Grand Army of the Republic
Frank A. Walsh was born in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, on July 9, 1847, the son of James T. and Mary F. (O'Neil) Walsh. When an infant, the family moved to Trumansburg, New York. In 1853, his father moved to Lena, Illinois, ot establish a nursery business, intending for his family to join him later. Before they came, he was killed in a railroad accident. The mother decided to move to Lena with her children anyway and supported the family by teaching. Frank attended school at Lena and was farming when he received news of the battle of Pea Ridge. A report, which later proved false, said a brother in the 9th Iowa had been killed there. This fired the youth to the point of enlisting. In April 1862, although less than 15 years old, he enlisted in Company H, 67th Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three months service. Soon after his enlistment, Pvt. Walsh was one of the volunteers selected to make the exchange of prisoners at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and did not return until the fall of 1862, being mustered out of service in October. He then enlisted in Company G, 46th Illinois Infantry, but his trip to Vicksburg impaired his health, resulting in pneumonia, and he was not mustered in.
After regaining his health, he became a machinist apprentice at the Illnois Locomotive Shops at Amboy, Illinois and then worked in Logansport, Ind. for the Chicago and Eastern Railway. He worked as a machinist for several firms until entering the employ of Norton Bros. tinware manufacturers. During this time, he invented a number of appliances, which were patented. He then opened his own business in Chicago and began manufacturing a machine, which he invented for making cans used by large meat packers. After building up a large business, he moved to Milwaukee in 1883 and established his business there. In 1901, he consolidated his business with the American Can Company in which he retained a large interest. Mr. Walsh invented some 75 to 80 devices for the manufacture of machinery for making cans. He was both an inventor, a pioneer, and a promoter in that line of work and later had an interest in the transfer and storage warehouse business in Milwaukee.
Mr. Walsh was married to Miss Mary Ella Jones of Elgin, Illinois and had four children. The eldest, Francis Herbert, was a member of the Wisconsin National Guard for 12 years before moving to Colorado and joining the National Guard there. Grace A. married George M. Whitcomb of DesPlaines, Illinois. Cora F. and Neil H. were both residents of Milwaukee. The family had membership in the St. James Episcopal Church and Mr. Walsh was a Republican in his political affiliations. Mr. Walsh was a member of Milwaukee's E.B. Wolcott Post #1, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), since 1886. He was elected Senior Vice Commander in 1899 and Commander in 1903; Wisconsin Department Chief of Staff in 1906, Inspector in 1908 and Commander in 1910. At the 1902 National Encampment, Mr. Walsh was appointed Inspector General. He was also a member of the board of managers of the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.
In 1923, when the GAR National Encampment was held in Milwaukee, an attempt was made by his friends to elect him national commander. That honor of Commander-in-Chief came to him three years later, at the National Encampment in Des Moines, Iowa.
The following year, just prior to the opening of the National Encampment, he was stricken on a street in Santa Rosa, California, but recovered. In 1929, he was named one of ten GAR members to compose an escort of honor for President Coolidge and President Hoover. At the time of his death, he was serving on the Milwaukee mayor's committee to select a location for the city's Abraham Lincoln monument.
Past Commander-in-Chief Walsh suffered a stroke on Monday, February 29, 1932, from which he failed to recover. He had been in ill health throughout the winter and died at his home, 2601 W. Kilbourn Avenue, Milwaukee, on Saturday, March 5th, at the age of 84. He was survived by his three daughters; Mrs. Merrill W. Heffinger, Mrs. George W. Whitcomb and Mrs. Arthur C. Swallow, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Members of Milwaukee's C.J. Pier Badger Camp #1, Sof Union Veterans of the Civil War, attended the funeral services at his home and served as pallbearers. Mr. Walsh was buried in Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.
Memoirs of Milwaukee County, 1909. Col. Jerome Watrous, editor; Western Historical Association.
The Milwaukee Sentinel
Meeting Minutes, C.K. Pier Badger Camp #1, SUVCW.
Stephen A. Michaels
Past Department Commander
Department of Wisconsin
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
August 1, 2000