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Articles by Marie Fraser of Canada
History of Nairnshire - Frasers of Culbokie


In general, research takes time and patience, and if you are lucky you may come across information that has eluded others. There are several references to Frasers in the History of Nairnshire (1893) by George Bain, F.S.A. Scot. In the preface it is noted: "The author has availed himself of the materials stored up in the family papers of the district, and has reproduced from the sheriff court books and burgh records such matters as appeared to be of interest." Unfortunately, we have no way of questioning the editor of The Nairnshire Telegraph about his sources, leaving researchers to wonder how often the following statements (p. 382) have been repeated by subsequent writers:

"Young William Fraser of Culbokie, along with the Master of Lovat, led the Frasers at Culloden, and having escaped after the battle to the fastness of Strathglass, was hid there by the tenantry. In revenge the Duke of Cumberland’s troops burned down the house of Guisachan over the head of his father, a very old man, who had taken no part in the affair of 1745. The second son, John, was an officer in the Fraser Highlanders, and was at the taking of Quebec in 1759. When Major Clephane (Kilravock’s brother-in-law, who became Provost of Nairn) was about to leave Canada for home, he generously procured a command for John Fraser, Culbokie’s son. Captain John married and settled in Canada, as did also his brother Simon, who, going out West on an adventurous expedition, became known to fame as the discoverer of the Fraser River, which was called after him. Colonel William Fraser, the purchaser of Newton, sold the estate of Guisachan to Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (afterwards Lord Tweedmouth), and purchased the estate of Kilmuir in Skye. On the Newton estate he erected the present very handsome residence, incorporating with it the old house and greatly improving the grounds. Colonel Fraser took a very great interest in Nairn and its institutions, particularly in the local Artillery Volunteers, of which he held the command for many years, latterly becoming Colonel Commanding the Highland Artillery…"

While George Bain likely had access to various documents relating to the Frasers of Guisachan and Culbokie, what he wrote about them is misleading.

"Young William Fraser of Culbokie, along with the Master of Lovat, led the Frasers at Culloden, and having escaped after the battle to the fastness of Strathglass, was hid there by the tenantry."

Although Captain William Fraser Ygr of Culbokie (1723-96) was at Culloden, Colonel Simon Fraser, then Master of Lovat (1726-82), arrived too late to take part in the disastrous battle; and it was Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Fraser Ygr of Inverallochy, Aberdeenshire, who led the Frasers of Lovat and was killed, on the orders of General Hawley, while lying wounded on the battlefield [Muster Roll of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Army, 1745-46].

"In revenge the Duke of Cumberland’s troops burned down the house of Guisachan over the head of his father, a very old man, who had taken no part in the affair of 1745."

It is doubtful that William Fraser 8th of Guisachan could have been so very old, since his son Donald, born in 1746, was in his cradle only a week old when Guisachan House was set fire to and razed to the ground. His mother, Margaret Macdonell, of Ardnabie, commemorated both events in one of her Gaelic poems. Lieut-Colonel William Fraser 9th of Guisachan, the eldest son and heir of William Fraser 8th of Guisachan built a new mansion house after succeeding to the estate in 1755 [A History of Guisachan (1990) by Donald Fraser].

"The second son, John, was an officer in the Fraser Highlanders, and was at the taking of Quebec in 1759. When Major Clephane (Kilravock’s brother-in-law, who became Provost of Nairn) was about to leave Canada for home, he generously procured a command for John Fraser, Culbokie’s son."

Major James Clephane [whose sister Betty was married to Hugh Rose of Kilravock] was "left sick at New York" and did not accompany the regiment to Quebec. In the fall of 1759 Clephane, "finding himself unfit for Service and unable to join the Regiment’s last Campaign, gave power to Colonel Young to sell his Majority with the consent of the Commander in Chief." The purchaser was to be Captain McPherson. After lengthy negotiations, John Macpherson, whose brother had married the sister of Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant Simon Fraser of Lovat (1726-82), was promoted to Major on April 15, 1760.

The British Army Lists show that John Fraser, of Culbokie, was gazetted a Lieutenant on January 24, 1757 in Captain Simon Fraser’s Company [original parchment in the Château de Ramsay Museum, Montreal]. Captain Simon Fraser, of Inverallochy, was wounded at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1759, and died a few weeks later. Lieutenant John Fraser, of Culbokie, was promoted to Captain on April 15, 1760, when Macpherson purchased the Majority vacated by Clephane.

"Captain John married and settled in Canada, as did also his brother Simon, who, going out West on an adventurous expedition, became known to fame as the discoverer of the Fraser River, which was called after him."

Captain John Fraser (c1727-95) married and settled in Canada after the regiment was disbanded. Captain Simon Fraser (c1729-79), formerly with the Glengarry Fencibles, emigrated with his wife and young family to America on the Pearl in 1773. After the outbreak of the American Revolution, he joined Sir John Johnson’s Regiment, was taken prisoner at the Battle of Bennington, and some 13 months later died in Albany gaol in January 1779. Captain Simon Fraser’s widow moved the family to Canada, staying first with her eldest son William near Montreal (Quebec) and later settling in Cornwall (Ontario). It was her youngest son Simon, born in 1776, who later became the famous explorer; not her husband Captain Simon, the brother of Captain John.

Judge John Fraser of Montreal, who had settled in Canada in 1763, paid for the education of his nephew Simon, and in 1792 got him a job as an apprentice clerk (agent) with the North West Company. Simon expanded the operations of the NWCo, established the first trading settlements in the central Rockies, which he named New Caledonia, and was responsible for all trading with the Indians and trappers in the Athabaska region. On July 2, 1808 Simon Fraser completed the descent of the turbulent river to the Pacific, mistakenly believing it to be the Columbia, which now bears his name. He was elected a partner in 1801 and continued to work for the NWCo until he was peripherally involved in the 1816 Seven Oaks Massacre, for which Lord Selkirk had him arrested. In 1820 Simon married Catherine Macdonell and raised a large family at St. Andrew’s West, where he and his wife died within a day of each other. Like Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser was offered a knighthood but could not afford to pay for the journey to London to accept the honour.

In 1774 Simon Fraser of Lovat, by then a major general, in recognition of his military service to the Crown and the payment of some £20,000, was granted some of the forfeited Lovat lands. When Lieutenant General Simon Fraser of Lovat died in 1782, his finances were in a terrible state, and it was left to his executors to settle his estate. The executors were Alexander Fraser of Strichen in the County of Aberdeen in North Britain; Simon Fraser of Farraline; James Fraser of Belladrum; Simon Fraser of Bruiach, Lieut-Colonel in his Majesty’s late 71st Regiment of Foot; and James Fraser of Gorthleck, one of the clerks in his Majesty’s Signet, all in the County of Inverness. It was necessary for the trustees to sell lands and superiorities to pay off debts, having procured an Act of Parliament to effect this.

General Fraser’s executors tried to collect a debt of £5,293 from John Fraser of Montreal, by then a Judge, relating to funds advanced to John when he took over from Thomas Boone the office of Assistant Paymaster General of British forces at Montreal. To collect these funds from Judge John Fraser, General Fraser’s executors enlisted the aid of Malcolm Fraser, Joseph Frobisher and Arthur Davidson. However, as evidenced by a jointly signed letter, dated 27 Sept 1790, addressed to Major Malcolm Fraser at Quebec, two of the three people asked by the executors to collect these funds, namely, Messrs. Jos. Frobisher and A. Davidson, explained their refusal to act against Judge Fraser, because of "the difficulties (we might almost say impossibilities) which stand in the way of any Settlement whatsoever…" The apparent failure of the executors of General Fraser’s estate to collect the funds owed by Judge Fraser, thereby straining the fragile relationship with the other Fraser families, may have contributed to the Culbokie family’s troubles in Scotland.

"Colonel William Fraser, the purchaser of Newton, sold the estate of Guisachan to Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (afterwards Lord Tweedmouth), and purchased the estate of Kilmuir in Skye. On the Newton estate he erected the present very handsome residence, incorporating with it the old house and greatly improving the grounds."

William Fraser, who was at Culloden in 1746, would not have been around in 1854 when Guisachan was sold to Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks. His great grandson, William Fraser 11th of Guisachan, was only 16 when he inherited the estate in 1843, and 27 when he sold Guisachan in 1854 to Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, later Lord Tweedmouth and father of Ishbel, who became Lady Aberdeen - thus ending over 300 years of Fraser ownership.

Alexander Mackenzie (1838-98) in his History of the Frasers of Lovat (1896), quoted liberally from the account of Captain Simon Fraser and his son Simon the explorer from Clan Fraser in Canada recently (1895) issued by Alexander Fraser (1860-1936) who had come to Canada in 1886 on the recommendation of Sir Charles Tupper, to take up a position on the editorial staff of the Toronto Mail, later the Toronto Mail and Empire. Unfortunately, Mackenzie misinterpreted the facts. Whether he did so, after reading the superficial summary of the Frasers of Guisachan and Culbokie in the History of Nairnshire (1893) by George Bain, is anyone’s guess.

It is always advisable to consult several sources when researching Fraser history.

On July 13, 1994 my husband and I visited Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Greg Macdonald, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of External Relations, took us on a tour and pointed out the new $50 million addition then under construction. We were also shown the basket hilt sword used on ceremonial occasions [see photo], which was donated by the 17th Lord Lovat (1911-95) when he attended the 1965 opening of the university, named in honour of Simon Fraser the explorer (1776-1862). In addition to the above, Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, World Champions in 1995, 1996, 1998 & 2001, have succeeded in spreading his name far beyond Canada.

basket hilt sword

For those interested in Fraser genealogy, Simon Fraser the explorer (1776-1862) was descended from William Fraser who was killed at Loch Lochy, along with his older brother Hugh Fraser 3rd Lord Lovat (1494-1544) and Lord Lovat’s eldest son Hugh, Master of Lovat. As a result, Hugh Lord Lovat’s son by his second wife, namely, Alexander, succeeded as 4th Lord Lovat (1527-57), until that line died out with the deaths of Simon 11th Lord Lovat’s sons, namely, General Simon Fraser (1726-82) and Colonel Archibald Campbell Fraser (1736-1815), without legitimate surviving male issue. Simon Fraser 17th Lord Lovat (1911-95) was descended from Alexander Fraser 4th Lord Lovat through his second son, namely, Thomas Fraser of Knockie & Strichen (1548-1612) who settled in Aberdeenshire, and through Thomas Alexander Fraser of Strichen (1802-75) who in 1837 was created, by letters patent, Baron Lovat in the peerage of the United Kingdom, and in 1857, after proving his claim as nearest heir male to the Scottish title that was attainted in 1747, became 14th Lord Lovat, but for the attainder.

You may like to read the book "History of Nairnshire" by George Bain


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