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An Example of Victorian Arrogance

Mike Wilson, Local Author and Historian

Frederick Strickland

Readers may well have heard of the name Strickland. One of the Stricklands – William – is credited with bringing the turkey to England in the mid-1500s following his voyages of exploration in America.

But what about Frederick? What is his claim to fame? Frederick's father was Sir George Strickland, of Bridlington, a baronet and a member of Parliament, and Frederick was a gentleman with good prospects. He had graduated from Cambridge in 1843 and is said to have been ". . . attuned to the Darwinian buzz at Cambridge, and was probably among the class of English gentlemen of that era who found it convenient to believe that the whole history of evolution ended at English gentlemen, destined as they were to achieve dominion over palm and pine and to know a good sherry when they tasted one."

In 1849, at the age of 20, Frederick Strickland travelled to New England in America. The Boston Transcript said of him: "He brought letters to some of our most distinguished citizens and was advised to visit the White Mountains by several gentlemen of science and taste in our community."

The White Mountains are about 130 miles from Boston, and in October 1849, Frederick travelled north to meet Ethan and Thomas Crawford, Frederick telling them that he'd like to climb Mount Washington, one of the White Mountains. Thomas Crawford advised against it, as a recent blizzard had left deep snow on the trail and that the season was over. Frederick thought Crawford wanted more money to be his guide.

But Crawford was aware that Mount Washington was 130 miles north of Boston, and that the summit was 6000 feet higher than Boston, and he calculated that this distance and this height gave the top of Mount Washington the same climactic conditions as those of the middle of Labrador. The conditions on Mount Washington would be severe, and Frederick Strickland ". . . would soon understand the effect of this rule, although he probably thinks it doesn't apply to him."

Strickland believed he could do anything and he contacted a guide, and obtained horses and packs of dried biscuits. He put a coat over his tapered trousers, high shirts and floppy tie and set off. There was a nine-mile journey along a ridge to the top of Mountain Washington, and halfway there the guide stopped. He informed Strickland that they "will never make it," that "the snow is too deep, the wind too strong, the clouds too thick, and it is far too cold." Strickland refused to quit, and the guide and horses left him to return to their starting point.

Strickland, alone, managed to reach the summit. He left the summit by another trail to make his way to a pre-arranged hostel, but he never arrived. Two days later, searchers found blood in the snow, probably caused by falls on the sharp rocks. Then a pair of pants was discovered in a pool. It was assumed Strickland fell into the pool while disorientated and was forced to remove them. This explained the areas of skin peeled from his legs when his body was finally discovered. Poor Strickland died of hypothermia and, probably, the stubbornness and arrogance of youth.

Frederick Strickland was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, an observer saying: "He was the first person to climb Mount Washington in winter conditions, and he was the first to die there."

This is Strickland's tombstone. The text reads: "Sacred to the memory of Frederick Strickland, an English traveller. who lost his life October 20, 1849, while walking upon the White Mountains. He was the second son of George Strickland, Bart., a member of the Parliament of England."