Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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FRASER, JAMES (1759-1822)

FRASER, JAMES, lumber and trading company head, shipbuilder, militia officer, JP, JCP, and MLA; b. Farraline, Inverness-shire, Scotland, 1759, s/o Alexander Fraser and - Cameron; m. 1802, Rachel Otis DeWolf, of Windsor, N.S.; d. there, 14 Oct 1822.

James Fraser, who was educated in Aberdeen, Scotland, arrived in Halifax around 1780 and became connected with William Forsyth & Co. and other trading firms. About 1785 he and James Thom, a businessman whom he had taken into partnership, came to the Miramichi to start a fishing business that would supply the Forsyth firm with salmon. The partners experienced immediate success in this enterprise, as well as in general merchandising, at a time when the population of the county was expanding. From 1787 onward they and their associates were based on Beaubear's Island, where they were engaged in a variety of forest-related activities. William Davidson had an agreement to supply masts to the Forsyth firm, and after his death in 1790 they took it over. They later succeeded to most of his other commercial interests as well. As stated elsewhere, Patrick Campbell commented on the vigor and diversity of their business in 1791. With Charles Vye as their master shipbuilder they were dominant in that industry on the Miramichi and in trade and commerce in general. They also had commercial establishments at other locations along the eastern and northern coasts of New Brunswick, in eastern Nova Scotia, and on Cape Breton Island.

Fraser was the first commanding officer of the Northumberland County militia, under legislation introduced in 1787. When the 1st Battalion was activated, he was named major, and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1799. He was one of the first justices of the peace of the county and one of the first justices of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. He was a failed candidate for a Northumberland County seat in the Assembly in 1791 when he ran against Harris W. Hailes, but he was elected in 1795 and re-elected in 1802, 1809, and 1816. After 1805, however, he spent most of his time in Halifax, and when he was appointed to the Nova Scotia Council in 1818 he resigned his New Brunswick assembly seat.

Fraser's partner, James Thom, retired from business in 1811. Soon afterwards, he returned to Scotland and made his home in Aberdeen until his death in 1834. Before Thom retired Alexander Fraser was admitted as a partner, and the firm was later known as Fraser & Fraser. In 1817 it was reorganized as James Fraser & Co., with John Fraser as a third partner. This arrangement obtained until James Fraser's death in 1822.

Fraser and his wife, Rachel O. DeWolf, raised six daughters and two sons. Their elder son, James D. Fraser, was one of the partners of the Fraser lumber firm until 1834. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the New Brunswick Assembly in 1828 but was later an assemblyman in Nova Scotia. Their other son, Benjamin DeWolf Fraser, was a physician in Wolfville, N.S., and the father of Sir Charles Frederick Fraser (1850-1925), the celebrated Nova Scotia educator of the blind. Their daughters included Sarah Rachel Fraser, the wife of Sir Charles S. Gore, a senior army officer in British North America in the mid 19th century.


[b] LDS-IGI [m] Royal Gazette 21 Oct 1802 [d] Acadian Recorder 19 Oct 1822 / DCB (re. James Fraser and Charles S. Gore); Encycl. Can. (re. Charles F. Fraser); Facey-Crowther; Gleaner 12 May 1834; Graves; Hoddinott; Manny (Ships)