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Articles 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 photograph.

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 Dress-Making Business."

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 & E.J. Farwell.

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 infancy.

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 surviving issue.

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 great uncle.

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 border.

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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