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Dakota Datebook

Fraine Barracks

Fraine Barracks is the state headquarters of the North Dakota National Guard. Considering it is home to a military unit, you might suspect it’s located on the site of an old military facility. Instead, the site previously held an old brewery, then a Native American boarding school.

The brewery dates back to 1880s. Brewers in Milwaukee built the facility adjacent to where Fraine Barracks’ front gate is today. Unfortunately for brewers, they were too late or too early, depending on how you look at it. That’s because five years later, North Dakota entered the union as a dry state and the brewery was relegated to a storage space until torn down in the early 40s.

During the lifetime of the brewery, the Bismarck Indian School opened in 1907, one of about 39 non-reservation boarding schools in the nation. Mandan residents had protested, wanting the school in their city.

Enrollment was around 50 to 120 students, and in its final few years it became a girl’s-only school. Many Bismarck residents loved the school and were proud of the well-kept grounds, but such schools today are seen as a tragic development for the Native American community. It closed in 1937.

People debated how to use the old buildings. One possibility was a temporary Civilian Conservation Corps camp. However, Brigadier General Heber L. Edwards was concerned this camp would turn permanent and saw the ground’s potential as a National Guard’s headquarters. He began a long letter writing campaign to the state’s congressional delegation and officials in the federal government. While the Civilian Conservation Corps was granted use of the site, it was the National Guard that took formal possession, with a one-year temporary use permit from the Department of the Interior. They continued to extend the permit, but in 1944 persistence paid off and the federal government deeded the site to the state of North Dakota for military housing and defense. On this date in 1945, the North Dakota legislature accepted the location and officially named it Fraine Barracks, in honor of the late Brigadier General John H. Fraine, a longtime North Dakota National Guard member. While some of the old buildings remain, the Fraine Barracks has added several modern buildings to accommodate the growth of the state’s National Guard.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas




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