Fraser, Simon
b. 1776
d. 1862-08-18
Simon Fraser, after whom Thompson named the Fraser River,1 was a North West Company trader and explorer who embarked on an 1805 expedition to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean and extend the company's interests west of the Rockies.2
Fraser was born to Scottish immigrants at Mapleton, Vermont, in 1776. Fraser's father, who fought for the loyalist cause in the American War of Independence, died while in captivity, shortly after which Fraser's mother moved the family to Canada in 1784. In 1792 Fraser apprenticed with the North West Company, and, in June 1801, at the age of 25 achieved a partnership in the company.3
A previous attempt by the North West Company to find a navigable route to the Pacific—undertaken by Mackenzie in 1789—was unsuccessful; however, in 1805, the company resolved, under Fraser's guidance, to launch a second attempt; the NWC also bid Fraser to establish a series of posts with which they could control their operations.4
Fraser and his companions established Rocky Mountain Portage, at Peace River Canyon; Trout Lake Post, later called Fort McLeod; a post at Stuart Lake, later named Fort Saint James; Fort Fraser, at Fraser Lake, the area around which Fraser called New Caledonia; lastly, Fort George, on the banks of the Nechako River.5
Local First Nations advised that the river onwards from Fort George was impassable, and Fraser found that his passage, both by land and by river, was extremely difficult. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Fraser maintained good terms with most of the First Nations groups he encountered; however, as his party neared the river mouth, a large number of Cowichan First Nations attempted to disrupt their progress.6
Upon reaching the mouth of the river, which Fraser believed to be the Columbia, he discovered that it was at a latitude of 49°, too far north to be the Columbia; David Thompson named it the Fraser River in 1813.7 Fraser's route to the Pacific, like Mackenzie's, would prove too difficult to be a regular mode of travel.8
As a partner in the North West Company, Fraser would become engaged in the legal conflicts that accompanied Selkirk's Red River Settlement. Fraser escaped the trials free from charges, and subsequently retired to his farm on the Raisin River. In 1820 he married Catherine Macdonell, and the couple had eight children. Fraser died on August 18, 1862.9
  • 1. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 208.
  • 2. W. Kaye Lamb, Fraser, Simon, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 208.
  • 8. W. Kaye Lamb, Fraser, Simon, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 9. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. Fraser, Simon. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/fraser_s.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)