Sackets Harbor’s military story spans two centuries. After the War of 1812, the Army set up their post Madison Barracks, so since then, US military conflicts through World War II had some connection to Sackets Harbor.
Thousands of soldiers called Madison Barracks home during its 130-year history. But what do we know of the soldier’s spouses?
One of the most well-known brides, Julia Dent Grant, joined her young husband Ulysses S., taking up residence in the Stone Row quarters shortly after their marriage in 1848. She wrote fondly of her time at the Northern New York army post.
When World War I ended in 1918, the war department formed regiments of married men returning with European wives, called “Father of Families Veterans.” The federal government transported brides on the ship George Washington, nicknamed the “honeymoon transport.” Army officials were baffled on how to accommodate the estimated 20,000 couples, stating: “never before have its officers been called on to adjust the domestic affairs of the enlisted men.”
Sackets Harbor’s Madison Barracks became the destination for many of these couples. Brides from France, Germany, England, Belgium, and Luxembourg began married life in former wooden training buildings at Madison Barracks. These quarters allowed two rooms for a kitchen and a bedroom or sitting area. Many brides found employment with officer’s families or as maids in village homes.
Who were these young brides Beatrice, Ottille, Francine, Olga, Anna, and Yvonne, whose ages ranged from 15 to 23 years of age? Some were sisters, another the daughter of a French Colonel. As war brides arrived, by September 1919, twenty-five couples lived at the Barracks.
Transitioning into American life challenged these young immigrants. In France, a Watertown woman Barbara Gamble, volunteered as a Y.M.C.A canteen worker. After the war, her familiarity with French culture and the language became an asset for her to “Americanize” foreign brides at Madison Barracks. In 1920, she worked in cooperation with the Americanization Bureau, American Red Cross, and Madison Barracks Chaplain, teaching the English language and American customs to more than 40 brides. Eventually, the European war brides with their American soldier husbands fanned out across the country to start a new life together.
We do know more about World War II war brides who married Sackets Harbor soldiers. In summer 1945, Capt. Albert Neville, of the 82nd Airborne, married Eva Hughes Fairbough of Cheshire, England. The bride had served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service women’s branch of the British Army. It took a year before she was transported by ship, to arrive just in time to see the Watertown V-J Day (Victory over Japan) one year anniversary parade.
Another war bride, Kate Deuschle of Copenhagen, Denmark, reunited with her fiancé Harry “Pete” Krake, Jr. in winter 1947. The couple met in 1945 when he was stationed with the First Army Armored Ordinance. They married at the groom’s home on Monroe Street a year after her arrival. Today, Kate lives in California, one of the estimated 70,000 war brides who came to the United States from Europe after World War II.
We would like to hear from readers about these war brides who passed through Sackets Harbor after the World Wars. These stories of soldier’s spouses are another part of Sackets Harbor’s rich history.
Photos: A WW1 Ambulance and Madison Barracks.