Memorable Manitobans: George Semperins (St. Pierre) Brooks (1845-1948)
Soldier, singer, story-teller.
Reportedly born as a slave on a Kentucky farm on 1 January 1845, he served his slave-master during the American Civil War. He was allegedly captured by Union forces, became General Ulysses Grant’s servant and witnessed General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. After the war, he claimed to have joined the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Nashville, sang for Queen Victoria, in 1873, performed in minstrel acts and worked for P. T. Barnum.
He came to Manitoba in 1911 and farmed in the Westbourne area. During the First World War, he signed on as a cook with the 27th (Winnipeg) Battalion, giving his age as 40. He also stated he was born in Cuba, had served in the US Calvary and in the Spanish American War. He was hospitalized, in 1918, due to complications from syphilis and was sent home when it was discovered he was 70 years of age. He spent the rest of his life in Winnipeg, enjoyed travelling and, during his last years at Deer Lodge Hospital, telling visitors stories about his remarkable life.
He died at Deer Lodge Hospital on 6 May 1948, aged 103, and was interred in Brookside Cemetery. He was Canada’s oldest soldier.
George S. Brooks, Brookside Cemetery: A Celebration of Life, Volume 2, page 19.
“George Brooks, 103, dies in Deer Lodge Hospital,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 May 1948, page 11.
“Slave-born vet of four wars dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 May 1948, page 1.
Discharge Documents, George St. Pierre (Semperins) Brooks, Library and Archives Canada.
This page was prepared by Ian Stewart.
Page revised: 28 April 2017