The Ohio General Assembly authorized the creation of the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Sandusky, Ohio in 1886. The home was created to provide for Ohio's honorably discharged veterans of the American Civil War. The first veterans to make their home at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home arrived in November of 1888. An early resident of the Home was Alvin Smith, a former slave who had served in Company H of the 27th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. In the mid 1880’s, Mr. Smith was passing through Sandusky looking for work. He obtained employment, helping to build the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, and then became a resident there on December 5, 1888. Now known as the Ohio Veterans Home, this facility provides food and lodging for United States Veterans as well as nursing home care. Thousands of U.S. Veterans have made their home here. A cemetery on the grounds of the Ohio Veterans Home serves as a final resting place for many United States Veterans who served their county in the military.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home was celebrated on August 6 and 7, 1938. A two-day encampment of Civil War Veterans also took place this weekend. The August 6, 1938 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that four Civil War Veterans who resided in Erie County were expected to attend the festivities. They were: William Woodward, Henry Dwight, Charles N. Cooper, and Alvin Smith, who had been born into slavery.
The weekend began with a lake cruise to Johnson’s Island and Put in Bay. A parade, concert, and fish fry began at 6 p.m. on Saturday. More musical entertainment, group singing, and speeches by Civil War veterans continued throughout the evening. The Camp Fire rally was led by George Pfeiffer of Wooster. On Sunday, there were church services, a concert by the Mansfield Sons of Unions Veterans, and a picnic luncheon on the lawn of the Home. A large parade passed in review before the Civil War veterans at 1:30 p.m.
The Betsy Ross Quartet sang at 2 p.m.
Speakers included Colonel John C. Volka, Commandant of the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home; Comrade R.C. Miller, President of the Ohio Civil War Veterans Reunion Association; Frederick Pfiester, commander of the Ohio Department of the G.A.R.; Grace Ford, President of the Department of Ohio Woman’s Relief Corps. Greetings were extended from numerous patriotic organizations. Alvin Smith, who assisted in the early building of the Home, was introduced, as was George J. Doerzbach, who assisted in laying the first stone in the building of the Home, were both introduced. Addresses were given by Comrade Sol Zarbaugh, from the Ohio Department of the G.A.R.; Ohio Representative Gus Kelly; Ohio Senator A.D. Baumhart; Mrs. Margaret M. Allman from the Department of Public Welfare; Emil Marx, Adjutant General of Ohio; Ohio Supreme Court Judge Edward S. Matthias; and Ohio Governor Martin L. Davey. Rev. John A. Kaley gave the benediction.
Visit the Sandusky Library Archives to view the Spies’ Gallery of Photo-Engravings, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, published by August Spies in 1896. Another resource available at the Sandusky Library is Ohio Veterans Home Death Records, 1889-1893.