On March 4, 1887, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill creating a “State Soldiers’ Home,” to be located in Grand Island. Its first Civil War veteran was admitted to the brand new facility in June of 1888. A Nebraska Veterans’ Home continues to serve those who served in Grand Island today.
Records from the Grand Island Veterans’ Home in the NSHS collections tell many stories. Two letters convey the sad tale of James W. Shores, an African-American Spanish American war vet whose ticket from his home in Alliance to the vets’ home in Grand Island came too late.
The first letter from the United Spanish War Veterans State Relief Committee to the commander of the home reveals that since Shores fought in Cuba, not the Philippines, he drew no pension. He was also therefore ineligible for a closer veterans’ facility in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Married with two young children, Shores had spent all his savings on hospital bills. His health was rapidly deteriorating, so the letter asked that the commandant send forms and “please hurry them out, for if something is not done at once, he will not last.long.”
The letter written February 8, 1935, is followed by one five days later. Despite the prompt response from Grand Island, “the papers did not get here in time to do any good for our Comrade Shores.” He was buried with full military honors in Alliance.The Grand Island Veterans’ Home collection includes 211 boxes and 36 ledgers. They are a small part of the government records preserved by the Nebraska State Historical Society. Discover more about these varied collections here: http://nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/research/public/index.shtml