HISTORY OF THE FRASERS IN CANADA

Oh, for heaven’s sake, why don’t we just forget about calling it Canada and call it Fraserland instead. The 78th Fraser Highlanders were with General Wolfe at Quebec, Simon Fraser explored the West, Frasers were prominent in the early fur trade, and there are 218 geographical features in Canada, from the Fraser River in B.C., to Fraser Lake in Labrador, named after the « you-know whos ». Frank Jones, The Toronto Star, 1990 in interview with Neil Fraser entitled « He’s trying to gather the Fraser clan » .

Early History
The Risings of 1715 and 1745 resulted in hundreds of Jacobite prisoners being transported as indentured servants to the American colonies and the West Indies. For the Frasers, these were tumultuous times, creating a chain of events which would reach far beyond the shores of Scotland. For Simon Fraser, 18th MacShimi [1668-1747], whose support of the Hanovarians in 1715 had finally confirmed his right to the peerage as 11th Lord Lovat, but whose vision of a Jacobite dukedom in his 80s was very appealing, the 1745 Rising presented a dilemma.

The 17th Lord Lovat [1911-1995] in the preface to the Frasers of Lovat from the Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army 1745-46 [1984] comments:
« By 1730 Simon Fraser was officially recognised as the 11th Lord Lovat. Undeniably vain, bold, bad and ambitious, he was nevertheless a brilliant and understanding chief. To strengthen his position in the Highlands Lovat enlarged his clan by taking in numerous ‘Boll of Meal’ Frasers – men who changed their name in return for sustenance. Their descendants, all Frasers, are known around Beauly to this day.

In 1745 after much double dealing the wily chief, « Simon the Fox », as he was known, mustered the Frasers to support the Prince. They fought at the Battle of Falkirk, the inconclusive engagement on January 17th, 1746 when the clans beat off an English army.

Three months later on that fatal day at Culloden the Frasers charged with their right wing of the Highlanders, Camerons, Clan Chattan and the Stewarts. Their casualties were severe, reckoned as high as 250 killed. Their colonel, Charles Fraser, Ygr., of Inverallochy, while lying grievously wounded on the moor, was shot in cold blood at the order of Butcher Cumberland, or as some say, of General Hawley. The Hanovarian A.D.C., the future General Wolfe, had previously refused to act as executioner. There is a charming story that twelve years later on the Heights of Abraham outside Quebec, Wolfe fell mortally wounded into the arms of a Fraser Highlander.

After Culloden the whole Fraser country was laid waste by Hanovarian troops. Old Simon escaped on a litter from Stratherrick but was finally captured on an island in Loch Morar. He was taken to London, tried, forfeited and then executed on Tower Hill in 1747, the last nobleman to be beheaded in this country. His son, the Master of Lovat, had been cast in prison.

Some ten years later the clan rose to fight again when William Pitt advised George II to raise new regiments from the defeated Jacobites. He records ‘I sought for valour and found it in the mountains of the North’. In 1757 the Master of Lovat, though then possessing neither land nor money, raised a regiment of 1500 men from the Aird and Sratherrick. As the 78th Regiment, better known as Fraser’s Highlanders, they sailed for America to fight valiantly in ‘the year of victories’ and win Canada for the Crown. » Lord Lovat, Balblair, Beauly

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Neil Fraser and Lord Lovat at the Clan Fraser Gathering, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The 18th Lord Lovat’s Installation as Colonel-in-Chief of the Old 78th Fraser Highlanders
W. Neil Fraser – The Fraser Gathering Programme, 1997

« The 78th Fraser Highlanders regiment was chosen by the Canadian Government as a representative 18th century British regiment to celebrate the Centennial of Canada. With the assistance of the late Brigadier the Rt Hon Lord Lovat, who became the first Colonel-in-Chief, The Old 78th Fraser Highlanders regiment was created as an historical re-enactment unit, with authentic uniforms and weapons of the 18th century. The 78th Drill Squad, under command of Lord Lovat’s second son, the Hon Kim Fraser, served as Honour Guard for Queen Elizabelth II at the Official Opening of Expo ’67 in Montreal. The 17th Lord Lovat’s youngest son, the late Hon Andrew Fraser, was the second Colonel-in-Chief of the 78th.

Continuing the Lovat family association with the 78th, the 18th Lord Lovat, who succeeded his grandfather, will be installed as Colonel-in-Chief during ceremonies in Beauly, Inverness-shire on August 19th, 1997. Colonel Commandant John I.B. Macfarlane, CMM, CD of Montreal will officiate. The ceremony will mark the return of the 78th Fraser Highlanders to Scotland, and to the area where they were raised 240 years ago. »

Lord Lovat had too much integrity to allow anyone to believe that he was descended from Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat, whose eldest son Simon raised the Fraser Highlanders for service in Canada during the Seven Years War (1757-63). Lord Lovat’s connection to the early Frasers of Lovat was Alexander Fraser 4th Lord Lovat (1527-1557) through the latter’s second son Thomas Fraser of Knockie (1548-1612) who married the widow of Thomas Fraser of Strichen (3rd s/o Alexander Fraser, 7th of Philorth) and settled in Aberdeenshire. – For the ancestry of the current line of Lovat Fraser chiefs, see page for the Frasers of Lovat & Strichen.

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78th Fraser Highlanders Student Drill Squad entering Inverness Council Chambers – 1997

Lt-Col. Bruce Bolton, MMM, CD, Commanding Officer of the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada, in his capacity as Adjutant, 78th Fraser Highlanders, reported on the successful visit to Scotland of a group of Fraser Highlanders, in the CFSC quarterly newsletter, Canadian Explorer, December 2004:

« In closing, I want to acknowledge the special role played by Captain Neil Fraser from Toronto and Milady Ann Fraser in Beauly, in encouraging the young Lord Lovat to accept the position of Colonel-in-Chief of the Old 78th Fraser Highlanders in 1997, replacing his uncle Andrew. To quote his grandfather, the late 17th Lord Lovat, the Regiment’s first Colonel-in-Chief: ‘The Frasers wherever they may be are still a united family and a proud one at that. Touch one and you touch them all…’.  »

78th Fraser Highlanders Drill Squad poses with Lord Lovat (middle) in Lovat Memorial Garden, Beauly – 2004
Bruce Bolton (front, left) & Okill Stuart (next to Lord Lovat)

Photo: Courtesy 78th Fraser Highlanders, Montreal HQ

Immigration and Settlement

Following disbandment of the 78th Fraser Highlanders in 1763, many of the officers and soldiers were awarded grants of land and settled in the new country, some of them marrying into French families. Their descendants are very proud of their Franco-Ecosse heritage. Between the end of the Seven Years War and the outbreak of the American Revolution an estimated 20000 people left the Scottish Highlands, including those who came to Nova Scotia on the famous Hector in 1773.

Many former Jacobites who had become American colonists and declared themselves for the Duke of Cumberland’s nephew, King George III, moved to Canada after the war, settling in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Upper Canada.

In the Introduction to Clan Fraser, A history celebrating over 800 years of the Family in Scotland [1997], Lady Saltoun notes: « Although the Lovats never cleared their people from the Glens to make way for sheep, there was small prospect of advancement in life for younger sons unless they went south to one of the cities or emigrated, which is what many of them did. They went to Edinburgh, Glasgow or London, many went to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and prospered and founded families there, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. »

As the daughter-in-law of the first Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry [PPCLI], Lady Saltoun has strong feelings for Canada. She married Captain Alexander Arthur Ramsay of Mar [1919-2000], the only son of Admiral the Hon Sir Alexander Ramsay [1881-1972] and HRH Princess Victoria Patricia [1886-1974], younger daughter of HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn [1850-1942] Governor-General of Canada (1911-16).

Fur Trade and Exploration

Marjorie Wilkins Campbell wrote several books about the independent fur traders from Montreal, who banded together in 1779 to form the commercial empire of the North West Company, which spanned the continent before it was merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821. Simon McTavish [1750-1804], who became the wealthiest man in Montreal, emigrated to America with his sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Hugh Fraser who had served with the 78th Frasers at Quebec. Simon McTavish’s sister Ann married Donald McGillivray. It was their son William [1764-1825], brought to Montreal as a clerk in 1784, who would eventually take over as Head of the Company.

Simon McTavish brought into the Company several relatives of officers who had served with the Regiment, raised by Colonel Fraser of Lovat in 1757 and disbanded in 1763. Alexander Fraser [1763-1837] was a son of Malcolm Fraser of Murray Bay [1733-1815], and Malcolm’s daughter Angelique married John McLoughlin [1748-1813] whose son John B. McLoughlin [1784-1857] became the « Father of Oregon ». Simon Fraser the famous explorer [1776-1862] was a nephew of John Fraser of Montreal, a descendant of the Frasers of Culbokie. Simon Fraser of Ste. Anne’s [c.1760-1839] preceded the explorer in the fur trade, but got no further than Grand Portage on the north shore of Lake Superior. His father, Alexander Fraser of Bunchgavy, another Fraser Highlander, was a descendant of the Frasers of Garthmore and Foyers. In fact, there were several fur traders named Simon Fraser, as noted historian W. Stewart Wallace discovered when researching The Pedlars from Quebec.

Another kinsman brought into the Company by Simon McTavish was John George MacTavish, younger son of Lachlan MacTavish of Dunardry whose castle was purchased by Simon. John George MacTavish later joined the Hudson’s Bay Company and became a close friend of Governor George Simpson.

Clan Fraser in Canada

Alexander Fraser [1860-1936], in The Clan Fraser in Canada, Souvenir of the First Annual Gathering , Toronto, May 5th 1894 [1895], refers to a report in the Quebec Mercury about a meeting of the « Frasers » of the Province of Quebec, held on 8th February 1868. In addition to electing a Chief for the Dominion of Canada, it was recommended that there should also be elected one hundred and eleven subordinate chieftains of provinces, electoral divisions, counties, localities and townships to represent all the Frasers, estimated by John Fraser de Berry to be about 12,000. The following Head Chiefs were elected unanimously at the annual meeting of the « Frasers » held at Quebec, 30th January 1869, as reported by John Fraser de Berry, 24th April 1869:

Chief of the « Frasers » of the whole of British North America – The Honorable James Fraser de Ferraline, Esquire, Member of the Legislative Council for the Province of Nova Scotia – residing at New Glasgow, near Pictou, Nova Scotia; a very wealthy and influential wholesale merchant, born in 1802, in the parish of Boleskine, County of Inverness, Scotland; descended by his father from the Ferraline family of the Frasers, and by his mother from the Gorthlic family of the Frasers, a very ancient family in Boleskine.

Chief of the « Frasers » for the Province of Nova Scotia – Donald Fraser, Esquire, ex M.P.P. of Acadia farm, near Pictou, Nova Scotia.

For the Land of Newfoundland – The Hon. James O. Fraser, Esquire, Member of the Legislative Council for Newfoundland, residing at St. Johns.

For the Province of New Brunswick – John James Fraser, an eminent barrister and ex M.P.P., descended from a very distinguished Highland family; residing at Fredericton, New Brunswick.

For Prince Edward Island – James Fraser, Esquire, J.P., farmer, Belfast.

For the Province of Ontario – Alexander Fraser, Esquire, M.P.P. for South Northumberland, residing at Cobourg.

For the Province of Quebec – The Honorable John Fraser de Berry, Esquire, Member of the Legislative Council for the Electoral Division of Rougemont, and Secretary of the « New Clan Fraser », residing at St. Mark de Cournoyer, Chambly River, in the County of Vercheres, District of Montreal.

John Fraser [1816-76] was a grandson of Lt Malcolm Fraser of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, who appears to have added de Berry to his name when he became a member of the Legislative Council. Although he may have been prone to delusions of grandeur, and the elaborate constitution and intangible purposes of his New Clan Fraser failed to attract any attention whatsoever, and ceased to exist, he laid the foundation for our clan society.

In the spring of 1894, Alexander Fraser noted there was little diminution of the clan feeling and he believed there was room for a less pretentious and more practicable clan organization. Invitations were sent to members in Ontario, Montreal, New York, Buffalo and Detroit, to attend the first annual dinnder of the Clan Fraser in Canada on 5th May 1894 and 300 replies were received, expressing hope for the successful revival of the Clan Fraser organization. Alexander Fraser was a native of Inverness-shire who emigrated to Canada in 1886. He helped to organize the Gaelic Society of Canada, the 48th Highlanders of Toronto, the Clan Fraser in Canada and the Toronto Historical Society. A prolific author, Colonel Fraser was the first Archivist of Ontario (1903-35).

We are fortunate that the members of CFS of Canada, some of whom are descended from the dedicated people involved in these early Clan Fraser organizations, are very much interested in learning more about their heritage in Canada and Scotland.

Scottish Culture and Traditions

It is probably safe to say that the majority of the descendants of Scottish immigrants to Canada have benefitted from the courage, hardship and perseverance of their ancestors in forging new lives while clinging to the old culture and traditions. We have experienced first-hand the observations of some of the younger generation of Scots who are amazed and delighted that Scottish culture and traditions have managed to survive and thrive in Canada – especially in Nova Scotia, but also in other parts of the country – whereas they worry that in some parts of the U.K. people may be in danger of losing some of the characteristics which have made them special.

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Clan Fraser Canadian Tour, Cairnbulg Castle, August 1997

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Clan Fraser Canadian Tour, August 1997, Beauly

The 17th Lord Lovat’s brother-in-law, Sir Fitzroy Maclean [1911-96] in the Epilogue to Highlanders, A History of the Scottish Clans [1995] noted: « The Battle of Culloden is often said to have marked the end both of the clan system and of the old Highland way of life. » However, the Fraser family has survived and prospered. We have long ago ceased to be Colonials and we are Canadians first, with problems that would probably have frightened our ancestors. Nevertheless, the Frasers, Bissets, Brewsters, Cowies, Frews, Frizells, Macgruers, Mackims, Mackimmies, Macsimons, Mactavishes, Olivers, Simons, Simpsons, Sims, Symes, Twaddles and Tweedies – and their children and grandchildren – have every right to be proud of their heritage and their feelings of kinship with Lady Saltoun and Lord Lovat who are, after all, first amongst equals.