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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

WWI Veteran Frederick Freestone

As we stop this Veterans Day and remember the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in war, my attention returns to The Rock and the bronze plaque affixed to its surface. The plaque, installed in 1921, is the borough's World War I Memorial; it lists the five Glen Rock men who lost their lives during the conflict as well as the 89 Rockers who served and returned. One of these returning men, Frederick G. Freestone, is the subject of this post.

A little while ago, I was contacted by Sharon Reach Korsman via our Facebook page ( Sharon generously provided family photographs and materials relating to the Freestone family. Frederick was the brother of Sharon's grandmother, Hazel.

Fred was born in 1890 in Ridgewood, NJ, the son of Joseph and Sarah (Farrington) Freestone. Joseph owned a cabinet shop that advertised "Antiques, Furniture, Upholstery, Etc., Mattresses Made Over"; the shop was located on Maple Avenue in Glen Rock near Rock Road, close to where the Kilroy's Offices are now (near The Annex). Joseph and Sarah immigrated from England in 1880 when they were both aged 12. They later settled in Paterson and started a family before moving to Glen Rock before the 1910 Federal Census.

The cabinet shop used horse and buggies for their business and it makes sense that Frederick and his younger brother Ernest developed a love of horses. The brothers would both go into trade as blacksmiths, Ernest working mainly in Paterson.

[Joseph and Sarah Freestone in front of their cabinetry shop on Maple Avenue in Glen Rock]

Frederick Freestone married Jenny Borgman in 1911. Jenny was the daughter of Martin and Kathryn Borgman of Doremus Avenue. Jenny was born in Glen Rock and died here in 1950 while living with her daughter Sarah. She and Frederick had two children. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Frederick was 27 years old and married. He was 5'6" tall and weighed 127 pounds and was working as a blacksmith at the time of his registration. His skills as a blacksmith and farrier made him an invaluable asset to the war effort.

Horses were a vital part of the war effort since they were more reliable and easier to care for than the newfangled mechanized vehicles. At the start of the War in 1914, the combatants still attempted to mount cavalry attacks but it soon became very obvious that this was impossible with the advent of trench warfare, machine guns and barbed wire. Horses were used extensively to transport ammunition and supplies to and from the front. More than 600,000 horses and mules were shipped overseas from North America during the War.

[A horse being off-loaded in Boulogne in 1916]

After training at Fort Dix as part of the 78th Infantry, Fred and his regiment were shipped over to France in May 1918. The 78th would be involved in three major campaigns during the War: Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, and Lorraine. The local Glen Rock newsletter, The Glen Rocket, praises Fred's service by noting that "Fred and his horse were in the thick of the big drive" that led to the Armistice on 11/11/1918. The Glen Rocket also mentioned that Fred "had been very ill" but no further details about this illness have been found. His service record notes that he instructed others in the art of horse-shoeing and caring for the unit's horses. The animals were expected to march up to 40 miles per day, which necessitated the replacement of iron horseshoes about once a month. Fred was undoubtedly kept extremely busy. He would also have been expected to care for the unit's horses and, quite likely, would have been responsible for putting down injured and sick animals. It is estimated that 8 million horses died in World War I, the majority dying from disease or exhaustion.

Frederick George Freestone served honorably from 19 May 1918 until his discharge on 22 March 1919. His name is on the World War I Memorials in Glen Rock and in Hawthorne (from which he officially enlisted in 1917). He continued to work as a blacksmith until his untimely death in 1935 at age 44, leaving behind his young widow, Jenny, and their two children.


Do you have a connection to any of the men listed on the Glen Rock World War I Memorial? The Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society is actively seeking photographs and information on these WWI veterans. Please contact us if you can help us with this project. THANK YOU! Check out our Honor Roll page HERE.

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