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History of the North Dakota Veterans Home

Veteran Homes were established by an Act of Congress in 1887. Certain lands were set-aside in a number of states and territories for the establishment and maintenance of homes for Veteran Union soldiers.

The North Dakota Veterans Home is a state institution established in 1891 and has been in operation since 1893. The general supervision and government of the Home is vested in the Administrative Committee on Veterans' Affairs as outlined in Chapter 37-18.1 of the North Dakota Century Code.

At the end of the First Legislative Assembly of the State of North Dakota, Senate Bill #60, entitled, "An Act Appropriating Money for the Erection of a Soldiers' Home at Lisbon, and for the Contingent Expenses Thereto", was passed and signed by Governor Andrew J. Burke on February 27, 1891. At this time, money was appropriated for the purchase of land and the erection of the necessary buildings. The lands allotted for the support and maintenance of the Home, amounting to approximately 40,000 acres, are located in various parts of the State. Some of the land has been sold and the money invested in bonds, the interest of which is used to partially maintain and operate the Home.

On August 14,1891, a Board of Commissioners, consisting of General William A. Bentley, Major General L. Foster, Colonel L. H. Hankinson, Captain N. Linton, and Captain Harris Gardener, purchased 90 acres of land for $3,500 in the valley of the Sheyenne River, adjacent to the city of Lisbon, and known as the "Cramer Farm".

The Board of Commissioners selected the architectural firm of Orff Bros. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to draw plans and specifications for a barracks building. The contract was let to C.A. Leck of Minneapolis.

The original barracks building was 50 x 80 feet and built of Menominee brick at a cost of $18,000. The barracks was finished in native wood, maple floors and accommodated 50 veterans.

Colonel W.W. Mclvaine was elected as the first Commandant and began his term May 1, 1893. C.R. Palmer of Lisbon served as the first treasurer. The Board of Admissions was made up of the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Commandant, and Surgeon. Dr. J. H. Johnson of Lisbon was the first surgeon. He served until February of 1910, when he suffered a stroke and was paralyzed. Dr. T.C. Patterson performed the duties of surgeon until his death on September 14, 1910, at which time Dr. Patterson was officially appointed surgeon.

The barracks building was not completed until August 1, 1893, and the first veteran entered the Home on August 2, 1893. He was George Hutchings, a veteran of the Civil War and a resident of Ransom County. He was 73 years of age at the time. During the early days of this Soldiers' Home, the residents were required to wear uniforms, which were furnished to them by the Home. The coat and vest were dark blue, and the trousers were light blue. They also wore black hats.

The Board of Commissioners adopted the title of "Board of Trustees" in June 1897. In 1971, the title was changed to the Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Home is governed by this board. They are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the senate. Each member must be citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of North Dakota. This committee consists of three members from each major veterans service organization.

The Commandant for the Veterans Home is appointed by the Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs. Listed below, in order of service, are the Commandants and their terms of office:

  • Colonel W.W. Mclvaine... 1893- 1903
  • Colonel J. W. Carroll 1903- 1920
  • Captain J. J. Rowe 1920- 1923
  • Major R. A. Thomson, ... 1923- 1932
  • Dr. Larry B. McLain 1932 -1941
  • Colonel J. E. Mattison 1941 -1946
  • Dr. T. C. Patterson 1946- 1948
  • Colonel W. E. Cole 1948- 1957
  • William A. Cole 1957- 1961
  • Floyd E. Henderson 1961 -1968
  • Charles M. Code 1968- 1984
  • James E. Welder 1984- 1990
  • Frank Gathman 1990- 1993
  • Ken Anderson 1993- 2003
  • Interim Commandant Darrol Schroeder 2003
  • Administrator Neal Asper 2003 -

The 58th Legislative Session of North Dakota changed the criteria for Commandant position. They additionally changed title of Commandant to Administrator.

In the year 1899, a hospital building was erected, 35 X 57 feet, with an L 28 X 50 feet of Menominee brick. It was erected at an approximate cost of $16,000. In 1907, a building was constructed to serve as the Commandant's residence. It was built of Menominee brick at an approximate cost of $9,000. The horse and cattle barns, hog house, and chick coops were erected at various times. When the Soldiers' Home first opened, much of the labor was performed by the residents. They assisted in the laundry, kitchen, garden, and keeping quarters clean. As the age group became older, this labor was not available due to physical disabilities, and civilian employees were hired. A work therapy program was designed to keep residents working if they chose or if there were jobs available. In the 1990's, residents started to receive minimum wage. They may choose to volunteer their time as well.

Through the years, the barracks building deteriorated and was in such a state of disrepair that it would have taken thousands of dollars to repair, and further, the membership was increasing to a point where additional room was necessary, so a bill was introduced at the Thirtieth Session of the Legislative Assembly providing for erection of a new barracks building, and was approved on March 14,1947. This building was constructed at an approximate cost of $600,000 and was completed and formally dedicated on June 7, 1950; by Governor Fred G. Aandahl.The building was designed to accommodate 150 veterans, wives, and widows. It was modern in every detail and an automatic elevator places the entire building on one floor. It is a four-story structure with every modern convenience available.

Dispensary type of medical care was available, with a local physician making sick call each morning. Two practical nurses were employed; one was on night duty and the other serviced at intervals during the day. The old barracks building was demolished during the summer of 1952; the entrance of this building is marked by a Civil War cannon. The hospital building, which is no longer standing, was converted into a residence for the civilian employees, and housed a $20,000 laundry in the basement.

A 1.7 million dollar construction and remodeling project was completed in 1980.With its completion, the facility conformed to all state and federal regulations on life safety and handicapped accessibility, increased its capacity to 159, provided new laundry facilities, and expanded its crafts area considerably.

A new heating plant was built in 1981, which added an electric boiler to allow the Veterans Home to take advantage of off-peak electric rates. The plant also houses the oil-fired boilers that are used as standby heating, a two-stall garage, and a 100 KW generator to provide power in case of electrical outages.

July 1, 1983 the Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs changed the name of the Soldiers Home to 'North Dakota Veterans Home'. It was felt that the new name adequately reflected the clientele the Veterans' Home served.

The 1990s brought about many changes to the North Dakota Veterans Home. A 3.6 million project converted 17 basic care beds to skilled beds, added 21 new beds, a new kitchen and dining room, updated laundry services, central air conditioning, parking space and new road ways.

The 150-bed domiciliary changed capacity to 112 for veterans and spouses as well as the Domiciliary care changing to Basic Care.

A four-season room "Gazebo" was added to the 38-bed nursing home (skilled unit) in 2000.It has provided the needed room for activities and a place for families to gather with their loved ones. The funds for the "Gazebo" were provided by donations and the Post War Trust Fund.

The Veterans' Home is maintained and operated by three sources of revenue; the General fund of the State of North Dakota, federal funds, and special funds. The Veterans' Home maintains a burial plot in the local cemetery, which is known as the Oakwood Cemetery. It is up to each resident and their families as to this or another preference.

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