Our Town Danville: Celebrating 122 years at VA Illiana Health Care System

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Danville, Ill. (WCIA).

At Danville’s Spring Hill Cemetery, Melissa Spady is putting a mystery to rest.

“This is amazing I had no idea. All of these history tours I’ve been on and finally we found him,” Spady says.

Spady is staring at the grave of Colonel Isaac Clements, the very first governor of Danville’s National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

Today, that National Home is better known as the VA Illiana Health Care System.

Spady is the Danville VA public affairs officer and gives history tours to campus visitors and guests. She often told tales of Colonel Clements, but wasn’t sure where his remains went.

Clements was originally buried at Danville National Cemetery on the VA Illiana campus, but when his wife Josephine died in 1921, the colonel was moved to Spring Hill where he would be allowed to share a plot with his wife and children.

Over the years, Spady’s learned a lot about the past, leaning on photos and primary sources that show what has changed on the campus where she works and what hasn’t.

“I just dove and researched… those documents and studied and just continued to talk about it,” says Spady. “At the end of the day it becomes a story to life.”

But why Danville?
That’s a question Sady’s aimed to answer.

At the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that wounded soldiers would need somewhere to go.

A place where they could treat their injuries, rest, and recover.

So, Lincoln established the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

He signed the legislation months before the civil war ended and branches of the National Home began to pop up all over the country.

In Vermilion County, a local politician named Joseph Cannon was using his political influence to bring the National Home to Danville.

National Homes had to meet certain criteria.

They had to have fresh air, ample water supple, and be a minimum of 200 acres.
They had to be located three to five miles from a city and that city had to be connected via rail line.

“Representative Joseph Cannon knew that Danville was the perfect place because we met the critera laid out.” says Spady.

On October 13th, 1898 the Danville branch became the eighth National Home to open in the country.

And what started with Isaac Clements now brings us to today’s director, Shawn Bransky:

“This is a heritage that goes back 122 years so to be a part of that legacy is a privledge and a pleasure.”

“Our mission has never changed since day one,” says Spady. “I go back to President Lincoln and he was very thoughtful to care for those soldiers coming out of the Civil War. And today that is our mission; to fight for the veterans that fight for our country and [deliver] the highest possible quality care they deserve.”

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