Home for Soldiers
On this day in 1891, at the end of North Dakota’s first legislative session, Governor Andrew Burke signed Senate Bill No. 60, creating a state owned home for soldiers at Lisbon. The soldiers they were thinking about then were mainly Civil War veterans. Governor Burke, who was 41 at the time, was among the youngest Civil War veterans, having enlisted as a drummer boy as a young teen.
Congress had encouraged the young state to care for its veterans with a 40,000-acre land grant to support it. 80 acres were purchased in the Sheyenne River Valley on the outskirts of Lisbon and a Minneapolis architect and contractor were hired to design and build the first facility.
It was a beautiful 2-story brick building with an arcade and a 3-story tower at the front. The inside was finished with native wood and maple floors, and furnished to house 50 men. Governor Burke and the Board of Commissioners came to inspect and officially open the building in September of 1892.
The Daily Argus of Fargo called it “A Magnificent Abode,” and reported the town was full of people the day of the open house. “About 12 o’clock Governor Burke and staff arrived, and were escorted from the depot to the home by the First Regiment band and battery A, North Dakota National Guard.”
In his speech the Governor spoke fondly of the “boys in blue,” and called the place “a creditable building for the retirement of those who fought to save the union.” The Argus praised the location “on the picturesque shores of the Sheyenne river….It is a place well chosen for a home for the weary soldier, that in his declining years he may forget as near as possible…the fields of gore…”
The original building has not survived, but additional facilities have been added over the years. In 1983 the Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs changed the name of the Soldiers Home to the “North Dakota Veterans Home.”
Today, on the organization’s one hundred and fifteenth anniversary, the Veterans Home employs about 150 people and offers basic care for 111 veterans and spouses in an independent living facility, and skilled nursing services in a 38-bed unit…still in that same picturesque place along the Sheyenne River in Ransom County.
“Home For Soldiers” The Daily Argus (Fargo) 15 Sept. 1892, p. 4.
Lounsberry, Clement A. History of North Dakota, Vol. 1., (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1917) 432.