Created By: North Dakota State University
Surrounded now by mature trees, Island Park’s Civil War soldier used to prominently guard the north side of the park. But why a Union soldier in Fargo? North Dakota wasn’t even a state during the Civil War, but as the railroad came to Dakota Territory, it brought with it many veterans looking for a new start, including the man that would chair the Soldiers Monument Committee, Fargo attorney Smith Stimmel.
Smith Stimmel was born in Ohio in 1842. When he was drafted into 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, the day of the shooting, Stimmel was a bodyguard to President Lincoln.1 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 the 1880’s.2
Active in politics, Stimmel became territorial council president in 1889, and helped lead North Dakota to statehood that same year. He remained active in civics throughout his life in Fargo. His membership in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) led to his work in 1915 and 16 on the statue.
The base, hewn from the “famous Barre, Vermont granite,” met transportation problems and arrived in June. However, the bronze soldier portion of the monument was available for unveiling on Memorial Day 1916. The gleaming-bronze soldier gripping his Springfield rifle, carrying a full backpack with bedroll, a U.S. cartridge case and canteen on his belt, was the pride of Fargo.3
Though the bronze has developed a green patina with time, 5-pointed G.A.R. star on the main column and the inscriptions in the granite are still as they were in 1916. “In memory of our comrades; To the Dead a Tribute, To the Living a Memory, To Posterity An Inspiration.”
This point of interest is part of the tour: Island Park: Fargo's First Park