Interview With Brian Huseland

From the interview with Brian Huseland of Spokane, WA conducted by phone by Patience Rogge from the Fort Worden History Center on July 14, 2011.  Mr. Huseland is the great-grandson of William Brinsmead, the last military caretaker of Fort Townsend (now a Washington State Park).  Here he relates the story of William’s coming to America from England as a child, and how he began his Army career:

“He was born in London, his family had lived there for several years. His mother passed away when he was 10 or 11 years old.  His grandfather and his brother had a piano manufacturing company, the name Brinsmead was well known. In 1879 or 1880 the grandfather sold the rights to use the name to his brother. William’s father had been working in the company and lost his job, then his wife died in childbirth. She also had bronchitis.  At the time she died in the winter of 1880, London had a very bad black fog caused by all the coal burning in the houses.  This contributed to a 300% increase in deaths from bronchitis.  The father couldn’t provide for five children, so he asked the grandparents to take three of them.  He took two of his children, my great-grandfather William and his brother to New York to start a new life in America.  A year later, the father surrendered them up to an orphanage and walked away.  The boys were cared for the Children’s Aid Society in New York.  At the time, their strategy for helping kids was not just clothing and feeding them; but putting them on a train and sending them out to rural areas where farming families could adopt them and, hopefully, give them a better life.  William and his brother were sent to Iowa.  Their experience was pretty good.  After joining that family and working on the farm in southwestern Iowa, he finished high school and joined the Army in 1887 when he was only 18 years old. So from the time he was 18 until he was in his 40’s, he was on active duty in the Army, and then when he was older he was a caretaker at Fort Townsend.  He was a caretaker, but actually the Army took care of him.  The Army had been a very stable influence in his life, it had allowed him to build up something for himself, a new life in America.  Being part of the military was an obvious choice for a young man who didn’t  know what to do. It was a great benefit to him, I’m grateful for that.”

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