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Frederick Schwatka

Frederick Gustavus Schwatka (29 September 1849 – 2 November 1892)

Member of: St. John’s Lodge No. 37, Yreka, California

Frederick Gustavus Schwatka; army officer, explorer, and author. In 1859 Frederick moved with his family from the Midwest to Salem, Oregon, where he attended Willamette University and was later apprenticed to a printer. Accepted by the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1867, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry upon his graduation in 1871. While intermittently serving as a fighting officer at numerous postings in the west, Schwatka studied both medicine and law. He was admitted to the Nebraska bar in 1875 and received his medical degree from the prestigious Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City the following year. Between 1878 and 1880, at the behest of the American Geographical Society, he led an expedition to the Canadian Arctic to look for written records thought to have been left on or near King William Island by members of Franklin’s lost expedition. Traveling to Hudson Bay on the schooner Eothen, Schwatka’s initial team included William Henry Gilder, his second in command; naturalist Heinrich Klutshak, Frank Melms, and Joe Eiberbing, an Inuit interpreter and guide who had assisted explorer Charles Francis Hall in his search for Franklin between 1860 and 1869. In 1883, he was sent to reconnoiter the Yukon River by the United States Army. Going over the Chilkoot Pass, his party built rafts and floated down the Yukon River to its mouth in the Bering Sea, naming many geographic features along the way. At more than 1,300 miles, it was the longest raft journey that had ever been made. Schwatka’s book-length publications include Along Alaska’s Great River (1885) and The Search for Franklin (1882), republished in 1965 as The Long Arctic Search.