Wisconsin Soldiers' Home
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to learn more about our new marker and the dedication event.
Thanks to our friends at Badger Fence for the installation.

Read a history and chronology on our Historic Milwaukee VA website.
And Read the March 15, 2013, blog post on Preservation Nation.


A Service to the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center
Managed and funded by the West Side S.A.S.


Col. Edwin L. Buttrick
Edwin Lorenzo Buttrick was born into a distinguished American family on August 5, 1824, in Boston, Massachusetts. His grandfather, Major John Buttrick of Concord, owned and defended the land around Concord Bridge against the British in 1775.

After attending Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, Buttrick moved to Wisconsin, serving as a Court Commissioner and practicing law in Algoma with partner Alexander Spaulding. These young men advertised themselves in Oshkosh newspapers as Commissioners for the State of New York. After marrying Fanny Burling, a young New Yorker living in Green Lake, Buttrick moved to Milwaukee. He became an active member of the Young Men’s Literarary Association, helping to maintain a reading room and library as well as hosting a lecture series which featured Henry Ward Beecher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, Horace Mann, Herman Melville, Carl Schurz, Rufus King and Increase Lapham.

Buttrick was active in state politics, serving as Adjutant General for the State of Wisconsin. As Adjutant General, he prepared the manual of military laws for volunteers and swore in the members of the 1st and 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. In 1861 he was elected a Republican delegate to the state convention and became a candidate for Attorney General. He also ran for Lieutenant Governor.

In 1862 Buttrick was appointed Lt. Colonel of the 24th Wisconsin only to resign the commission after a conflict with Col. Charles Larrabee. Buttrick was noted for his attention to detail and his cordial manner. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported that Buttrick was to be named Colonel of the 1st Wisconsin, but in 1864 he was appointed Colonel of the 39th Wisconsin, a hundred days regiment. These regiments were mustered in from state militias to allow the regular volunteers serving on garrison duty to be transferred to General Sherman at Atlanta. Buttrick and the 39th Wisconsin, as well as the 40th and 41st, were mustered in at Camp Washburn, Milwaukee, and sent to Memphis, Tennessee. His wife Fanny—regarded as the “mother of the 39th”—accompanied him. Before returning to Wisconsin, the 39th saw some action during Forrest’s raid on Memphis. A number of his men received shelter and medical care at the Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home on West Water Street where Fanny served as one of the Lady Managers. Some of the 39th who died at the Home in late 1864 were buried at Forest Home Cemetery.

Buttrick took an active interest in the promotion of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home and the 1865 Soldiers’ Home Fair, enlisting sponsors, speaking to civic and business organizations, hosting entertainments at his home and serving as floor manager for one of the grand balls. Buttrick’s post-War endeavors included the Mineral Point Mining Company, railroad development and a peat machine, for which he was granted a patent. In 1867 he was elected vestryman at St. James Episcopal Church. In that same year, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that he and his wife had departed for Europe to attend the Paris Exposition. It is not clear whether or not he returned to Milwaukee after the trip. The Buttricks are as listed as residents Ceredo, West Virginia, where Edwin remained, remarrying following Fanny’s death in 1871. Jane Bigelow, Buttrick’s second wife, bore him at least one child. In 1900 he was listed as the first person in West Virginia to have a natural gas hook-up to his home.

There are few GAR references to Buttrick, but he does appear in rosters of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). He had one failed bid for Congress from the state of West Virginia. Buttrick died on November 9, 1909, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery near Worcester, Massachusetts.

Milwaukee Sentinel
January 11, 1865
Permanent Soldiers Home.
Interesting meeting at the Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting was called to order by John Plankinton, Esq., Chairman of the Advisory Committee, who stated the object of the meeting. He was followed by Col. E. L. Buttrick, who spoke eloquently of the sufferings of the brave soldiers, and of the destitute conditions as regards finances in which they usually come home. He recounted the many blessings which a Soldiers’ Home bestows upon the “noble boys in blue” and the weighty considerations which press upon us for the establishment of a permanent commodious retreat for the legless and armless heroes who come home from the war with scarcely body enough to contain their souls. He thought the people of Wisconsin, who had already given more in proportion to their numbers and capital than any other State, would gladly contribute a sufficient sum to establish a Soldiers’ Home that should be a glory to our city and State.

Contributed by Patrick J. Lynch

Fanny Burling Buttrick
It is no oversight that the inscription on Fanny Buttrick’s headstone in Forest Home Cemetery reads only “Rest.” She lived her life with a determination and intensity that some of her contemporaries considered “abnormal.” (History of Milwaukee Wisconsin, 1881)

Born in New York City in 1831, she was educated at Leroy Female Seminary near Rochester. One of the first institutions to offer a college curriculum for the education of young ladies, Leroy Seminary was in the heart of New York’s “burned over” district, the birthplace of several religious and social movements, including woman’s suffrage. Shortly after completing her education and movingto Wisconsin, she married Edwin L. Buttrick, Esq., who served the State as Judge Advocate General at the beginning of the Civil War and as an officer with the 24th and 39th Wisconsin regiments.

Fanny lived comfortably in Milwaukee, employing three servants, but became increasingly interested in the young city’s charitable organizations. She was one of the first officers of the Soldiers’ Home organized in March 1864 and traveled with her husband during both of his terms of service. While with the 39th Wisconsin in Memphis, Tennessee, July-September 1864, she corresponded almost feverishly with Lydia Hewitt, describing her adventures, her insights on the Sanitary Commission and the plight of her beloved boys. She was especially concerned about the strain on the resources of the Milwaukee Soldiers’Home pending the transfer of 50-60 sick from the 39th Wisconsin alone.

During the 1865 Soldiers Home Fair, Fanny was described as the “High Priestess” or “Nymph” of the Floral Temple, having designed a hall “gorgeous with bud and blossom, and redolent with the perfumes of a thousand flowers.” (Milwaukee Sentinel, May 18, 1865) This light side was not uncharacteristic. She wrote of the joys of horseback riding with Lydia and staging festive entertainments. Col. Buttrick was often in demand as a floor manager at balls.
In the years following the fair, the minutes of the Board of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home mention Fanny in relation to one of her “boys,” but there is no record of either woman in relation to the operation of the Home after Lydia Hewitt’s resignation from the Board in April 1866.

While at the 1867 Paris Exposition with her husband, Fanny contracted a pulmonary disease, resulting in her death on December 27, 1871, just days after her 40th birthday. Her body was returned to Milwaukee from Ceredo, West Virginia, for the December 31 funeral at St. James Episcopal Church. She was buried in Forest Home Cemetery, not far from the Soldiers’ Home plot. The ragged throng of strangers at her funeral gave a glimpse into her hidden life of charity. Only a few intimate friends had discovered by accident her secret ministrations at the City Poor House, the County Hospital and other places “equally forbidding.” Next to her headstone is a small eroded marker with the single word, “Minnie.” Cemetery records hold no clues about the child buried there in 1869.

Contributed by Patricia Lynch

Hannah Ring Vedder
Hannah Ring Vedder was born at Utica, New York, on September 24, 1839, the oldest child of Angelina Moulton and Jonathan Lovering Peirce. In 1849 she moved with her parents to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and, since 1852, lived in the same house, at 199–10th Street, now known as the corner of 10th and West Wells.1

Hannah was a graduate of Milwaukee Female College, later known as Milwaukee-Downer College, and now as the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Hannah married Albert Henry Vedder in 1860.2 Albert was born in New York City in 1834, and was the proprietor of a grocery store at the corner of Wells Street and West Water Street,3 now known as Wells and North Plankinton Avenue. Albert died in 1869, and Hannah lived in her family home at 199–10th Street until her death in 1910.

I could find no mention of Hannah and Albert having children. Perhaps that is why she was able to devote her life to a wide variety of civic causes. Her work began during the Civil War when she helped with soldiers’ relief work. She was also involved with the creation of the Soldiers’ Home in Milwaukee, serving as secretary with Mrs. Byron Kilbourn as president and Mrs. S.J. Hooker as treasurer.4 She also was part of the group that ran the immense fair that raised money to buy land for a permanent soldiers’ home.
The following entry in the Memoirs of Milwaukee County describes Hannah’s role in the founding of the Soldiers’ Home:

[S]he early became a member of the association for relief of soldiers’ families , and upon the organization of the Soldiers’ Home Society, Dec. 15, 1862, she was chosen as one of the vice-presidents. [Sic: The society formed in 1862 was the West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society, an auxiliary of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Aid Society.] This society continued its very successful work as an aid society until March 1, 1864, when it severed its connection with the old organization [Wisconsin Soldiers’ Aid Society] and reorganized as Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home Society, appropriating the funds belonging to the other society as a basis for the establishment of a home for the accommodation of soldiers returning on furlough, or discharged from the service and others returning to their regiments without means to pay their hotel expenses. Mrs. Vedder was elected a member of the first board of directresses of this organization and was prominent in the work that followed and which resulted in the establishment of the Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home — an institution that now stands as a monument to the loyalty and heroism of the noble women of the Cream City.5

Later in life Hannah was involved in many other causes. She worked with Mrs. William Pitt Lynde as a founder of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Girls. The school was organized in 1875. Hannah was elected member of the school committee and served in many capacities, including acting president for seven years.6

In 1892 Hannah became president of the Milwaukee College Endowment association and increased membership from a few to 700. Her goal was for the Milwaukee College to become a practical university for women.7

Because her ancestors were in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, she was a member of the DAR and the Daughters of 1812. She was also a member of the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin and a promoter of the Athenaeum. In 1896 she formed the Wisconsin State Federation of Women’s Clubs.8

Hannah Vedder died in her home on March 4, 1910, after suffering a stroke several days earlier. Her sister, Mrs. Julia E. Ely, and a brother, J. Franklin Peirce of Milwakee, survived her. Her funeral service was held on March 7, 1910, in the home where she had lived since arriving in Milwaukee as a child. She was buried in Forest Home Cemetery.

Hannah’s death was noted in local newspapers in which she was memorialized as “…one of the most prominent women in the city in philanthropic, church and club work.”9

Contributed by Marsha Berenson

 1. The Evening Wisconsin, March 5, 1910
 2. Ibid.
 3. Memoirs of Milwaukee County, p. 596
 4. The Evening Wisconsin, March 5, 1910.
 5. Memoirs of Milwaukee County, p. 597.
 6. Annual Reports of the Industrial School for Girls. Published by State Records in office of the school.
 6. The Evening Wisconsin, March 5, 1910.
 7. Ibid.
 8. Ibid.
 9. The Milwaukee Daily News, March 5, 1910.
 Additional Resources

Attie, Jeanie, Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Barker, Brett, Exploring Civil War Wisconsin: A Survival Guide for Researchers. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2003.

Berquist, Goodwin, and Paul C. Bowers, Jr., Byron Kilbourn and the Development of Milwaukee. Milwaukee County Historical Society, 2001.

Conklin, Eileen, ed., The Journal of Women’s Civil War History: From the Home Front to the Front Lines. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 2001.

Corbett, Elizabeth, Out at the Soldiers’ Home: A Memory Book. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1941. Expanded edition by Patricia Lynch, May 2008. Buy it now!

Flowers, Frank, History of Milwaukee, 1881.

Giesberg, Judith Ann, Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2000.

Gordon, Beverly, Bazaars and Fair Ladies: The History of the American Fundraising Fair. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1998.

Gurda, John, The Making of Milwaukee. Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999. See also www.themakingofmilwaukee.com and DVD, 2006.

Gurda, John, “Our historic Soldiers Home should not fade away,”Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, June 5, 2005.

Hurn, Ethel Alice, Wisconsin Women in the War Between the States. Madison: Wisconsin History Commission, 1911.

Kehoe, Karen A., "'An Honor to the Age': Women's Work, Heroism, and the Civil War,"  Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.

Kehoe, Karen A., "'Not a Moment for Delay': Benevolence in Wisconsin during the Civil War," Dissertation, Marquette University, 2003.

Kelly, Patrick J., Creating a National Home: Building the Veterans’ Welfare State, 1860-1890. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Langill, Ellen D., Foley & Lardner: Attorneys at Law, 1842-1992. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1992.

Langill, Ellen D., “Speaking with an Equal Voice: The Reform Efforts of Milwaukee’s Mary Blanchard Lynde,” Wisconsin Magazine of History, Autumn 2003.

Logue, Larry M. and Michael Barton, eds., The Civil War Veteran: A Historical Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2007.

Marten, James, The Children’s Civil War. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Marten, James, “A Place of Great Beauty, Improved by Man: The Soldiers’ Home and Victorian Milwaukee,” in Milwaukee History, Spring 1999. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee County Historical Society.

Marten, James, “Exempt from the Ordinary Rules of Life: Researching Postwar Adjustment Problems of Union Veterans,”Civil War History, March 2001.

Milwaukee County Historical Society. Photographs, Soldiers’ Home Fair Journal, Annual Reports and By-Laws of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home.

Milwaukee Public Library, Central Branch. Microfilmed issues of the Milwaukee Sentinel, 1863-1882.

Palmer, Mrs. L. H., “War Work of Wisconsin Women in the Civil War,” address to the Sauk County Historical Society, Spring 1919.

Plante, Trevor K., “The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers,”Prologue, Spring 2004. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration.

Richard, Patricia L., Busy Hands: Images of the Family in the Northern Civil War Effort. New York: Fordham University Press, 2003.

Rosenberg, R.B., Living Monuments: Confederate Soldiers' Homes in the New South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Shaffer, Donald R., After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Archives, John Conway Collection, records of the Young Men's Association and Grand Avenue Congregational Church collection.

Zablocki VA Medical Center Library. Photographs, annual reports, and ephemera. (Limited access to materials by appointment only.)
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