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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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FRASER, WILLIAM JAMES, trading company head, shipbuilder, foundry owner, consular agent, JP, and JCP; b. West River, Pictou Co., N.S., 9 Jan 1816, s/o James Fraser and Jane Ives; m. 1846, Jessie Matheson, of Green Hill, Pictou Co.; d. Halifax, 22 Dec 1904.

William J. Fraser was a grandson of Hugh Fraser, who came to Pictou from the north of Scotland in the ship Hector in 1773 and settled at West River.

After working for approximately five years in Pictou, Fraser migrated to the Miramichi in 1836 and took employment as a bookkeeper with William Abrams. He was later with Joseph Cunard & Co. and entered business in his own right in 1845. From January 1846 he conducted a general store in Chatham which had an extensive inventory. In 1848 he was the assignee of the bankrupt Cunard firm, and in 1852 he moved his retail business into the former Cunard store.

Fraser established a salmon and lobster cannery on Portage Island in 1849, and his preserved fish won a medal in the London Exhibition of 1853. In 1852 he bought the Miramichi Foundry from Hugh Bain. In 1854 he formed W. J. Fraser & Co., with his brother-in-law Isaac Matheson of Pictou, N.S., as a partner. Matheson later took over operation of the Miramichi Foundry, while Fraser attended to other branches of the business.

Fraser placed the packet schooner Phantom on a Miramichi-Bedeque-Charlottetown route in 1854, but it was soon more profitable for him to have both the Phantom and the schooner Blossom converted for use in the mackerel fishery. He had the brigantine Fire Fly built in 1856, and the ships Wolverine,Venilla, and Wenonah in 1857, 1858, and 1859. His firm also acted as agent for the steamer Lady Head, which was placed on a Quebec City-Pictou run in 1858, with stops at Chatham and elsewhere.

Between 1853 and 1860 Fraser was a partner in Forbes & Co., through which William Forbes conducted a drug store in Chatham, and his brother Kenneth B. Forbes later had a similar store in Richibucto. He was a founder of the Chatham Gas Light Co. in 1856 and its president in 1858-59. In 1862-63 he was president of the Miramichi and Richibucto Electric Telegraph Co.

In 1848 Fraser succeeded Henry C. D. Carman as United States vice-consul at Miramichi. He also acted as Prussian consular agent for the port. He was an overseer of the poor for Chatham parish in 1849 and a director of the Northumberland Agricultural Society in 1852. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1855, a commissioner of the Seamen's Hospital in 1857, and a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in 1860.

In 1864 Fraser moved to Halifax, where he was a commission merchant until the 1890s. He was afterwards "identified with mining interests." According to his obituary in the Halifax Morning Chronicle, "he was a man of notable strength of will and rectitude of character," whose "long and honorable business and private life was without a stain." He was predeceased by his wife, Jessie Matheson, and survived by a son, the Rev. William M. Fraser, a Presbyterian minister in Halifax, and later of Greenock Church in St Andrews, N.B.


[b/d] Pictou Advocate 23 Dec 1904 [m] Head Quarters 28 Oct 1846 / Advocate 21 Dec 1904; Fraser (C and WJL); Gleaner 3 Jan 1846 (ad), 25 Jul 1848, 3 Oct 1848, 8 May 1849, 16 Feb 1852, 14 Jun 1852, 9 Oct 1852, 27 Aug 1853, 20 May 1854, 29 Jul 1854, 11 Aug 1855, 10 Jan 1857, 31 Oct 1857, 1 May 1858, 5 Jun 1858, 25 Dec 1858, 21 Jan 1860, 26 May 1860, 2 Feb 1861, 11 Jan 1862, 17 May 1862, 20 Dec 1862, 6 Aug 1864, 18 Mar 1865, 15 Apr 1865; Matheson family data; MacKay; NB Almanac & Reg.; Presb. Witness 24 Dec 1904; Walkington (re. the Rev. William M. Fraser)