When George Merritt spoke to the dying soldiers of the Union Army, their number one concern was the children they were leaving behind. Merritt knew he needed to help.

The Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home kids in nursery

The Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home (ISSCH) was a residential and educational facility in northwestern Rush County, Indiana. Although it was officially founded in 1865 by Governor Morton; George Merritt, prominent Indianapolis philanthropist, submitted the original proposal for the home to house orphaned children after the American Civil War.

He advised Governor Morton to attach a children’s home to the already planned “Home for Disabled Soldiers” and even personally pledged $5,000 for the project. The governor said it would be too expensive but Merritt established and privately funded the Soldier’s Orphan’s Home in the military ward of what is now Wishard Hospital.

In 1866, the children and their governess of the Indiana Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home moved to a facility in Knightstown, Indiana. In March of 1867, the state took ownership of the facility and named it “Soldier’s Orphan’s Home” to house the orphans from the war.

In the 1890’s, the number of orphans from the civil war were decreasing and with fewer children needing care, the home was going to have to close its doors. This changed when new legislature was introduced that would allow children from all veterans that served in any war to be eligible for care.

Power House

The name was changed to “The Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home” in 1929, when Odle McGuire Shook, then McGuire & Shook, added a nursery building, laundry building, a power house and superintendent residence.

As of May 2009, the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home officially transitioned into what is now the Indiana National Guard’s Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy (HYCA).


Past and present, OMS plays a vital role in the success of Indiana history and architecture.

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