At a recent meeting of our historical society, our speaker was Bob Fortunato from the Kentucky Heritage Council. He presented an extremely interesting program on the Kentucky Confederate Home located in PeeWee Valley. I will not go into great detail in this tip about all he presented but needless to say, I am intrigued and will do more research.
The home, located close to a cemetery off Hwy. 146, opened in 102 as a state residence for indigent southern veterans of the Civil War. The Union soldiers already had homes to go to, but none for the Confederate soldiers. The home was the idea of a native Kentuckian, Bennett H. Young. He was a businessman and a former Confederate soldier officer. He saw a need for a shelter for the now aging veterans who were suffering from old age, illnesses or the inability to provide for themselves. He began to rally support for a Confederate home. He formed a group to raise funds to buy some property. He finally secured $16,00 and proposed a bill to the State Legislature which asked for State support. The bill was passed in both houses and a board of trustees was appointed.
The Board purchased the Village Inn of Pewee Valley. Many towns had bid for the location of the home but the inn – formerly a luxury summer resort for Louisville businessmen and their families won out. It was an impressive three-story building with beautiful architecture. But, as a Villa, it had failed and was being sold. A high school had tried to be operated there – it had failed. The College for Young Ladies was the last owner. The Confederate Committee was able to purchase the building for $90,000. Applications were soon sent out to veterans after a few repairs had been made and the home opened in November 1902.
To be a resident, the man had to be honorably discharged from the Confederate Army, a 6-month or more resident of Kentucky, of sound mind, not an alcoholic. Soon the home became a new home for as many as 350 old or disabled veterans. It was a State supported home so additional funds came in, improvements made over the years and private grants were received.
What did it provide? Not only a shelter for these veterans, the home provided food and medical care, activities for the inmates including church services and entertainment. A newspaper was published from 1907-1911 called the “Confederate Home Messenger”.
In March, 1920, a fire destroyed a large section of the home but no lives were lost.
Mr. Fortunato, dressed in costume, stated that the home was run much as a military camp. Residents dressed in uniform, marched and were held to strict standards.
The home housed more than 700 veterans through its operation which ceased in the middle of 1934 when only five veterans remained. These five men were transferred to the Pewee Valley Sanatorium.
Next week we will look at the Pewee Valley Confederate Cemetery. This cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places but is the only cemetery for Confederate veterans. 313 veterans lie buried there.