Womens' Relief Corps

(a.k.a. New York State Veterans' Home, Oxford)


This home is situated on an eminence of ground some seventy-five or eighty feet above the Chenango river on the east side. It occupies a commanding position, one mile north of the beautiful village of Oxford, Chenango County. Directly in front there is a charming view, which at once arrests the attention of the visitor. It opens up into the hills on the west side of the river; while to the north for miles a beautiful panorama of pastoral scenery is presented; looking south the view is changed and there is seen a birdseye view of the village of Oxford, with its beautiful homes nestling in the quiet valley. On turning to the east from the rear of the Home the view is again changed; a rugged hill is confronted and half way down its side is the roadbed of the New York, Ontario & Western railroad, at an altitude of at least 250 above the Home and nearly 1,400 feet above the sea level. At the base of the hill on which the Home stands the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad winds its way along the Chenango river.

Before the establishment of this Home a veteran, on becoming old and dependent, could be admitted to the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home at Bath, N.Y., but no provision was made for the wife of such veteran and she was left to care for herself as best she could. A poem was written entitled: "What will poor Betsy do?" descriptive of a veteran who, on being offered a home for himself, thought of the dear one who had shared his good and bad fortune up to that time and prompted the above question. This poem was read in one of the Woman's Relief Corps meetings and the subject was agitated and talked of for some time, when it was determined to found a home where the veteran and wife could end their days together, and also provide for the widows and mothers of deceased comrades. Prominent members of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Woman's Relief Corps became interested in the matter and on May 17th, 1894, the following Board of Managers, who has been appointed by Governor Flower, met at Hotel Livingston, Rochester, N.Y., and organized. This board was compared of the following members: Mrs. Ellen M. Putnam, Buffalo; Mrs. Sarah C. Mink, Watertown; Mrs. Annie P. Cleary, Rochester; Mrs. Sarah C. Nichols, Auburn; Mrs. Kate E. Jones, Ilion; Mrs. Ada G. Mohr, Brooklyn; Maj. Geo H. Treadwell, Albany; Hon. Richard Curran, Rochester; Mr. Edward J. Mitchell, Yonkers. Mrs. Putnam was elected president. A committee was appointed to select a site, consisting of Mrs. Putnam, Mrs. Mink, Mrs. Cleary, Mrs. Nichols, and Mr. Mitchell. After looking at many places the village of Oxford was selected. June 15, 1895, Mr. Francis G. Clarke, one of Oxford's most prominent citizens, tendered the use of his home to the Board of Managers for the purpose of consummating the sale of the selected site. The following committee, representing the citizens of Oxford, were appointed: Messrs. Francis G. Clark, Robt. E. Miller, M.D., and Frank T. Corbin with their counsel, Mr. Chas. W. Brown, met with the Board of Managers at Mr. Clarke's home and title to the Seeley site with deed for same was handed to the President. Mr. Clarke had been interested in the selection of the site and the inception of the Home in Oxford and on April 3, 1897, his wife, Mrs. Laura B. Clarke, was appointed on the Board of Managers, where she has since served continuously as Resident Manager.

On January 21, 1895, Assemblyman David Sherwood introduced a bill in the Legislature asking for an appropriation of $100,000 for the Home, which was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. This committee gave the committee on site a hearing and a delegation of citizens of Oxford, consisting of Messrs. C.W. Brown, S.S. Stafford, A.D. Harrington, D.M. Lee, O.H. Curtis, JW. Bissikummer, E.A. Pearsall and J.P. Whalen of Norwich appeared in behalf of the project. In order to stimulate legislation a general order was issues by Kate E. Jones, Department Presidents of the Woman's Relief Corps, saying "The State Home Board of Managers appointed by the Governor to select a site for our Home have chosen, in their opinion, the best that was offered- a beautiful location at Oxford, Chenango County. It combines all the desired facilities of drainage, pure water, river scenery, climate and railroads. Corps. Presidents are requested to aid in ascertaining the names of veterans, with their wives, mothers, windows, and army nurse's who are eligible."
A subscription committee was appointed by the citizens of Oxford, consisting of Messrs. A.D. Harrington, A.S. Burchard, H.W. Clarke, P.A. Loomis, Geo H. Rogers, B.G. Greene, J.C. Estelow, E.L. Hayes, T. LeRoy Cone and Charles M. Stone. On October 22, 1895, the contract for the first cottage (now Cottage B) was awarded to Andrew Douglas of Binghamton. At 11a.m. on that day, Ellen M. Putnam turned the first shovelful of earth and the work was begun.

Under Chapter 468, Laws of 1894 the Board of Managers were reappointed.
Cottage B is 78x130 feet and was the first building erected. The original plan contemplated five cottages and an administration building. On the completion of Cottage B, the Home was formally opened May 1, 1897, with Mrs. Ellen M. Putnam as Superintendent. Cottages A, C, and D were built later as appropriations were secured. The cottages are connected by corridors and are steam heated throughout. The only detached building is the Administration building, the home of the Superintendent and his family. The buildings and corridors are lighted by incandescent electric lights and the grounds by six 2,000 candlepower arc lights. The grounds surrounding the cottages are laid out in walks and drives. Trees have been set out and large flower beds have been artistically arranged on the lawns with a variety of handsome plants. The power house, containing the boilers for heating and the dynamo for electric lights, are located at the foot of the hill, where it has good railroad facilities on the line of the D., L. & W. railroad. The laundry adjoins the power house.

The appointments inside the Home are all that could be desired. The veteran and his wife have a large room furnished with good beds and linen, oak dressing cases, wardrobes and comfortable accessories. Clean bed clothing is furnished weekly. Clothing of members is sent to the laundry on Mondays and returned the latter part of each week. Elegant bath and toilet rooms are on each floor, with all the modern sanitary improvements.

Breakfast is served at 7 o'clock, dinner at 12, and supper at 5:30 on weekdays, and on Sunday breakfast at 7:30, dinner at 12:30, and supper at 5. Members are expected to be in their rooms at 9 p.m. and lights out by 9:30p.m. There are two pianos and two organs in the corridors for the use of the members who gather in the evening and play and sing until time to retire. There are no rules which are burdensome or oppressive. All rules and regulations are made by Superintendent and the Board of managers, with a view to the comfort, discipline and best interests of all, without sacrificing their rights or self-respect.

Mrs. Ellen M. Putnam,, the first Superintendent, held the position until her death on December 28th, 1903. Mrs. Eliza C. Owen was elected as her successor and held the position about two years, being succeeded by Major P.J. O'Connor, the present incumbent. The latter came here well equipped with executive capacity and experience, after a ten years' residence at the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home at Bath, where he had made a record for efficiency as Quartermaster. Many improvements have been made at the Home during his administration, and the grounds have been transformed into beautiful lawns and walks. Chief among the contemplated improvements by the Board of Managers is the building of a Hospital, where the sick can be congregated and the labor of caring for them properly be greatly facilitated.

Visiting days at the Home are Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 to 5p.m., but visitors from a distance are received and shown through the Institution at other times. Visitors are always welcome.

The officers of the Home at present are as follows: Board of Managers-Georgiana Griffith, President; Laura B. Clarke, Vice President; Mary E. Seeley, Treasurer; Col. Allan C. Bakewell, Secretary; Ada G. Mohr, Ella B. Scott, Annie P. Cleary, Hon. Geo. W. Ray, Dr. R. Curran. Major P.J. O' Connor, Superintendent; Miss Hariette Carmichael, bookkeeper; Col. Jno. H. Cochrane, storekeeper, Dr. R. E. Blaisdell, resident physician, Miss Flora I. Tinkham, head nurse; Miss Jennie Colton, housekeeper.

No country in the world has ever cared for its defenders better than the United States and no State in the Union can surpass the grand old Empire State of New York in providing for its sons and the mothers and windows of those who answered her call in the dark days of '61 to '65, and this haven of refuge is an enduring monument to the philanthropic efforts of its citizens, who appreciate the services of the en who fought to perpetuate the Union and make our country what it is-the grandest on earth.