Address: Bunker Hill, KS 67626
Mary Ann Ball was born near
Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1817. In 1847 she married Robert
Bickerdyke and they moved to Galesburg,
Mary Ann "Mother" Bickerdyke. Photo courtesy
Kansas Historical Society
At the outbreak of the American Civil War, residents of Galesburg, Illinois purchased medical supplies worth five hundred dollars for soldiers serving at Cairo, Illinois. Mary Ann Bickerdyke offered to deliver the money. Upon arriving in Cairo, Bickerdyke used the supplies to establish a hospital for the Northern soldiers. She spent the remainder of the war traveling with various Union armies, establishing more than three hundred field hospitals to assist sick and wounded soldiers. During battles, Bickerdyke commonly risked her own life by searching for wounded soldiers. Once darkness fell, she would carry a lantern into the disputed area between the two competing armies and retrieve wounded soldiers.
Both Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman admired Bickerdyke for her bravery and for her deep concern for the soldiers. To assist the soldiers, Bickerdyke gave numerous speeches across the North, describing the difficult conditions that soldiers experienced and solicited contributions. The soldiers nicknamed her "Mother Bickerdyke" because of her continuing concern for them.
Mother Bickerdyke's Service Continued After the War
At the closing of the Civil War in 1865, Mother Bickerdyke was 48 years old. Her work serving Civil War veterans, "the boys," continued until her death in 1901 at the age of 84 years.
Immediately after the war, she cared for wounded soldiers at the Home for the Friendless in Chicago, Illinois. She soon saw that the young men, many disabled and without careers, were desperate for employment. She had heard about land to homestead in Kansas, so she rode the newly expanded railroad to its furthest point west, Salina. In Salina she built a boarding home on the 600 block of North Ninth Street, where she could sleep 33 and feed 110. She negotiated with the CB &Q Railroad for two years of free transportation for the veterans and their families and helped settle over 300 families in and around Saline County, and in Barton, Russell, Lincoln, Ellsworth, Ottawa, Stafford, and Rice counties.
While she was absent getting supplies, the railroad foreclosed on the boarding home because she had neglected to collect rent from the destitute boarders. She then left the state of Kansas for a period of years and worked elsewhere to assist the poor and needy.
After Mary's death in November of 1901 in Bunker Hill, her body was returned to Galesburg, Illinois to rest in the Linwood Cemetery beside her husband, Robert, deceased in 1859.
POINTS OF INTEREST FOR
MOTHER BICKERDYKE IN KANSAS
Mother Bickerdyke Marker in Bunker Hill. Photo KSF
HISTORICAL PORTRAYAL OF MOTHER BICKERDYKE