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49Old West - June 16 - 1890

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  • westernmaker2003
    Jun 16, 2005
      1890 Alaskan explorer Fred Fickett leaves Army

      Because of ailments he contracted during an arduous exploration of
      the Alaskan frontier, Fred Fickett retires from the military to
      become a civilian lawyer.

      A native of Maine, Fickett enlisted as a private in the Army Signal
      Corps in 1882. By chance, he was assigned to duty in Alaska, a
      massive and largely unexplored territory the U.S. had bought from
      Russia in 1867. After two years stationed at Sitka, Alaska, where he
      learned the science of meteorology, Fickett was reassigned to
      Portland, Oregon, the headquarters of the Army's Department of the
      Columbia, which included the territory of Alaska.

      In 1885, the leaders of the Department of the Columbia ordered
      Lieutenant Henry T. Allen to mount an expedition into the little-
      known interior of Alaska. Learning of Fickett's experience in Alaska
      and skill as a meteorologist, Allen had the private assigned to the
      expedition. With one more enlisted man and two prospectors, Allen's
      small band headed into the Copper River basin of Alaska in March

      Fickett's scientific duties were challenging from the start. Harsh
      weather often made it difficult for him to make meteorological
      observations. Indians eventually stole his hygrometer, and his
      barometer was "rendered useless by the natives who were curious to
      understand the nature of its interior construction." The rugged
      country and monotonous provisions sapped his energy and caused
      sickness. After a few months of "indescribable hardships and
      privations," all of the men came down with scurvy. Despite the
      difficulties, Fickett continued to make scientific observations of
      the Alaskan environment. He later concluded that despite the harsh
      conditions, vegetables might be successfully grown in the region
      during the short but sunny Alaskan summer.

      By June, the other members of the party had returned to
      civilization, but Allen and Fickett continued onward. The two men
      traveled overland to the headwaters of the Koyukuk River and then
      descended the river in canoes. Still suffering from illness, they
      reached the town of St. Michael on the coast in late August. In one
      short summer, they had charted three major river systems covering
      about 1,500 miles of wilderness.

      Fickett returned to the United States by steamboat. He stayed in the
      Army Signal Corps for five more years before requesting and
      receiving an honorable discharge on this day in 1890. That same
      year, he published an account of his adventure, Narratives of
      Explorations in Alaska. His health had been permanently weakened by
      the ailments he contracted in Alaska, so Fickett moved to Tucson,
      Arizona, where he practiced law and managed mining operations. He
      died in 1928 at the age of 70.

      Best Regards

      Buck callarhand