WWI Wall of Honor: Harry William Beaton

Harry William Beaton (1890-1938)

Harry William Beaton was born in Wisconsin, a son of Donald Alexander “Dan” Beaton and Mary Coey. His grandparents had immigrated to Quebec from the Scottish Highlands and from Ulster.

He was inducted into the U.S. Army in Montana in May 1918 and was assigned to Company 29 of the 166th Development Battalion. Developmental battalions identified unfit men, trained them for possible duty and/or rid the service of those who failed. Foot problems were a problem, and it’s possible that Harry needed medical attention or training. He was then assigned Company G, 157th Infantry and went overseas in August 1918 as a member of Company H of the 317th Infantry, 80th Division. He served in France in the Argonne-Meuse Offensive 1-7 November 1918. His brother James Alexander Beaton also served there.

Harry got the flu in France in 1919 and came home from Brest, France, on 1 June 1919. He was honorably discharged at Fort D.A. Daniels in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on 22 June 1919. His discharge described him as “honest and faithful,” never AWOL. Both before and after service, he worked as a printer in at least eight states.

As a civilian, Harry had a horrible life. He had four marriages and four divorces, and often was in trouble of his own making. He was an alcoholic, was accused of abandoning one wife while she was pregnant, of failure to support his families and of adultery. He was jailed for public intoxication and convicted of two federal crimes – taking women across a state line for purposes of prostitution (the Mann Act) and for “selling liquor to Indians.” He was treated for many medical conditions ranging from gonorrhea to bad teeth to cancer, and he was hospitalized at Veterans Administration facilities in four states.

Harry died at the VA hospital in Fort Harrison, Montana, on 14 January 1938. He was 47, and he was buried in a military ceremony at Superior, Montana. Harry had served his country with honor, and not all troubled men like Harry have such a redeeming feature in their lives. We salute him and thank him now for his service.

The Beaton brothers’ story is told in detail in the autumn 2018 edition of the Minnesota Genealogist.

Great-uncle of Zoe von Ende Lappin