Created By: North Dakota State University
Smith Stimmel was born in Ohio in 1842. After joining the military at age 20 during the Civil War he was appointed to the Union Light Guard and assigned to The White House. From December of 1863 until April 14, 1865, Stimmel was a bodyguard to President Lincoln. Following Lincoln’s assassination, Stimmel returned home to attend Ohio Wesleyan University, graduating in 1869. He practiced law, married, and was mayor of Carthage, Ohio before moving to Fargo in 1882.
Along with practicing law, it is believed Stimmel managed a Bonanza farm outside Fargo near Wheatland. Plat maps show his land near the meeting points of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific lines just east of town.
Active in politics, Stimmel became territorial council president in 1889, and helped lead North Dakota to statehood that same year. He would continue to be instrumental in the shaping of ND as the chair of Fargo's Civil War Veteran Monument Committee. The efforts of Stimmel and the committee paid off in the form of the Union soldier, dedicated in 1916, who guards the north entry to Island Park.
In 1914 Stimmel was the guest speaker at the unveiling of a Lincoln bust created by Valley City, North Dakota's Paul Fjelde and dedicated in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway. See a photo here and read his speech from that day here.
Stimmel eventually returned to law and practiced in Fargo until the 1920’s. In 1928 Stimmel’s Personal Reminessences of Abraham Lincoln was published. It is available to read free online here.
Smith Stimmel died of old age at 92 in 1935. At home with his wife at 119 11th St S., he passed on April 14th – the same date Lincoln was shot 70 years before.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Walk with the Dead: Fargo's Riverside Cemetery