U.S. SANITARY COMMISSION (Cleveland Branch, see also SOLDIERS' AID SOCIETY OF NORTHERN OHIO) was organized 20 Apr. 1861 to provide aid and medical care for soldiers during the CIVIL WAR. The Cleveland Branch served as a model for the institution of smaller aid societies in other villages and towns and was the first permanently organized branch of the commission and the first to enter the field. It operated under the supervision of the parent U.S. Sanitary Commission, which was modelled after the British Sanitary Commission established during the Crimean War. It grew from a neighborhood sewing circle and expanded to represent 525 branch organizations distributing hospital supplies of over $1 million.
The Cleveland Branch (Central Office located at 95 Bank St.) began with $2 in gold and ended with $170,000 in 1864. Funds were raised by conducting "Sanitary Fairs" at which historical items, artifacts, and Civil War mementos were displayed. The Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair held in Cleveland in Feb. 1864 raised $100,000 in 2 weeks. A Soldiers' Home was established in 1862 and a hospital was built at Union Station called the "Depot Hospital." The Depot Hospital cared for sick soldiers who came to Cleveland by train but were too sick to be moved to other facilities in the city. The hospital was a large building made of rough boards built just west of Union Station on a long pier extending into Lake Erie. A hospital directory of sick and wounded soldiers was compiled to aid in locating missing and wounded soldiers. The commission was created and managed by Cleveland women including officers REBECCA ROUSE, Mrs. John Shelley, Mrs. William Melhinch, Mary Clark Brayton, and Ellen F. Terry. The commission was disbanded in 1864.