The unincorporated community surrounding the Wisconsin Veterans Home on the Waupaca Chain o’ Lakes was named “King” after General Charles King in 1941, but there is some confusion as to why. General King served in the U.S. Army in some capacity during every major conflict from the Civil War to World War I, but he was never a resident or an officer of the Wisconsin Veterans Home and he never lived in Waupaca County.
General Charles King (1844-1933) was a popular military figure who grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then returned to the state in 1880 after his military service in the Civil War and the Indian Wars. He served in the Wisconsin National Guard for 27 years between 1882 and 1931, taking seven years off to serve as Brigadier General of Volunteers in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. General King also gained national popularity because he wrote and edited over 60 books including novels based on his military experience and works of military biography and history.
The Wisconsin Veterans Home and surrounding community gained the name “King” because in late 1940 and 1941, its residents successfully petitioned the U.S. House of Representatives to rename the Home’s post office in honor of General Charles King. General King had passed away in 1933 and the residents of the Wisconsin Veterans Home community no doubt greatly admired him.
Convenience also played a big role in the these residents’ push to rename their post office. In 1929, the State of Wisconsin officially renamed the “Wisconsin Veterans’ Home” the “Grand Army Home for Veterans” (see note below), but the institution’s post office still retained the Home’s original name. This meant that everybody who used the post office had to make sure their mail was sent to the “Wisconsin Veterans’ Home”, not the “Grand Army Home”. In the days before zip codes, confusing the two names could cause a letter to not be delivered.
Almost immediately after the post office at the Wisconsin Veterans Home was designated “King” on April 1, 1941, residents who lived at and around the home started calling their community King as well. Naming the post office King instead of the Home’s new name (“Grand Army Home for Veterans”) also proved to be a smart decision because in 1974, the State of Wisconsin changed the Home’s name back to the “Wisconsin Veterans Home”.
Although General King had no connection to Waupaca County during his life, the residents of the Wisconsin Veterans Home and King community have been strong advocates of his legacy. In 1999, the Wisconsin Historical Society erected a historical marker for General King on the grounds of the Wisconsin Veterans Home to share his life as a dedicated soldier and military writer with all.
Note: The Wisconsin Department of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) named their retirement home for Civil War veterans on the Chain o’ Lakes the “Wisconsin Veterans’ Home” (with an apostrophe) in incorporation papers. In 1929, the State of Wisconsin changed the Home’s name to the “Grand Army Home for Veterans” after it took over the management of the institution from GAR. This article refers to the Home by its present-day name, the “Wisconsin Veterans Home” (with no apostrophe).
Learn more about the history of the Wisconsin Veterans Home and King community by reading The Waupaca Chain o’ Lakes by Zachary Bishop that will be released on June 15, 2020. See the Publications page for more information.