The Soldiers' Widows' Home
In 1895, the Woman's Relief Corps of Illinois requested funds from the state legislature for the establishment of a home for the aging widows and mothers of the veterans of the Mexican and Civil Wars. $20,000 was appropriated for the purchase of a site with a building, to buy equipment, and maintenance for two years. A Board of Trustees selected the farm and 15-room house on the west bank of the Kankakee River formerly owned by Will County pioneer, Dr. A. W. Bowen.
After the W.R.C. raised additional funds to furnish it, the home formally opened on March 11, 1896. Within ten years, two additional 3-story wings were erected and, in 1913, a 24-bed infirmary was dedicated.
The home offered a safe and comfortable haven for the widows, mothers, and later, daughters of veterans. In 1946, at the 50th anniversary celebration, the home's residents included 55 Civil War daughters, 15 Civil War widows, 13 Spanish-American War widows, 10 World War I mothers and 2 World War I widows, and, a waiting list of 63.
In the winter of 1962-63, as an economy move, the State if Illinois consolidated its institutions and moved the Widows' Home residents to the Quincy site of the Soldiers and Sailors Home.
The building, used for a time as a State boys' school, later lay vacant and was destroyed by fire in 1972. Many of the home's residents are buried in two special areas of Wilmington's Oakwood Cemetery. The earliest burials are in the original portion of Oakwood, but a greater number are in the newer section. The markers are military style, of the older variety, with little information beyond a name and date of death. Additional information regarding Widows' Home residents is available at the Illinois State Archives, Archives Building, Springfield, IL 62756.