St. Alexius Health
On this date in 1937, Sister Boniface Timmins was laid to rest. Sister Boniface had served as the Superior of St. Alexius Hospital for 42 years, nurturing the hospital as it grew. She took charge of the institution in 1892. Under her leadership, it went from a simple medical facility to a prestigious modern operation, including a nursing school that she organized in 1915. Hundreds of people from all walks of life attended her funeral. Civic, business, and church leaders were joined by ordinary people who came to express their gratitude for her compassion for the sick and the poor.
But the story of St. Alexius began a few years before the tenure of Sister Boniface. In 1878 a group of Benedictine sisters traveled from St. Joseph, Minnesota to Bismarck. They planned to start a girls’ school, but the sisters quickly realized that medical care was lacking in Dakota Territory. The Benedictine order had a long history of providing care for the poor. As St. Benedictine had said, “the care of the sick must rank above and before all else.”
So, in 1885, the sisters purchased the Lambborn Hotel, and for $30,000 they converted it into a hospital with fifteen beds. It was the first community hospital in Dakota Territory. The first year, sixty-five people were admitted. They paid one dollar per day. Boatmen working the river paid a special rate of ninety cents. The most famous patient was Teddy Roosevelt, who came under the sisters’ care in 1886.
In 1904, twelve years after Sister Boniface took over, the Bismarck Daily Tribune called St. Alexius the premier health care provider in the state. The newspaper lauded the “self-sacrificing spiritual sisters” who devoted their lives to caring for the sick.
St. Alexius was in the forefront of modernization. The first woman doctor was hired in 1895. Another doctor, E.P. Quain, introduced antiseptic methods in 1899. Meanwhile, Sister Boniface, over some resistance, installed the state’s first six telephones in 1899, linking the hospital with doctors and pharmacists.
St. Alexius moved to its present location in 1915. Thousands attended the grand opening. The hospital was called a big asset for Bismarck and the surrounding area.
Over the years, the hospital continued to expand. Today, St. Alexius is a 306 bed, full-service, acute care facility. And every year, the Sister Boniface Timmins Leadership Award is presented to a person who typifies the servant leadership of Sister Boniface.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.
Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Thousands Attend Formal Opening of St. Alexius.” 16 February 1915.
Bismarck Daily Tribune. “Anniversary Party Will Open New Nurses’ Home.” 5 April 1918.
St. Alexius Hospital. “About Us.” "https://www.st.alexius.org/about/about-chi-st-alexius-health%20Accessed%2030%20September%202017" https://www.st.alexius.org/about/about-chi-st-alexius-health Accessed 30 September 2017 .