Soldiers Home
of Dayton, Ohio

Information about the
Central Branch of the National Military Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
known today as the Dayton VA Medical Center

Return to Carolyn's Genealogy Page

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Aerial scene of the National
Soldier's Home

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Bird's eye view of
the Campus in 1898

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Gardens and Lake
in 1885

History of the Soldier's Home

Near the end of the Civil War in 1864, it was estimated that by the close of hostilities there would be over 100,000 men from the Union Army who would be unable to return to civilian employment. On March 3, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers to care for these disabled veterans of the Union Army. The Central Branch of the National Home, located approximately 3 miles west of the city of Dayton on 355 acres of farmland, was opened in September 1867. At its inception the Central Branch was the largest branch of the National Soldiers Home system. Records indicate that the largest number of veterans cared for in a year was 7,092 in 1898. The largest number of veterans present was 5,033 in 1897. The number of visitors to the Central Branch swelled to 669,059 in 1910, which is the last year the count of visitors is available.

Early administrators were not content to provide merely living quarters for the disabled veterans. From the outset, officers and administrators sought to provide religious, intellectual and recreational activities for the men in residence. The grounds were initially laid out by Chaplain Thomas B. Van Horne and were maintained by the veteran patients. Lakes surrounded by miles of strolling paths and scenic walks provided a pastoral setting for rehabilitation and relaxation. For more than 80 years, the facility and its lavishly landscaped grounds were a showplace and attracted over 350,000 visitors per year.

The hospital of the Central Branch was the first hospital completed in Montgomery County, dedicated in May of 1870. The Home Hospital was a marvel of innovative and progressive design with interior steam operated elevators, indoor plumbing and steam heat.

The Protestant Chapel was started in 1868 and was completed soon after the hospital dedication in 1870. Built of stone quarried on the property and built by the veterans themselves, the Chapel is the first religious structure paid for by the Federal Government. The first chaplain, William Earnshaw, was an early leader taking and active part in the workings of the home. Earnshaw was the first librarian, at first gather in a collection of military history books. In October 1868, Earnshaw announced the donation of a large library by Mrs. Mary Lowell Putnam of Massachusetts. By the turn of the century, the Patients' Library ranked among the best and most heavily used libraries in the state.

Ten years after its founding, by 1877, the facility had been transformed into a city with 132 buildings, many of which had running water, steam heat and gas lighting. There were six and one-half miles of road, two miles of gravel walkway, many wells and four lakes. The facility also boasted a 250 acre farm which provided much of the produce consumed by the patients.

In July 1930, the National Soldiers Home system was dismantled and consolidated into the newly formed Veterans Administration. A new hospital, Col. Edwin Brown Hospital, named for an early administrator of the site, was dedicated in 1931 replacing the old Home Hospital. An extensive construction program resulted from the depression and the government program of public works. Many of the frame and brick buildings dating from the earliest years of the Central Branch were razed to make way for a new mess hall, and new domiciliary buildings. Among the changes, the old snorers barracks, used to accommodate "loud sleepers" disappeared. All in all, several million dollars were spent renovating the grounds and constructing new buildings through this period.

Patrick Hospital, originally built in 1940 as a domiciliary, was converted to a geriatric hospital in 1950. The Dayton VA Medical Center was among the early Veterans Administration providers of nursing home care as mandated by an executive order signed by President John Kennedy.

Since 1974, the Dayton VA Medical Center has been affiliated with the Wright State University School of Medicine. The VA currently serves as the principal teaching hospital for Wright State University's Department of Medicine and as a major contributor for the Departments of Surgery, Dermatology, and Neurology. The VA is also affilicated with the University of Cincinnati for residency training in Psychiatry.

In 1989, the Veterans Administration was yet again re-named and restructured by presidential action. Today, the Dayton VA Medical Center is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and provides care for veterans in a multi-county area of Ohio and Indiana. The Medical Center is located on over 300 acres of land and the facility includes a general medical, surgical and psychiatric hospital; a nursing home; and domiciliary. Comprehensive medical programs in medicine, surgery, neurology, psychiatry, rehabilitative medicine and dentistry are available to today's veterans.

The Dining Hall

The following picture of the Dining Hall at the National Soldiers Home, taken in 1902, was contributed by Donna M. St. Felix of Dayton.


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Dining Hall at
National Soldiers Home

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Inscription on
back of picture
 

Recent Pictures

These pictures were taken by Carolyn Johnson Burns in the Dayton National Cemetery in August 2000.

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Soldiers' Memorial

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View from the hill.

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Rows of white headstones.

Newspaper Articles and Miscellaneous Pictures

In an effort to help preserve the memory of the Central Branch of the National Military Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton, following are articles about the Home and its veterans. These articles have been transcribed from Dayton-area newspapers, and most contain pictures that have been copied with a digital camera.

Miscellaneous Pictures:

Online Burial Records for the Dayton National Cemetery

Burial records for Dayton National Cemetery are available online through the following web sites. These web sites do not contain complete lists.

  • Interment.net
    Although more than 36,000 records are available on this site, the database only includes burials that are on file with the Veterans Administration. Access to the database is free. Records include dates of birth, death, and burial, branch of service, plot, and last known residence. Records were obtained from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Findagrave.com
    In many cases, this site contains pictures of headstones.

Click here for a Map of the Dayton National Cemetery.

Veterans from the War of 1812 Buried in Dayton National Cemetery

In September 1936, the Ohio Society United States Daughters 1812 dedicated a Memorial at the Dayton National Cemetery to honor the veterans of the War of 1812 who were buried in the cemetery. The names of these veterans below are linked to their Military Home Register.

Dayton Soldiers Home Register of Members, 1867-1935

The military home records for disabled veteran soldiers are available by submitting a research request. If you believe you have an ancestor who may have lived in the Dayton Soldiers Home or may be buried in the Dayton National Cemetery, you can submit a research request to Carolyn Burns, Genealogist at carolynjburns@woh.rr.com.

Partial List from Dayton Soldiers Home Register of Members

1880 Federal Census of the National Military Home in Dayton

Transcribed from the top of the census page:

"Inhabitants in National Military Home, in the County of Montgomery, State of Ohio, Jefferson Township, enumerated by me on the 1st day of June, 1880. Central Branch Liberty. William Furey, Enumerator."

The 1880 census of the National Soldiers Home can be viewed free through Ancestry.com. The census begins on page 585 and ends on page 624.

Other Branches of the National Military Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

Some of the following historic information was obtained from a document titled National Home For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers - Letter from the Secretary of War Transmitting Report of an Inspection of the Several Branches of The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, by an Officer of the Inspector General's Department, published December 8, 1926. The document is available at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third Street, Dayton, OH 45402.

There were ten branches of the National Military Home, including the Central Branch in Dayton and one National Sanitarium. All eleven facilities are described here in the order in which they were opened.

  • EASTERN BRANCH (Maine)
    The Eastern Branch, the first branch of the National Military Home, was established by an act of Congress approved on March 21, 1866 and was opened in 1866. By 1926, the facility consisted of 52 buildings, including 7 barracks, 2 hospital buildings, and 43 other buildings. The facility, which also housed officers and employees, was acquired by purchase at a cost of $23,900, and operates today as the Togus VA Medical Center. For more information see: Eastern Branch.
  • CENTRAL BRANCH (Ohio)
    The Central Branch, one of the first three National Military Homes established by an act of Congress approved on March 21, 1866, was opened in 1867. By 1926, it comprised 578.87 acres, located a few miles west of Dayton. There were 137 buildings, including 13 barracks, 16 hospital buildings, and 108 other buildings including quarters for officers and employees. In addition, the Central Branch operated an annex for the treatment of tuberculosis. The land was acquired by purchase at a cost of $88,445.30, and the facility now operates as the Dayton VA Medical Center. For more information see: Central Branch.
  • NORTHWESTERN BRANCH (Wisconsin)
    The Northwestern Branch was established in 1867 under authority of an act of Congress approved March 21, 1966. It was located four miles west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was one of the first three to be opened of the original three branches. The facility comprised 382.25 acres by 1926, including 71 buildings--5 barracks, 2 hospital buildings, and 64 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. A hospital annex had been set up for the care and treatment of tuberculosis, and in the membership of 1926, there were five ex-service women who were cared for in a private ward of the tuberculosis hospital called Annex No. 1. The facility is known today as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. For more information see: Northwestern Branch.
  • SOUTHERN BRANCH (Virginia)
    The Southern Branch was established in 1870, under authority of an act of Congress approved March 21, 1856, and comprised 85.36 acres. There were 68 buildings by 1926, including 11 barracks, 5 hospital buildings, and 52 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by purchase at a cost of $154,000 and operates today as the Hampton VA Medical Center. For more information, see: Southern Branch.
  • WESTERN BRANCH (Kansas)
    The Western Branch was established in 1884 by authority of an act of Congress approved July 5, 1884, and comprised 644.5 acres in 1926. It was located in Leavenworth County, Kansas. There were 66 buildings by 1926, including 13 barracks, 1 hospital, 1 tuberculosis annex, and 51 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by donation with the exception of 4 1/5 acres, which cost $5,650. The Western Branch is now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medical Center. For more information see: Western Branch.
  • PACIFIC BRANCH (California)
    The Pacific Branch was established in 1888 by an act of Congress, approved March 2, 1887. The facility comprised 675.5 acres by 1926 and was located in Los Angeles County, California about four miles east of Santa Monica. There were 99 buildings on the grounds, including 12 frame barracks, 5 hospital buildings, and 82 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by donation and exchange, and cost the United States nothing. In 1926, a hospital annex had been set up for the care and treatment of tuberculosis. The facility exists today as the Sawtelle Veterans Home located in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. For more information see: Pacific Branch.
  • DANVILLE (Illinois)
    The Danville Branch was established in 1898 by authority of an act of Congress approved June 4, 1897. Located in Danville, Illinois, it comprised 324.56 acres by 1926. There were 57 buildings on the grounds, including 14 barracks, 1 hospital, and 42 other buildings, which included quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by purchase at a cost of $45,961.26. The facility now operates as the VA Illiana Health Care System. For more information see: Danville Branch.
  • MOUNTAIN BRANCH (Tennessee)
    The Mountain Branch National Sanatorium near Johnson City, Tennessee was established in 1903 by authority of an act of Congress approved January 28, 1901 and comprised 447.48 acres. By 1926, the statement was made that "facilities of the Mountain Branch have for the past several years been utilized exclusively for the care and treatment of members who have tuberculosis." Due to a decrease in membership late in 1926, the Board of Managers was instructed to reopen the home for domiciliary members as soon as possible. The facility consisted of 59 buildings, including 5 barracks, 4 hospital buildings, and 50 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by purchase at a cost of $29,356.50 and operates today as Mountain Home VA Medical Center. For more information see: Mountain Branch.
  • BATTLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL SANITARIUM (South Dakota)
    This branch was established in April 1907 under an act of Congress approved May 29, 1902. The facility comprised 101.36 acres by 1926 and was located in Hot Springs, Fall River County, South Dakota. There were 28 buildings on the grounds, including 6 hospital buildings and 22 other buildings. Sixty-seven acres of the land were acquired by donation and 34.36 acres were purchased at a cost of $18,452.81. In 1926, a hospital annex had been set up for the care and treatment of tuberculosis. Battle Mountain Sanitarium was the first and only National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers built solely as a short-term sanitarium for veterans with lung or respiratory problems, not as a long-term home. Today the facility is part of the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System. For more information see: Battle Mountain Branch.
  • MARION BRANCH (Indiana)
    The Marion Branch, which, in 1926, was conducted solely as a psychiatric hospital for World War I veterans, was established in 1890 by authority of an act of Congress approved July 23, 1888, and comprised 299.03 acres by 1926. It was located in Grant County, Indiana, two miles from Marion. There were 67 buildings on the grounds, including 11 barracks or cottages, 4 hospital buildings, and 52 other buildings, including quarters for officers and employees. The land was acquired by purchase at a cost of #34.263.75. It was noted in 1926 that this branch was "usually filled to capacity and the records show that it has been found necessary to refuse admission to some applicants because of lack of space." In September 1925, the Board of Managers submitted a request to Congress for an extension, but the request was denied. It was suggested at that time that they begin transferring members to the larger Southern Branch. For more information, see: Marion Branch.
  • BATH BRANCH (New York)
    The Bath Branch was the last branch of the National Military Home to be established. Located along the Cohocton River, it was originally the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home. The facility was sold to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Board of Managers in 1929 and still has 30 historic pre-1900 buildings standing today. For more information, see: Bath Branch.

Sources to Help in Your Research

Information from the following sources might be of assistance if you are researching veterans associated with the Dayton National Soldiers Home.

  • Carolyn Johnson Burns, Genealogist at the Dayton VA Medical Center

    Information for the Center is:
    Dayton VA Medical Center
    4100 West Third Street
    Dayton, Ohio 45417
    Dayton National Cemetery - Phone: (937) 262-2115
    General Information - Phone: (937) 268-6511
    Headstone and Grave Marker Information - Phone: (800) 697-6947

  • Dayton VA Medical Center Web Site
    In addition to current information, this web site provides an Online Historic Tour. See the Dayton VA as it was in 1885 and visit the virtual museum.
  • American Veterans History Center
    The goal of the American Veterans History Center is "to honor the accomplishments of veterans while preserving a priceless piece of national and local history--­the Soldiers Home located at the VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio."
  • Historical Records of Montgomery County Government
    Click on Veteran Services in the Table of Contents. This is a list of records and their years pertaining to the National Soldiers Home. These records are maintained in the Montgomery County Records Center and Archives.

    Information for the Archives:
    Montgomery County Records Center and Archives
    117 South Main Street
    Sixth Floor, Reibold Building
    P.O. Box 972
    Dayton, Ohio 45422
    Telephone: (937) 225-6366

This page updated April 25, 2015.