James Fraser, is a son of the late Col. Alexander Fraser, formerly of the 49th regiment, and afterwards of the New Brunswick “Fencibles,” was born at Perth, county of Lanark, April 23, 1825. His father took an active part in the war with the United States, in 1812-14, and fought against General Scott, at Queenston Heights and Stony Creek, distinguishing himself especially at the latter place.
The subject of this sketch was educated at the Perth grammar school; left there at twenty years of age; settled at Bytown, now the city of Ottawa, and first had an appointment with Messrs. Z. and H. L. Wilson, who were then largely engaged in the lumber and dry goods and grocery trade, he acting as accountant and general manager. He left that firm in 1847; became deputy sheriff of the county of Carleton, and held that position a little more than four years, and then enlisted in the mercantile business, continuing it until 1858.
On the 21st of January of that year, Mr. Fraser received his commission from the Government of Canada as clerk of the County Court, registrar of the Surrogate Court, deputy clerk of the Crown and Pleas, and clerk of Assize, of the courts of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery, and of Assize and Nisi Prius in and for the county of Carleton. These respective offices he holds to the present time, and celebrated his 21st anniversary by giving a dinner to the Bar of Ottawa and practicing solicitors in the city of Ottawa and county of Carleton; on which occasion the Bar thought proper to present him very handsome silver service, composed of a silver salver with a beautiful inscription engraved thereon, an epergne, and a tea and coffee set, consisting in all of ten pieces, as well as an illuminated address suitable for such an occasion. The Ottawa, Toronto, and other Canadian papers gave a full account of that pleasant meeting, and we give, slightly condensed, the report which appeared in the Toronto Mail:
“On Monday evening an exceedingly pleasant reunion took place at the Rideau Club. Mr. James Fraser, the clerk of Assize and Appeals, had invited the Bar of Ottawa and a portion of the Bench to dine on the anniversary, the twenty-first anniversary, of his official appointment. The unanimity of the response to Mr. Fraser’s invitation showed the unanimity of kindly feeling which prevails among the Bar for their faithful, punctilious, industrious and learned clerk of Court. The dinner was, of course, in the very best style possible at the Rideau Club; and the wines were of a character that showed the perfect sincerity of the host in asking his guests to drink her Majesty’s health. During the evening a great number of speeches were made. Mr. Fraser, in drinking solos the health of his guests, made a most pleasing and affecting speech, which was warmly applauded. Sir John A. Macdonald was called upon to reply for the guests, which ha did in his customary style of happy lightness, combined with touching remembrances of the youth of his host, and of the manhood of his host’s father, who had borne arms for his country in the old times. Sir John made more than one speech in the course of the evening, and in each he expressed the pride he felt in having had the happiness of appointing to office a man who for twenty-one years could retain in so cordial a manner the good will of the Bar of Ottawa.
“Speeches were made in reply to the toast of the Bench by Mr. Justice Gwynne and Mr. Justice Bourgeois; in response to the Bar of Ontario, by Hon. Mr. Cockburn; in response to the Bar of Quebec, by Messrs. Doutre and Carter; and in response to the Bar of Nova Scotia, by Messrs. Haliburton and Griffin. The festivity was prolonged to a late hour; but the last act was the most pleasing. At some time after midnight Mr. Robert Lees, Q.C., asking for silence, made a speech in which he said that the Bar had no idea of permitting Mr. Fraser to do all the kindness on the occasion, and that they desired to show their appreciation of Mr. Fraser by an address and a testimonial. The address was read, and the testimonial was produced. Of course the address was kindly eloquent, and the testimonial was beautiful It consisted of a most elegant epergne and a silver dessert service of many pieces, of great value, and of chaste design. Mr. Fraser was, bona fide, taken by surprise; he was confused; he was affected. He made a speech which was most affecting, and which, in its broken pathos, was more eloquent than any rush of words could be. We hope that Mr. Fraser may recover his health and see many happy returns of his official anniversary.”
Mr. Fraser was first married in October 1851, to Miss Bill, of Bytown (Ottawa), she dying December 2, 1857, leaving two children, Anna Maria and Alexander James. The son is in the Department of Justice. His second marriage was on the 26th of August 1869, to Gordon Fraser, granddaughter of Abraham A. Rapelje, the late sheriff of the district of Talbot, Upper Canada, and daughter of Henry Van Allen Rapelje, of Simcoe, late sheriff of the county of Norfolk. By her he has four children: Mabel Gordon, Henry Van Allen Alexander, John Alexander Macdonald, and Murray Nairne.
The above sketch was written in February 1879, and on the 5th of the next month Mr. Fraser died of the disease with which he had long been afflicted. His loss was deeply felt in Ottawa, of which city he had long been a useful citizen, and where he had many warm friends.