Simon Fraser, Fur Trader, Explorer and Daddy

Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at F...
Upper Fountain Rapids of the Fraser River at Fountain, located 15 km upstream from Lillooet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 20, 1776, in Mapletown (near Bennington) New York, Simon Fraser was born.

In his life, he was a fur trader and explorer. As a matter of fact, he charted most of British Columbia!

Fraser worked for the Montreal-based North West Company. In 1805, he had been put in charge of all the company’s operations west of the Rocky Mountains. Fraser built that area’s first trading posts, and, in 1808, he explored what is now known as the Fraser River.  His exploratory efforts were partly responsible for Canada’s boundary later being established at the 49th parallel (after the War of 1812).  According to historian Alexander Begg, Fraser “was offered a knighthood but declined the title due to his limited wealth.”

Fraser settled on land near present day Cornwall, Ontario and married Catherine McDonnell on June 2, 1820.
They had 9 children, but one died in infancy. Fraser was one of the last surviving partners of the North West Company when he died on August 18, 1862. His wife died the next day, and they were buried in a single grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery at St. Andrew’s West. Begg quotes Sanford Fleming in an address to the Royal Society of Canada in 1889 as saying that Fraser died poor.

He did leave behind a legacy.
@ The Fraser River, named for him by the explorer David Thompson.
@ Fraser Lake, a lake in north-central British Columbia and a community on the lake’s western shore.
@ Fort Fraser, just east of Fraser Lake.
@ Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia
@ The Simon Fraser Bridge in Prince George over the Fraser River along Highway 97.
@ Numerous schools, neighbourhoods and roads
@ The Simon Fraser Rose, (explorer series) developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was named in his honour.

To learn more about this great man, Simon Fraser, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


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