by Marie Fraser of Canada Family of John Fraser
"Cousin Sandy" (1810-1872)
Some artists are like pippins. The American Heritage
Dictionary of the English Language definition is: 1) Any of several
varieties of apple. 2) The seed of a fruit; pip. 3) Slang. An
admired person or thing. Don D. Fraser, a retired orchardist, points out
that Pippins are bearing trees from seedlings. Until recently, I
knew little about pippins, and had not heard of Malcolm Fraser, a native
of Montreal, who was awarded the title of Professor of Fine Arts by the
city of Paris in 1895.
A brief biography of Malcolm Fraser (1868-1949) states
that he was a son of William Lewis Fraser; a grandson of John Fraser of
London, a Lovat Highlander and Chartist leader in 1840; and a fifth
great-grandson of Simon Fraser, 12th Lord of Lovat, referred to
in English histories as "The Jacobite Fox". John Fraser, while a music
critic, "met Isabel Winn, foremost lyric soprano of the Haymarket Theatre,
and married her. However, for his political views, his property was
confiscated by the crown, and he was compelled to emigrate to Montreal,
Canada… In 1874 he met his death at the hands of political enemies, during
a recess of the House of Parliament, which had been debating his stand
against the existing unfair taxation."
His father, William L. Fraser (1841-1905), a painter,
sculptor, art dealer, author and musician, settled with his family in New
York City, where Malcolm attended grammar school and college. He sailed
for Paris in 1888 to continue his studies at the Sorbonne, and in 1897
returned to the U.S., where he began a career as an illustrator. The
London Times sent him to Egypt to produce drawings for an
archeological expedition to that country. During World War I he was a
captain of the front lines, as zone commander of the American Red Cross,
Expeditionary Forces. After spending many winters in Florida with his
second wife, Mary Aldrich Fraser, he left a unique series of spiritual
paintings to the city of Ormond Beach, which are housed in the Ormond
Memorial Art Museum.
Don Fraser kindly sent me copies of some family papers,
including a thesis on John Arthur Fraser (1838-1898) prepared by Kathryn
L. Kollar for her Master of Fine Arts degree at Concordia University
(1981). John Arthur Fraser was Malcolm’s uncle, who had left England for
Canada with his new wife in April 1858, settling first in Stanstead
county, Quebec, before moving to Montreal in 1860 to join William Notman
(1826-1891), a native Scot who emigrated to Montreal in 1856, and
established a photography firm, specializing in the tinted portrait
According to family tradition (which has become part of
the artist’s accepted biography) Fraser attended evening art classes at
age 14 (in 1852) at the Royal Academy Schools under Richard Redgrave; but
there is no mention of Fraser’s name in its Register of Students, and
Constance-Anne Parker, the Librarian of the Royal Academy in London wrote
to Kollar in 1978: "… it is likely that he attended the Government School
of Design. In its early days it is often confused with the Royal Academy
because it took over the R.A.’s premises when they moved to Trafalgar
Square." A brief biography in the Catalogue of Paintings in Oil and Water
Colors by John A. Fraser, 8-16 April 1901, Kit Kat Club, New York City,
states that "at the age of 14, while busied during the day with mercantile
duties, he attended night drawing classes at Burlington."
As noted by Kathryn Kollar, Fraser’s process was quite
simple: the artist laid down transparent washes of watercolour over a pale
photographic image; the printed image of the photograph was always
respected, with the result that the original line and tone were still
evident. The transition from photograph to watercolour was so delicately
rendered that the results resembled "in every way the real thing on
ivory". Fraser possessed obvious dexterity and lightness of touch,
resulting in a coloured likeness so fine that it was "difficult for even
artists to detect the photographic base".
Fraser became the natural leader of the studio artists
because of their respect for his artistic talents and organizing
abilities. He was also fast becoming an outspoken proponent of Canadian
art. In 1868 he became a full partner in Notman & Fraser in Toronto. He
was a founder-member of the Society of Canadian Artists, Montreal (1867),
the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto (1872) and a charter member of the
Royal Canadian Academy (1880). He dissolved his partnership with Notman in
1883 and by 1885 was living in Boston, MA where he became a member of the
Boston Art Club and the Boston Watercolor Society. Early in 1886 Sir
George Stephen, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, commissioned
him to paint some views of the Rockies for London’s Colonial and Indian
Exhibition, based on photographs by Alexander Henderson, given to him by
Sir William Van Horne.
His father, John Fraser (1810-1872) from Portsoy,
Banffshire, was both a London merchant tailor and noted political writer
on the English Chartist reform movement, whose crusty manner and folksy
poems endeared him to many of the Scottish settlers in Canada. He became
known as "Cousin Sandy". The Stanstead Journal reports that Mr
Fraser, of England, gave a lecture on Robert Burns, March 8 & 13, 1858. On
Nov. 11, 1858 Mrs John Fraser, from London, England, informs the Ladies of
Stanstead, Derby Line and vicinity, she has commenced a "Millinery and
The accepted story is that Fraser’s tailor business had
failed, although his public life and connection with the Chartist movement
may have precipitated his departure. His prominent position on "the
different agitations of the day served to bring down upon him the enmity
of many who had been his friends and customers. Reverse followed reverse,
and, his circumstances becoming much reduced, he contemplated going
abroad". In addition to the stories and poems, John Fraser’s
"Reminiscences of an English Chartist" appeared in the Northern Journal.
Canadian Illustrated News, Vol. 25, dated June 22, 1872 provides
some biographical information.
His parents, John Fraser and Isabella Forbes, as well
as his uncle James Fraser with his wife and sons, had emigrated in 1831,
as part of the group from Scotland who settled in the village of Beebe
Plain on the Derby Line border. In his Last Will and Testament, John
Fraser (1774-1856) refers to his son John Fraser, now absent from the
Province, his daughter Mrs Nancy Fraser of Stanstead, the lawful wife of
Mr Timothy Winn, Innkeeper, and his beloved wife Isabel Forbes. In 1872
Isabel Frazer of Derby, Vermont was living with her daughter and
son-in-law; she was buried at Stanstead, Quebec. Witnesses: Timothy Winn &
I am indebted to Paul Lessard for his meticulous
research on the family and relatives of "Cousin Sandy". He points out that
both the National libraries of Quebec and Canada failed to recognize John
Fraser (1810-1872) as Cousin Sandy and attributed the book "A tale of the
sea, and other poems" to John Fraser of Montreal-Lachine (1820-1899). As a
result, libraries all across Canada and elsewhere have copied this false
information into their records.
An Inquest found that John Fraser, Author, a native of
Scotland, died by accidental drowning in Ottawa on 7th June
1872, at the age of 61; he was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery on the 9th.
John Fraser, Minister, was "a cousin" of the deceased. Isabella Warren,
wife of the late John Fraser, born in London, England in 1815, died in the
City of Montreal 4th March 1875, and was buried on the 6th
in the presence of the subscribing witnesses: John A. Fraser, W. L.
Fraser, James Fraser, Hy Sandham.
Henry Sandham (1842-1910), another Notman artist, had
married John Fraser’s daughter, Agnes Amelia Fraser (1843-1906) on 23 May
1865 in Montreal St. George’s Anglican. They had six children: Henry John
Fraser, 1866; Arthur Frederick, 1868; Noah Agnes, 1870; Winette Gwendoline,
1873; Olivia Isabella, 1874 and Alice Muriel, 1878; four of whom died in
Don D. Fraser [s/o Augustin George Fraser & Frances
Valentine] has kindly shared the following extracts from family papers:
Notes by Emily Louise Fraser [Mrs James Arthur O’Brien]
Father, John Arthur, was born in London, England, Jan.
9, 1838. On April 4, 1858 he married, at Christ Church Forest Hill, Kent,
Anne Maria Sayer, born at Herne Bay, Kent, Dec. 9, 1838. They sailed for
Quebec, Canada, April 9, 1858.
On March 12, 1859, in Stanstead, Eastern Townships,
Quebec, was born John Arthur Jr. He grew up to be a prolific playwright;
married Frances Ross, who bore him two sons, John A. 3rd and
Ross who died in childhood. I have lost track of John 3rd these
many years. Jack married a second time, Flora Wainwright, actress, who had
one son Frank Wainwright. She ran away with one Dick Hayes of Elizabeth,
New Jersey. This was the end for Jack, who just gave up in a month & died;
that was September 1901. Next came Augustin George, born in Montreal,
January 11, 1861. Gus married Molly Jeffreys, who I believe died and he
later married Frances [Mrs Nicholson], a widow, out in British Columbia.
Gus died in an explosion about 1917-18. [In 1920 his widow married, as her
third husband, Cory Menhinick.] Also born in Montreal, Donald Lovatt
[recorded as such in church register], December 12, 1866. Don married
Hattie Irene Mansell, of Brownsville, Maine, about 1893, divorced 1909,
married Caroline E. Denike, June 1911. He died June 14, 1934. Then on June
25, 1869, in Toronto, Nannie Alice Mabel put in her appearance. She
married John M. Sullivan, in New York in 1904-5. One daughter, Joan Lovatt,
came from this marriage and Nan died in childbirth Jan. 19, 1910. The
fifth child of our family was Harriet Isabel, born in Toronto, Sept. 15,
1876, married Gerald John Fitzgerald Brenan, Dec. 8, 1896, widowed 1906.
No children of that marriage. Emily Louise (that’s me) born August 30,
1878, and still going strong, married James Arthur O’Brien, 1909, one son
James Francis, and every one knows what I think of him.
Notes by Harriet Isabel Fraser [Mrs Gerald J.M. Brenan]
"Now, about Gerald. He was educated at Trinity College,
Dublin, and was the youngest graduate they ever had. His uncle Henry was a
well known judge in the "Four Courts" at Dublin and his father was a
justice of the Peace for the County Kilkenny.
He wrote two biographical works, one on the House of
Percy (2 vol.) and the other on the House of Howard. Sir Andrew Lang was
interested in him and so also Conan Doyle. When he came to America, he
became a reporter, and from what I can remember, had been on every
newspaper in New York, for he was wild, and would not keep his mind down
to earth, so he was always getting fired.
There was a letter from the Parish priest in answer to
the one I wrote, asking about the family, for you know, they cast me off
entirely after Gerald was killed. The Banshee story is true — on the night
Angela was married, I was awakened by the most piercing wailing under our
window. In terror I woke Gerald and he told me it was the Banshee. Within
two years, both Angela and Gerald were dead! She is all in white, and she
comes to warn of death. We lived in a place called Willesden, where Mr.
Gladstone had his estate known as Cads Hill. We were about 20 miles out of
London, and lived there about ten years.
At the time he was killed he had made quite a name for
himself as a writer of Irish stories; he loved folk-lore and wrote about
it. I often wish I had some of his stories and poems which were truly
beautiful. But he preferred to be a drunk, and there was nothing I could
do, and I tried everything.
I wish we could get hold of some more information for
after all, it is worth while, a family tree… Too bad old Brenan isn’t
here, he loved digging into family history.
Don D. Fraser wrote: "I congratulate you on your
efforts regarding historical truth. No author, reporter, etc., ever seems
to do any research - but repeats mistakes of other like writers."
It was interesting to discover that Charles Malcolm
Fraser claimed that his fifth great-grandfather was none other than Simon
Fraser 11th Lord Lovat, executed in 1747, often referred to as
"The Jacobite Fox". Such stories abounded among the families of expatriate
Scots who emigrated to Canada in the late 18th or early 19th
century. The popularization of the romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832) and the extensively quoted Sketches of the Highlanders
(1822) by Major General David Stewart of Garth (1772-1829), eventually
followed by the History of the Frasers of Lovat (1896) by Alexander
Mackenzie (1838-1898), only contributed to the myth that Lord Lovat of the
’45 must have left numerous descendants. Unfortunately, both his eldest
son, Colonel (later Lieut. General) Simon Fraser of Lovat, and his
youngest son, Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat, left no legitimate
In 1774 Major-General Simon Fraser of Lovat (1726-1782)
was granted some of the Lovat lands forfeited to the Crown when his father
was executed in 1747; in recognition of his military service and the
payment of some £20,000 Sterling. Some lands were sold to meet certain
financial obligations of General Fraser, on whose death the remaining
lands passed to his younger half-brother, Archibald Campbell Fraser of
Lovat (1736-1815). When he died, without legitimate surviving issue, the
Lovat lands passed, by entail, to a distant cousin, T.A. Fraser of
Strichen (1802-1875), Aberdeenshire, who later became 14th Lord
Lovat, but for the attainder. Abertarff was left to Archibald’s only
grandson, born out of wedlock, on whose death (1884), it passed to the new
Frasers of Lovat who presently sold it. [A Country Called Stratherrick
by Alan B. Lawson, 1987]
Charles Malcolm Fraser (1868-1949) may have been able
to get away with his inventive ancestry before the age of the Internet,
but it is also amusing to learn that his biography states he was born
April 19th 1869, when the Montreal Daily Witness,
Monday, April 20th 1868, reported the birth announcement: On
the 19th inst., the wife of W.L. Fraser of a son. According to
the Montreal East Methodist Church register, Charles Malcolm Fraser was
born 19th April 1868 and baptized 2nd September.
According to the Montreal Eastern Congregational Church register, his
sister, Ethelwyn Ruby Fraser was born Nov. 20th 1869 and
baptized Dec. 5th 1870 by Rev. John Fraser (1826-1891), who was
the youngest son of James Fraser (c1786-1846) and, therefore, the baby’s
One might also wonder how Malcolm’s grandmother,
Isabella Warren (1815-75) or Mrs. John Fraser from London, England, who
commenced a "Millinery and Dress-Making Business" in Stanstead in 1858,
would have felt about being referred to as "Isabel Winn, foremost lyric
soprano of the Haymarket Theatre."
Copies of the supporting documents for this article
have been sent to Don D. Fraser, to ensure that accurate information is
passed on to future generations researching the family of John Fraser
"Cousin Sandy" (1810-1872), to assist in tracing the parents of John
Fraser (1774-1856) and James Fraser (c1786-1846) who emigrated to Canada
in 1831 and settled in the village of Beebe Plain on the Derby Line
The Stanstead Journal, 22 Sept. 1859
"From the Summit of Our Mountain"
by John Fraser
From the summit of our mountain I gaze upon the scene,
Replete with quiet beauty, arranged in sober green;
Ere the Maple doffs its raiment and its summer leaves hath shed,
It dons its garish mantle of gay and dazzling red;
And the lowing herds approaching’ their daily thirst to slake,
See the golden branches mirrored in the island-spangled lake;
And the tiny Mountain Maid with her animated freight,
On the still and placid water gives gladness to the sight.
It was here the red-skinned warrior in council once was found,
And here the sun-scorched hunter surveyed his hunting ground;
And yonder by the ‘Magog the dusky maiden leant,
To see her face reflected as she murmured her consent;
For in the unprun’d forest true love was pure, and then
Her timid heart beat softly ‘mid the rage of savage men.
Those children of the forest have departed, and their place
Is filled with active freemen of the Anglo-Saxon race,
Who have shed o’er flood and fountain the civilizing lamp,
And have war’d on primal nature in the desert and the swamp;
And the bard with hopeful fingers his airy castle builds,
On this animated landscape of gain and smiling fields.
And looming in the future, he sees the Iron Horse,
Making sport of time and distance as he speeds his fiery course,
With throbbing, strong pulsations and commerce in his wake,
To be launched upon the bosom of this still and placed Lake.
And he sees the rising city with its wealth and golden store,
And hears the hum of traffic along its sylvan shore.
And gardens gay as Edens to cheer each nook and waste,
And the smug and smiling villa makes known the owner’s taste.
And the margin of the water made vocal by the sound
Of gay and guileless childhood proclaims it hallow’d ground.
Should the sullen unbeliever in progress answer – "No."
Let him think upon the prospect some sixty years ago.
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