though they were important in the development of the Center.

     May those who served the veterans in the past be our inspiration for future service.

 

WILLARD G. HITCHINGS. FACH
Director

 

HISTORY OF THE VA CENTER

DAYTON, OHIO

 

     The Civil War brought new concepts and new responsibilities in veterans’ relief.  It was on a scale vastly larger than previous wars.  It was fought over a larger territory, practically the whole southland, and in nearly five years of hostility there were scores of battles.  Several of them were the most bitter and bloody in history.

     The magnitude of the struggle soon brought a realization of the relief problem.  One of the first steps taken to care for men disabled from military duties was the formation of the Veterans Reserve Crops.  Its purpose was twofold: (1) to give wounded men convalescent care without enforcing complete idleness; and (2) to make use of such manpower as they could offer in all duties behind the line of battle.  They were detailed as guards, clerks, cooks, extra duty men, etc., and when able were returned to their regiments.  Although crude in many ways, it was a practicable and credible achievement in veteran’s relief.

     In 1861, the Secretary of War appointed a sanitary commission, whose purpose was to inquire into health conditions among the troops and to recommend means for restoring and preserving health.  It was headed by a doctor with three associates known as associated secretaries, all doctors.  This sanitary commission was an epical step in humane warfare.  It was the beginning, more than any previous act or accomplishment, of the nation’s record in the humane and generous treatment of its defenders.  The recommendations of this commission were invariably sound, and most of them resulted in action.

     An important accomplishment of the commission during the war was the establishment of domiciliary facilities, with hospital departments back of the lines, for the refuge and treatment of men wounded and unfit for active duty.  There were 25 such homes or relief stations established, and in two years, or by 1863, 167,000 disabled soldiers had been admitted.  An average of 2,300 men daily received shelter and care.  The average stay was three days.  By the end of the war the number had tripled.

     The commission gave attention also to the aftermath of the war.  It estimated that there would be 100,000 men with impaired health or so demoralized as to be unfit for civilian life.  It was their recommendation that a determined effort should be made to keep those men from becoming mendicants and an unemployment problem.  They did not recommend alms houses, but strove to establish a system that would provide either employment or care by individual families.

     They finally reached an important decision and recommendation; that in distinction from alms houses, experimental sanitaria be established.  Immediate action was not taken by Congress, but no doubt the findings and recommendations of this commission led Congress to pass the legislation that established the National Asylum for Disabled Volunter Soldiers and Seamen.

     In December 1864, the Thirty-eighth Congress, even before the war was over, passed such a law.  The act of Congress was approved on March 3, 1865, and it was one of the last bills signed by President Lincoln.

     The law provided for a corporation of one hundred men, named in the act, to build and administer such an asylum.  After five unsuccessful attempts to get a quorum, the law was amended March 21, 1866.  The new law set up a board of twelve men, nine to be appointed by Congress for terms of six years each and the other three to serve ex-officio; namely, the President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the United States, and the Secretary of War.

     The first nine appointees by Congress were: Major General B. F. Butler, Massachusetts; Major General J. H. Martindale, New York; ex-Governor Frederick Smyth, New Hampshire; Honorable Lewis B. Gunckel, Ohio; Judge H. L. Bond, Maryland; Brigadier General Thomas O. Osborne, Illinois; and Major J. S. Negley, Pennsylvania.

     The first Board of Managers was appointed in April 1866.  The first board meeting was in May 1866.  Major General Benjamin F. Butler was elected president and Honorable Lewis B. Gunckel of Dayton was elected secretary.  The Board of Managers interpreted their purpose to mean that there should be provided for disabled veterans a place where they could live under conditions that would promote their health and contentment.  This idea, as developed, established homes in suitable locations on tracts with extensive grounds.  Provisions were made for buildings and improvements to comfortably house the veterans, practically as a self-containing community.  The board had agreed that none of these homes were to be built or developed within city limits.

     These homes were to be financed from a fund created by the accumulation of forfeiture of desertion, fines of courts-martial, unclaimed pay and pensions, etc., of the War Department, plus donations and gifts.  After March 3, 1875, this plan was considerably modified in favor of direct appropriations from the Congress.

     Within a year, three asylums or homes were authorized and in operation.  The first authorized was the Eastern Branch at Augusta, Maine, on September 6, 1866; the second authorized was the Northwestern Branch at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 7, 1866.

     A Central Branch, the third, was authorized on April 11, 1867.  The first preference for this branch was White Sulpher Springs, if this community could provide railroad service at least once daily at its own expense.  If the railroad service could not be provided, the second choice was Dayton Ohio.  The purchase of 400 acres for the Central Branch at $113 per acre was authorized at the April 11, 1867 meeting, although the site was not definite.

     On September 7, 1867, the board officially accepted Dayton as the selected place for the Central Branch.  The board authorized $46,800 less $20,000 which was to be donated by the citizens of Dayton for the purchase of land.  An additional $32,000 was appropriated for construction and repairs.

     Since White Sulpher Springs could not provide the railroad service as required, acquisition of land at Dayton started before the board officially acted on September 7, 1867.  The deed records at the Montgomery County Court House disclose that the first piece of property was purchased on August 1, 1867.  By August 24, 1867, approximately 380 acres were purchased from various owners.  Subsequent pieces of property were authorized and purchased.  At one time, the home grounds were as large as 700 acres.  At the present time, there are 381 acres.

     Ohio had been one of the first states to provide for veterans.  So, Camp Chase, near Columbus developed from the Tripler Military Hospital, a federal gift to Ohio.  Now, in turn, the state of Ohio offered Camp Chase and all its assets to the Federal Government.  The buildings, about 3,500,000 feet of lumber, and $1,614.93 became available to the Central Branch.  The transfer of the Ohio Soldier’s Home to the Board of Governors of National Asylums took place with appropriate ceremonies on March 26, 1867.

     The first veterans arrived here from Camp Chase early in September 1867.  At first there were 450, and then additional members until the total for the first full year of operation reached 1429.  Some must have been officially admitted at Camp Chase, as Perry Trudden is recorded as the first admission March 26, 1867.  Among those early members were undoubtedly many survivors of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, mostly men from Dayton.  This regiment had a great war record, participating in 24 major battles and losing half its number as “killed in action.”

     In 1867, Chaplain T. B. Van Horn was commissioned by Secretary of War Stanton to lay out plans for the new institution.  Things began to look different with the arrival of the chaplain. By 1868, the general building plan had almost been completed.  One of the first permanent structures to be erected was the National Asylum Church, now known as the Protestant Chapel.  This building is still in use.  The home expanded rapidly from then on.

     Chaplain Van Horn carried out the objectives of the Board of Managers in providing all the comforts of a home—chapels for religious services, halls for concerts and lectures, miscellaneous entertainment, a hospital with experienced medics and nurses, library and reading rooms, school rooms, post offices, telegraph office, stores, and workshops to learn trades for employment.  The purpose was to inspire these individuals with a sense of manly independence.

 

THE LEADERS

 

     Despite all of the trials and tribulations of the Board of Managers in the first few years, the zeal and interest manifested in the institution by Hon. Lewis B. Gunckel is not to be overlooked.  The sagacity of Mr. Gunckel, a Dayton lawyer and congressman, can be observed in the early history of the Central Branch.  He was one of the early advocates of this type of care, and apparently the moving force in getting the Central Branch located in Dayton, Ohio.  He took possession of the Camp Chase property on March 26, 1867, and assumed the responsibility in the transfer of men and property to Dayton, Ohio.  It was his ambition to have the most complete and attractive home in the world located at Dayton.  His objective was to secure for the Dayton Home a pre-eminence which would eventually concentrate all of the disabled veterans at the Central Branch.  This was actually attempted in the late 1800’s.  Mr. Gunckel was the first resident manager and served as Secretary of the Board of Managers for ten years.

     The first officers of the Dayton Home were Major E. E. Tracy, Deputy Governor; Captain A. P. Woodruff, Secretary, later also Steward; Dr. Clarke McDermont, Surgeon; and Rev. Henry Hill, Chaplain.  Major Tracy was in poor health, dying in June 1868 at the age of 25, and was succeeded by General Timothy Ingraham; and he, in turn, October 8, 1868, by Colonel Edwin F. Brown.  Chaplain Hill never accepted his appointment and so Chaplain William Earnshaw was the first chaplain to serve, coming with the troops from Camp Chase that September day in 1867.  Colonel J. B. Thomas, a surgeon who also came with the first members, was appointed Treasurer on December 1, 1867.

     Colonel Edwin F. Brown was commissioned as the Acting Deputy Governor on October 8, 1868, and confirmed in July 1869.  He was appointed Governor in 1873.  He served the Dayton Home for twelve years during the time of the early building program.  In September 1880, he became Inspector General of All Homes.  He served in this capacity 22 years until his death.  In his honor, the present GM&S hospital, which was built in 1930 was named Brown Hospital.

     In September 1867, William Earnshaw was appointed as the chaplain.  Chaplain Earnshaw was one of the conspicuous leaders during the first twenty years.  He became the moving spirit in all that went on.  While the stone chapel was being built, he held religious services in a wooden building.  He also served the Dayton Home as the first librarian and as a teacher.  At first, he had a collection of books, most of which were donated by veterans, which he called the George A. Thomas Library in honor of his old commander.  On October 8, 1868, he announced to the Board of Mangers the remarkable donation of a large and selected library by Mrs. Lowell Putnam.  It became his duty to catalogue and set up both libraries on the second and third floors of the Administration Building.  Both collections continued to increase so that in 1880 the library building, minus the wings, was used for the first time.

     Another notable contribution of Chaplain Earnshaw was his interest in establishing a soldier’s monument in the cemetery.  The soldier’s monument was dedicated on September 12, 1877, and  the address was given by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  Chaplain Earnshaw was also active in the organization of the G. A. R. and he was honored by his comrades by being elected Grand Chaplain and then Grand Commander.  He died July 17, 1885, leaving as his last words, “Tell the veterans I loved them all.”

     Mrs. Emma L. Miller, as a war widow, enlisted in the Christian and Sanitary Service, then joined the soldiers at Camp Chase as matron and came with them to Dayton as matron of the hospital.  Her great work was that of Superintendent of the Dayton Clothing Depot (for all homes) until her death January 18, 1914, at the age of 94.  In recognition of her ability and services, Mrs. Miller became the first woman to receive a commission in the U. S. Army.  Miller Cottage for women members is her enduring monument.

     Dr. Clark McDermont received his appointment as Surgeon of the Central Home as merited recognition for his character and ability demonstrated during the war.  He served continuous until August 1874, except for 14 months, as surgeon of the Southern Home at Hampton, Virginia.

     There are many more leaders too numerous to mention in this short history; however, it is recognized that all these individuals worked diligently and contributed much in the development and growth of the Dayton VAC.  Initially, the heads of the homes were known as Governors.  This title was changed to Manager during Col. Spofford’s leadership, making him the last Governor as well as the first Manager.  The title was again changed in 1961, this time to Center Director.  Following is a complete list of Governors/Managers/Directors:

Major E. E. Tracy                                Apr.  1867 -  Dec. 1867

Gen. Timothy Ingraham                    Dec.  1867 -  Oct. 1868

Col. Edwin F. Brown                           Oct.   1868 -  Sep. 1880

Gen. M. R. Patrick                               Sep.   1880 -  July 1888

Col. Jerome B. Thomas                      Nov.  1888 -  Mar. 1907

Col. A. J. Clark                                     Apr.   1907 - Mar. 1912

Col. William J. White                          Apr.   1912 - Oct. 1920

Col. Fred E. Bury                                 Nov.   1920 - Dec. 1921

Col. Fred  J. Runkle                             Jan.     1922 - Oct. 1934

Col. Charles W. Spofford                   Nov.   1934 - Mar. 1941

Col. John H. Ale                                   Apr.    1941 - May 1952

Mr. Bert C. Moore                               June    1952 - Mar. 1954

Mr. John I. Spreckelmyer                   May    1954 - July 1955

Mr. John C. Phillips                             Aug  . 1955 -  Dec. 1958

Mr. Ray Q. Bumgarner                       Jan.     1959 -  Apr. 1971

Dr. Robert A. Allen (Act’g) May    1971-   Sept. 1971

Mr. W. G. Hitchings                             Oct.     1971 -  Present

 

MEDICAL AND SURGICAL HISTORY

 

     Medical and surgical services have been the chief justification for an institution of this kind. The story of medical progress is difficult to record completely because it is so extensive.  In 1875, special wards were established in the Home Hospital for the blind and epileptic; and in 1881, wards were organized for mental cases.  The first interns were admitted for training in 1884, with the proviso that they pay their own expenses.  On March 31, 1880, provisions were made for full-time paid nurses, but there were no women nurses until some time after 1891.  As late as 1910, there were 6 doctors, 12 nurses, and approximately 25 full-time attendants.  Today there are 39 full-time doctors, 42 resident physicians, 15 consultant physicians, 9 dentists, 168 registered nurses, 72 practical nurses, and 245 nursing assistants.  The Dayton Hospital is accredited by the American Hospital Association.

     In 1900, alcoholism was the most prevalent disease, and the treatment very much in vogue was the Keeley Cure.  In 1904, the first TB ward was constructed, and arteriosclerosis replaced alcoholism as the most prevalent disease treated.  TB continued to be a growing concern and in 1922 a 250-bed tuberculosis unit was constructed and was known as Thomas Hospital.

     As the need for more hospital beds increased, a vigorous campaign was put on by Congressman Roy Fitzgerald for a new hospital.  Dayton got its new hospital and it was dedicated on June 21, 1931.  Brown Hospital, named in honor of Colonel Edwin F. Brown, provided beds for 900 patients.  However, again with medical advancement and research, hospital beds have been decreased, and some of the space has been allocated to ancillary services.  Presently, Brown Hospital accommodates 535 patients.

     Section 23 was converted to Patrick Hospital in 1950.  This hospital accommodates 168 patients who are classified as geriatric long term.  With the advancement of medicine and the many new drugs, the extended hospitalization for TB had been reduced.  Thomas Hospital was closed in 1958, with the remaining patients being transferred to Ward 4, Brown Hospital.

     In 1962, a law was passed by Congress authorizing 4,000 nursing home care beds in the Veterans Administration.  One of the first such units was opened at this Center on April 1, 1965.  Presently this unit has a 240-bed capacity.

     Probably one of the greatest advancements for upgrading the medical and surgical programs of the VA was the Dean’s Committee Plan.  It has been generally accepted that the best medical treatment and hospital care are provided in an environment where the spirit of inquiry and investigation exists in combination with a genuine interest in both teaching and learning. According to the plan, the school of medicine accepts advisory responsibilities for all medical education and training programs conducted therein.  The VA retains full responsibility for the care of patients.

     The Dean’s Committee Plan was initiated in Dayton in 1947 with an affiliation with the College of Medicine of the University of Cincinnati.  In 1952, this affiliation was discontinued and an affiliation with the College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, was started.  This program is still active.  The Dean’s Committee Plan put the Veterans Administration Hospital service on a plane with the best in the country, or as it is sometimes described, “second to none.”

     At this Center, resident physicians in training will average approximately 40 per year in the following approved programs: general surgery, internal medicine, radiology, urology, and pathology.  In addition, there is also a Dental Internship.

     The mid and late forties saw the hospital program developing into many separate specialties.  In May 1946, the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service was established.  In the same year Special Services was established with following component parts: Recreation, Library, Canteen, and Chaplains.  In 1961, Special Services as a separate entity was abolished but these services were continued: Recreation became a part of the PM& R Service; Library, Chaplains, and Voluntary Service, in all essence, became separate services under the direction of the Chief of Staff.  Social Work Service became a separate specialty in 1946.  Many of the other services as known today were initiated or organized about that time.

     As mentioned earlier, one of the objectives of the Board of Managers was to provide workshops to learn trades for employment.  This objective has been carried out in some form throughout the years.

 

RECREATION

 

     Recreation activities have been very much a part of the total plan for the care of the veterans and merit a few words of special attention.  Throughout the years it was common to have vocal and instrumental concerts, magic shows, dramatic performances, and lectures.  The music clubs and choruses from the city, as well as name traveling groups, rendered these services.

     Some of the notable performers to entertain the veterans were Sara Bernhardt, Helen Tracey, Stuart Robson, William H. Crane, Robert Downing, Robert Mantell, Al Fields, Fannie Brice, and many others.

     Special mention should be made of the band and orchestra organized in 1870 by Michael Miller.  The band was continued under various leaders until 1933.  During the early 1900’s, it was ranked as one of the best bands in the country.  In the summer time it was common to have a concert in the band pagoda every night.

     At one time there was a Deer Park with 50 to 60 domesticated deer.  There was an alligator pond with two or three alligators, and menagerie contained bears, wolves, foxes, raccoons, and rabbits.  All of these outside attractions have disappeared with time.

     There were many gala occasions in those early days.  On Sundays it was common for many of the local citizens to come to the beautiful grounds for picnics and other festivities.  Memorial Day and Fourth of July were celebrated with such enthusiasm that festivities would last for the total day.  Visitors in large numbers came from all sections of the country to enjoy the festivities.

     Recreation continues to be a very active program for the domiciled and hospitalized veteran.  The new Recreation building was completed in June 1959.  The building covers 45,000 square feet of floor space.  There is a 30 1/2-foot movie screen in the auditorium which seats 710 persons and has space for 50 wheelchairs.  The multipurpose room can be divided into three separate areas for recreation and religious purposes.

     There are eight bowling lanes, four with automatic pinsetters, and a pool room.

     The south wing includes offices, a volunteer lounge, and a serving kitchen.  The east wing has four  music rooms and the Sentinel Office.  On the east end, the building is connected with a corridor to Section 18 and to Section 20.  Therefore, members from Section 18,20, and The Nursing Home may attend activities in the Recreation Building without going outside.

 

THE BUILDING PROGRAM

 

     Probably the most remarkable aspects during early days was the building program.  The original buildings on the purchase site were the only structures available for use when the first group arrived from Camp Chase.  The farm home became the officers’ quarters.  The log cabin became the official headquarters, and the barn was the first mess hall.  Wooden buildings, built of Camp Chase lumber, were soon erected as barracks.

     Out of necessity, the first permanent building authorized was the Home Hospital.  This took place on June 14, 1868; construction started almost immediately, and the hospital was dedicated in May 1870.  This building cost over $200,000 and accommodated 300 patients.  It was believed to be one of the best constructed and best furnished hospitals in the country in its day.  This three-story brick building was enlarged in 1866 to accommodate a total of 450 patients.  Eventually the old Home Hospital was converted into a barracks for domiciliary members, and was to be known as Company 6.  Nevertheless, in all references it is worthy of note that the building does not seem to have ever been known by any other name than the Home Hospital.

     The first chapel built for veterans, and reported to be the first permanent place of worship constructed by the Government, was started on November 21, 1868.  It was dedicated on October 26, 1870.  The basement of the church was finished in order to be a society hall.  Legend reports that a meeting was held each evening by one of the associations of the home.  The chapel has been remodeled several times with the last major renovation in 1947.  This is the oldest permanent building remaining from those first built in the early days.  The next oldest building is the Administration Annex, Building No. 116, and might be remembered by many as the Domiciliary Headquarters.

     Construction continued at a rapid rate.  A dining hall with a seating capacity of 1,100 was opened and dedicated December 25, 1874.  A brick laundry and bathhouse was built.  Many wooden barracks were constructed rapidly to accommodate the influx of veterans each year.  By 1877, there were 132 buildings, mostly barracks.

     The Music Hall was built without cost to the Government through donations, and was dedicated in 1878.  Destroyed by fire in May 1880, the Board of Governors authorized funds to rebuild an Amusement Hall. It became known as Memorial Hall and had a seating capacity of 1,600 when dedicated on November 7, 1881.  Many well-known actors and actresses performed at Memorial Hall.  A separate section was reserved for members who were permitted into any of the public performances for ten cents.

     This historical Memorial Hall withstood the batterings of time, wind, and weather for seven and a half decades.  In March 1955, the doors were barricaded as the engineers declared it unsafe.  At least two U. S. Presidents and many high military leaders had watched performances from its boxes.  On Sunday, June 21, 1959, a new 1.5 million dollar Recreation Building was dedicated to replace Memorial Hall.

     In 1879, a hotel was built on the grounds to accommodate the many visitors.  It was located just west of the present Miller Cottage site.  In 1830, the hotel was converted to a women’s residence for about 40 women veterans.  Then in 1938, a new brick residence for women was completed and named Miller Cottage in honor of Mrs. Emma Miller.  The old hotel was razed in 1939.

     The authorities realized this new venture into care of veterans would be a lasting thing and looked to the future with the thought of furnishing barracks that would also have enduring qualities.  In 1879, three such barracks were built of brick, and in most recent history were known as Sections 13, 15, and 16.  These served for eighty years until they, too, were razed in 1959.

     These brick buildings were the forerunners of others to come.  The older wooden barracks which originally faced the parade grounds were demolished.  Building 401, or Section 3, was constructed in 1899 and Section 1 in 1900.  Closely following this building project came section 7, which was built in 1902, followed in 1903 with Section 8.

     Water was initially provided from the lake across the present Gettysburg Avenue.  Later water was obtained form what, in those days, was known as the Wagner Wells, located near the McCall factory.  There were 14 of these wells which supplied the needs of the home from 1886 util the development of the Dayton City Water system in 1918.  In 1932 a water softening plant was added.  The first water tower built in 1883, which was located on the eastern edge of Section 7, was replaced with a new water tower in 1950.

     In 1890, the beginning of the construction of the vast underground system of tunnels that carry water, heat, and light to every point of the station was started.  They are about six feet square.  Telephone lines, radio lines, and sewer systems were installed in the later days.  The tunnels were extended to Thomas Hospital in 1921, the tuberculosis annex, and to Brown Hospital in 1931.

     Resident quarters were built throughout the century for employees.  The oldest single residence remaining was built in 1871, and is occupied by the Catholic chaplains.  Several duplex residence quarters were build it 1921 and 1932.  The last resident quarters built were temporary quarters (quonset huts) in 1947 to meet the nurses’ housing problems.  The quonset huts were eventually converted to storage areas.

     An extensive rebuilding program was initiated during the depression in order to take up the slack in unemployment.  Many of the frame and brick buildings in the central square were razed to make way for the Domiciliary Dining Hall, Sections 18 and 20, and Section 23, which is presently Patrick Hospital.  All of these were erected between 1934 and 1941.  In 1937, the present Administration Building was completed.

     Up until 1940, a local fire fighting unit was maintained.  But, at that time, an arrangement was made with the City of Dayton whereby the services of the Dayton Fire–Fighting Corps were contracted for, and has since furnished the necessary protection for the center and its inhabitants.

     Following this concentrated rebuilding program, isolated facilities were replaced.  The present laundry was completed in 1957.

     The latest major reconstruction was started in July 1961.  The old powerhouse, built in 1896, had succumbed to present day advancement.  This old powerhouse, in addition to producing all the steam and hot water used at the Center, produced D. C. electrical power for the Center.  It also had a standby A. C. generator for emergency use.  The new powerhouse was completed in 1963.  It is strictly a steam plant and produces no electricity.   All electrical power is now purchased from the Dayton Power and Light Company.  A contract presently in progress is converting the boiler from coal to oil.

     Volumes could be written on the building and rebuilding program.  It is certainly not the intent to leave unmentioned such landmarks as the Library, the Greenhouse, the Security Headquarters  (which incidentally contained a bar from 1886 to 1907),  the Post Office, and the Store.  At the present time there are some 83 separate structures on the Dayton VA grounds, with approximately one-third of them built before the turn of the century.

 

THE CEMETERY

 

     In the cemetery today are interred the remains of more than 22,285 veterans from the Mexican War, War of 1812, Civil War, Indian War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam era.  The first burial was that of the Civil War veteran, Cornelius Solly, September 11, 1867.  The last veteran of the Civil War buried here was Theodore Witte, February 13, 1947.  The last veteran of the Mexican War buried here was Josiah Pence, October 9, 1914; and the last veteran of the War of 1812 buried here was Peter Miller, December 27, 1889.

     As previously mentioned, a soldier’s monument was erected in honor of all soldiers in 1877.  This monument was completed at a later date.  The monument can easily be seen as one enters the cemetery, a ten-foot statue of a private soldier of the Civil War at parade rest, and surrounded at the foot by four figures representing the Infantry, the Cavalry, the Artillery, and the Navy.

 

THERAPEUTIC ASSIGNMENTS

 

     Believing that men everywhere are more healthy, contented, and happy when they have something to do, it has been the policy of the management to encourage therapeutic assignments.  In the early days, every suitable kind of workshop was established.  The first authorized was a printing shop on June 14, 1868.  The Board of Managers allocated $1,500 for this project.  Much of the early construction was done by the members.  Farming, gardening, and food preparation were done by the members.  On March 30, 1876, Col. E. F. Brown issued an order requiring inmate employees to work ten hours per day.

     However, as the members became older, more of the work had to be done by civilian employees.  In 1886, there were 86 civilian employees and 113 a year later.  Presently there are approximately 1,700 full time and part-time employees.

     The concept of the early days has been carried out in the domiciliary.  Approximately 80% of the members are on some type of therapeutic assignment.

 

ENROLLMENT

 

     With the arrival of the first 450 soldiers in September 1867, the home grew rapidly.  In 1867 there were 616; 1,320 in 1868; 1,954 in 1870; 2,255 in 1871; 2,426 in 1872; 2,664 in 1873; 3,255 in 1874.  The number continued to increase to the high point of its history in the year 1896, when there were 7,141.

     Since this peak year, the enrollment has decreased.  The greatest decrease came during the depression years.  The Economy Act of 1933 not only reduced pensions and cut down the staff, but sent many veterans out into the world to shift for themselves.  The Bonus Act of 1936 further reduced enrollment.  The domiciliary enrollment was down to approximately 1,000.  However, the number soon increased to about 3,000.

     The present domiciliary has an authorized bed capacity of 1,070, which includes one 87-bed section for female veterans.  There is also a Nursing Home Care Unit with a bed capacity of 240.  The hospitals provide care for some 6,000 admissions per year.  The total bed capacity of the Dayton VA Center is 2,153.