FRASER, JOHN, soldier and schoolmaster; b. c. 1734, probably in Scotland; d. 13 Feb. 1803 at Quebec, Lower Canada.
John Fraser served in the 78th Foot during the Seven Years’ War and fought in the battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 Sept. 1759. During the British pursuit after the action, Fraser gave chase to a fleeing French doctor, Philippe-Louis-François Badelard. Badelard aimed his pistol at him, but the strong and agile Fraser, a giant of a man, overcame him before he could fire. In later years the former adversaries became neighbours, and Fraser would regularly greet Badelard with a friendly “Good-day, my prisoner.”
After his discharge Fraser settled at Quebec. There, as elsewhere in the colony, a shortage of schools existed in the aftermath of the conquest. In the 1760s Roman Catholic religious communities, such as the Jesuits, the Ursulines, and the Congregation of Notre-Dame, re-established their primary schools in the city, but the small and mainly Protestant British community was not so well served. Fearing the linguistic and religious consequences of sending their children to French-language Catholic institutions, its members made efforts to establish English-language schools in the city. Fraser probably became the first English-language schoolmaster at Quebec, and had been teaching for some time when on 1 Sept. 1765 Patrick McClement, the first schoolmaster authorized and subsidized by government, opened a school in the Jesuit college. Between 1766 and 1769 three more schools were opened at Quebec, one of them by James Jackson, who succeeded McClement in June 1768 as the official schoolmaster. Fraser had petitioned in 1768 for government certification but had been refused. On 25 Sept. 1769, however, he succeeded Jackson as “Official Schoolmaster at Quebec,” and, combining the government subsidy of £30 per annum with fees charged for each student, he apparently experienced modest success thereafter. Competition was evidently minimal, since in 1773 some of the city’s Protestant inhabitants complained to the British government about a shortage of schools. Prior to 1778 Fraser lived on Rue Sainte-Anne, but in that year he bought for £200 cash a single-storey stone house at 3 Rue des Jardins and moved there with his wife, Agnes Maxwell, and their daughter. Agnes may have been an alcoholic; the previous year Fraser had printed a notice in the Quebec Gazette warning liquor retailers that, since “she had for some time past behaved in a very disorderly Manner drinking to the great Disquiet of my Family,” he would no longer be responsible for her bills.
By 1790 there were six English Protestant schools at Quebec educating nearly 200 scholars; among the schoolmasters, however, only James Tanswell, with £100 per annum, and Fraser, with £30, were receiving government subsidies. That year Fraser taught reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic at his home to 14 boys and 4 girls between the ages of 4 and 16 years for a fee of 15 shillings per quarter, and from 1791 to 1798 he taught between 10 and 18 scholars per annum. Not all were Protestants: Georges-Barthélemi Faribault*, for example, attended Fraser’s school for a few years. In 1801 the efforts begun as early as 1784 to create a system of publicly supported schools, designed not only to educate English Protestants but also to anglicize Canadians, finally issued, as a result of pressure by Anglican bishop Jacob Mountain*, in the formation of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. Fraser’s school immediately became part of its system.
Fraser died two years later and was buried on 16 February by the Presbyterian minister Alexander Spark. Surviving him were his second wife, Ann Hudson, two daughters (one by each marriage), and a stepson; to them Fraser left a modest succession, including a library of approximately 180 volumes and a grant of 400 acres in Granby Township, patented one month earlier. The Quebec Gazette stated that “a large number of respectable citizens of Quebec” were indebted to the “old and respected” schoolmaster for their education. The school at 3 Rue des Jardins continued to exist after Fraser’s death, with Daniel Wilkie* as master.
ANQ-Q, CN1-284, 9 mars, 17 mai, 28 déc. 1803; CN1-285, 23 mai 1800. AP, St Andrew’s (Quebec), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 16 Feb. 1803. PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 48–2: 651–54. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 71, 121, 172. Quebec Gazette, 5 Sept. 1765; 19 June 1777; 3 March, 9 June 1803. “A list of Protestant house keepers in the District of Quebec (Octr. 26th, 1764),” BRH, 38 (1932): 753–54. L.-P. Audet, Le système scolaire, 2: 136, 139, 231, 344, 347. P.-G. Roy, “Le chirurgien Badelard,” BRH, 2 (1896): 45; “Le premier professeur d’anglais au Canada,” BRH, 31 (1952): 416–17.