York’s Founding Fathers – Strange

It is strange.  You would hardly know that there was even a village there.  It once a hamlet but now just a church with a couple of hard to find cemeteries.  The village was founded as Williamstown, but eventually changed to the name of a famous resident.   I would like to introduce you to Dr. Frederick William Strange, founding namesake of Strange in King Township.

Frederick William Strange was born on September 9, 1844 in Sulhamsted, Berkshire, England.  He was born to parents Thomas Strange and Anne Matilda Brokenbrow.  Frederick was the sixth child of seven children born to the couple. His father Thomas was a coal merchant.  At the age of two, Frederick lost his father and the family began to move around.   Eight years later, Frederick’s mother was remarried to Frederick Gill and has a step-sister named Mary Matilda.

Fredrick wanted to be a doctor and he worked hard at becoming one. He took his schooling in Bath and in Winchester.  He studied medicine at Liverpool and in London, England.  By the time he had reached the age of 25, he had become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and the previous surgeon at London’s Surgical Home for Women.  He became a Fellow in the Obstetrics Society of London.

He would resign from those positions. It was at this time that Dr. Strange decided to move to Ontario.  He began his practice in Newmarket, Ontario. In 1869, He purchased a home in Aurora and began a successful practice out of it.  By September of that year, he was the coroner of York County.  In 1876, Dr. Strange decided to move to Toronto and practice there.

Dr. Strange was also in the military.  In 1875, Dr. Strange was made a Captain in the 12th York Rangers, Aurora Company. In 1877 he was a Provisional Captain with the Queen’s Own Rifles. During this same time, Frederick was participating in politics.  In 1878, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a representative for North York County.  On February 12, 1878, he was promoted to Gazetted Captain.  By January 13, 1881, Frederick had been promoted again to Major and surgeon with the Queen’s Own Rifles.

As part of his political duty to the residents of North York County, he was instrumental in regaining a post office for the small hamlet of Williamstown, founded in 1841.  The first post office was located in the general store but was closed in 1854.  On March 1, 1880, the new post office opened and was named after the man who made it possible.  The little hamlet was now called Strange.

In 1882, his political term was over.   Dr. Strange was now being transferred to “C” Company Infantry School Corps in Toronto.  This was a school to help train Militia men.  On March 27, 1885, “C” company is dispatched to serve in the North West Rebellion.  Again he was ranked Major Surgeon.  On April 7, 1885, Strange and his company arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Strange was sent to Cut Knife Creek. The violent Rebellion was brief, ending on May 12, 1885 with the captures of Louis Riel, Big Bear and Wandering Spirit.

On coming home, Frederick was given the Northwest Medal and Clasp for his service to the Country of Canada as a skilled surgeon on the Brigade staff.

Now living at 218 Simcoe Street in Toronto, he was able to be close to his company. He was now Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel with the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry and the chief surgeon for the Stanley Barracks. He was also now on the faculty at the Toronto Medical College.  Dr. Strange had gained a reputation for being a clever and successful surgeon.  He was also a very able pathologist.

Dr. Strange had a reputation for being quite handsome and tall.  He was over 6 feet tall.  He was a keen sportsman.  He also enjoyed the theatre and the musical arts.  He was welcome into almost every social circle.  He was very well liked by most everyone.  Dr. Strange enjoyed his horses and was not opposed to placing a bet or two.  It helped that he was a member of the Ontario Jockey Club.

In 1896, Dr. Strange again ran for the seat of York North in parliament.  He must have been highly thought of in the conservative circle because his running opponent was Sir William Mulock.  Unfortunately, Frederick did not win the seat.

On the morning of June 5th, 1897, Dr. Strange woke and began to oversee the packing of his trunks.  He was to be going to be stationed at Niagara for a while.  About 7am, his housemaid noticed that he seemed dizzy.  Dr. Strange said that he had a little bit of a headache and went back to bed.  Two hours later, the housemaid called Dr. Leslie.  By the time of his arrival, Frederick Strange was dead.  On first notice, Dr. Leslie stated cause of death was a heart attack.

A post mortem was held on June 6th.  His official cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.

A large funeral was held for Dr. Strange on June 7th.  The undertaker in charge was J. H. Millard. The funeral began from his residence and headed towards the Armouries.  This is where his body lay in state for two and a half hours. There were many floral tributes.  A service was held at the Armouries, attended by many.

After the service a large military procession carried the coffin into the rainy outside.  The coffin was draped in a Union Jack and his helmet and belt were placed on top of the flag.  The time was 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  The procession left the Armouries and proceeded north to Elm Street.  Then the procession turned on to University Avenue and advanced north around the parliament buildings.  At Avenue Road, the procession proceeded East across Roxborough Avenue to Yonge Street and eventually to Mount Pleasant Road.  The procession ended at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  He is buried in “U” section.

At the time of his death, his mother and 4 of his sisters were still living.  Probate happens in England on September 10, 1897.  Dr. Strange’s estate was over ₤ 900 and left in its entirety to his step sister Mary Matilda Gill. 

It is this that makes Dr. Strange such a unique character.  He managed to have a town named after him, yet he never lived there.  All that is left of the hamlet is a Presbyterian church that has been converted into a private home, and two small cemeteries.  You would have no trouble driving right on by and not even notice the little hamlet named after this spectacular Canadian.  Strange.





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