Remembering our veterans: George Brooks

George Semperins (St. Pierre) Brooks was another memorable Deer Lodge veteran. He died at Deer Lodge Hospital in 1948 at age 105. At the time, he was Canada’s oldest soldier. He apparently served in no less than six conflicts, including the American Civil War, the Spanish-American and Cuban wars, and the First World War.

In an interview with the Winnipeg Tribune before his death, Brooks said he was born in Cuba and later sold, along with his mother, to a Kentucky slave-owner named Mr. William Howard, a cruel and unmerciful man from whom he later ran away. Brooks claims to have been a private orderly to General Grant, to have met Abraham Lincoln several times, and to have witness the surrender of General Lee. He joined the army to be a part of the war to free slaves.

Should you doubt his veracity, Brooks was able to furnish for witnesses an Army discharge certificate from the First World War, signed by his commanding officer, confirming that he served in the 27th Battalion in 1916 — at age 73.

He later told a reporter, “I should have been drawing an old age pension, but of course, I never told the recruiting officer that. They allowed me to join because I was a cook, and the Army was very short of cooks at the time.”

Brooks also claims he was one of the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Nashville, sang for Queen Victoria, and worked for P.T. Barnum. So far, historians have found no reason to doubt any of his claims.

By all accounts, Brooks was happy at Deer Lodge. “I have my own radio set, and quite a lot of kind people come to see me. And the matron and staff are just grand.”