FRASER, ALEXANDER, army officer and seigneur; b. c. 1729 in Scotland; m. c. 1765 Jane McCord; d. 19 April 1799 at Saint-Charles, near Quebec.
Untangling the several Alexander Frasers who served with the 78th Foot in the campaigns of the Seven Years’ War has been a perennial problem. The subject of this biography, who appears to have come from a good Highland family, entered the 78th as an ensign and was promoted lieutenant on 12 Feb. 1757. He participated in the captures of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and Quebec, and he was wounded in 1760, possibly at the battle of Sainte-Foy [see Lévis]. Fraser remained in Canada after his regiment was disbanded and in August 1763 he purchased from Governor James Murray the seigneury of La Martinière, near Quebec. He added the adjoining seigneury of Vitré in 1775 and that of Saint-Gilles, approximately 20 miles above Quebec, in 1782.
With the outbreak of the American revolution Fraser returned to military service; he was commissioned captain in the Royal Highland Emigrants on 14 June 1775 [see Allan Maclean]. Along with other officers of this regiment he was commended by Governor Sir Guy Carleton* in 1777 for his “indefatigable zeal and good conduct” during the American siege of Quebec in the winter of 1775 [see Richard Montgomery]. There was more behind this commendation than good service, however. Fraser and his fellow officers had assumed that their regiment would be placed on the regular establishment so that when it was reduced they would enjoy their rank and half pay. Their assumption proved wrong, and they had “the Mortification to find themselves now obliged to serve in a provincial Regiment and to do duty in a manner very disagreeable to them as their Rank is not ascertained in the Army.” Carleton sympathized with their plight, praised their contribution, and urged that their regiment be established or the officers placed in regular regiments. In Alexander Fraser’s case, nothing came of this recommendation. Instead, he was assigned as a captain to the militia stationed at Saint-Jean on the Richelieu and “Constantly did duty” from some time in 1777 until April 1778. Service with the militia was not common practice for regular officers, but because Fraser belonged to a provincial regiment, which did not have the rights and privileges of regular regiments, his transfer to the militia would not have been regarded by the authorities as unusual or demeaning.
In August 1778, claming that he had “No other friens to apply to,” he begged Governor Haldimand for “some small Provision” and hinted at a pension, while maintaining that he remained ready to serve in “any Garrison of foot.” In May 1779 Major John Nairne*, his friend and superior officer, urged that Fraser be allowed to retire since the state of his health rendered him “totally unfit for further service.” Nairne emphasized that only his shattered health had caused Fraser to make such a request. No doubt the frustration caused by the indifference shown to his various complaints had also helped. Fraser probably left the regiment the same year; ironically, in April 1779 the British government had approved the inclusion of the Royal Highland Emigrants into the regular army, as the 84th Foot.
Fraser’s private life was as disappointing as his Revolutionary War service. His wife died in 1767, and he was left to raise their two infant daughters, Jane and Margaret. Jane died a few years after her own marriage and her son Walter Davidson, born in 1790, became the only male heir to the Fraser seigneurial holdings. In June 1791, when his grandson was ten months old, Fraser gave him title to the Saint-Gilles seigneury, where he had granted land to 15 German veterans in 1783. Fraser successfully sought further grants in the 1790s, at times using his former military service as justification. He died at Saint-Charles on 19 April 1799 and was buried at Quebec on the 22nd.
ANQ-Q, Greffe de J.-A. Panet, 18 sept. 1782; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 2 août 1763; Greffe de J.-A. Saillant, 28 mars 1775. PAC, MG 11, [CO 42], Q, 61/2, pp.265, 270; MG 23, GIII, 11; MG 24, B 1, 25, pp.13–53; RG 1, L3, 1, pp.207, 212; 12, pp.3694, 3702; 87, pp.42899, 42905. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary, 244. Arthur Caux, “Notes sur les seigneurs de Beaurivage,” BRH, LV (1949), 155–61. W. S. Wallace, “Alexander Fraser of Beauchamp,” BRH, XLIII (1937), 176–79; “Some notes on Fraser’s Highlanders,” CHR, XVIII (1937), 131–40.