This web page includes documentary evidence about John Fraser that is published in my book "Fort Cumberland". No known guns made by John Fraser have been found, and it isn't really known if he made guns or just repaired them. Fraser had a house at Venango, where he was known as a gunsmith, blacksmith, and Indian trader. In fear of the French, he moved to Turtle Creek. During the French and Indian War, he lived for a few years near Fort Cumberland performing gunsmithing services for the armed forces stationed there. Ultimately, he moved to Fort Bedford and opened a tavern. There is, however, one contemporaneous letter that indicates he opened a shop at Fort Bedford. Even if this shop was intended to be a blacksmith shop, given his gunsmithing skills, John Fraser would have performed at least some gunsmithing services in Bedford County. This inference makes him the first known gunsmith in Bedford County.
The surname is spelled several different ways in 18th century records. The spelling "Fraser" is said to be the common Scottish spelling and was used by by John's widow Jane Fraser in a 1774 petition. It is also used by many of John and Jane's descendants.
The following document was photographed in Bedford, Pennsylvania, and bears the signature of John Fraser, showing the surname spelling he used.
John Fraser was licensed as an Indian trader in 1747
The following item is from Volume II of the "Pennsylvania Archives", first series (1852), page 14:
John Fraser's men were trading with the Twightwee in 1750
The "Pennsylvania Archives" records that John Fraser was licensed as an Indian trader for the annual period beginning August 10, 1747. At one point, Fraser was engaged in trade with the Twightwee Indians in what is now the state of Ohio. Volume V of the Pennsylvania "Colonial Records" records the October 11, 1750 examination of two of Fraser's traders as follows:
The Examination of Morris Turner and Ralph Kilgore were taken in Council, and being sworn to, were ordered to be enter'd as follows: These Examinants say that they are hired Servants of one John Frazier, of the County of Lancaster, in the Province of Pennsylvania, Indian Trader; that in May last they were trading for him among the Twightwees to whom they had sold a large quantity of Goods, and had received in Return more Skins than they could carry with their Horses at one time; that after having delivered one Parcel of their Skins at Allegheny, as they were returning for a Second with empty Horses, and were got within Twenty-five Miles, as they think, of the Twightwee's Town, on the Twenty-Sixth Day of May last, Seven Indians came into their Cabins a little before Sun-set, received Victuals from them, and dress'd and eat it, and behaved like Friends. That some time after their coming into the Cabin the Indians in the way of curiosity took up the Guns belonging to these Examinants and a Tomhock, and ask'd them for Knives to cut their Tobacco with, which as soon as they had given them they seized them and tied their Hands with Ropes, and told them they must carry them to their Fathers the French, and, accordingly, they took them along with them...
A May 7, 1753 report, originating with Fraser, that the French are approaching with 8 brass cannons
The minutes from a May 30, 1753 council meeting in Philadelphia that was attended by Lieutenant Governor James Hamilton include the following intelligence from earlier that month:
Mr. James Galbraith, one of the Justices of Lancaster County, Mr. John Harris who keeps the Ferry over Sasquehanna at Pextang, Messieurs Michael Taafe and Robert Calendar, Partners in the Indian Trade, came to Town from Ohio and waited on the Governor. Their Intelligence, which by his Honor's Order was put down in writing by Robert Calendar, is as follows, vizt.: "That on the Seventh of this Instant, May, he was at Pine Creek, a Place about twenty miles above the Log's Town, in company with Capt. Trent, Mr. Croghan, and several other Traders; they received a Letter the same day from John Fraser, a Trader who lives at Weningo on the Ohio, about one hundred miles above the Log's Town; it was directed to all or any of the Traders at Log's Town; he wrote that he was inform'd by some of the Mingos that there were then and had been since March last one hundred and fifty French and Indians at a Carrying Place which leads from Niagara to the Heads of the Ohio, building Canoes and making other Preparations for the Reception of a large Body of French and Indians who were expected there every Day with Eight Pieces of Brass Cannon and a large Quantity of ammunition and Provisions. That on the eighth of May they received a full Confirmation of the above account by Two Indians who were sent by the Council at Onondago to give the Ohio Indians Notice of the Preparations the French were making to attack them. When our Indians received this Intelligence one of the Mingoes went to a French Trader at the Log's Town and told him of it, and said that he had amused them with fine stories this last Winter, as sweet as if his Tongue was sweetned with Sugar; that if the French made any Attempt to attack them or the English, he might depend he should be the first Man killed.
Mr. Croghan and the other Traders upon this Intelligence thought it adviseable to send for the Half King to inform him of it. He arrived the same day and seemed much concerned at the News, he said he expected Monighotootha every day up the River, and that as soon as he arrived they would call a Council and see what ought to be done. Monighotootha is deputed by the Six Nations to look after the Shawonese.
The twelfth of May John Harris arrived with the advices from his Honor the Governor; Monighotootha arrived the same day, there were Messengers immediately dispatched to the Log's Town, &ca. to the Delawares and Shawonese to invite them to Council, but they being all drunk none of them came.
Mr. Croghan delivered the string of Wampum that accompanied Governor Clinton and Coll. Johnson's Letters to the Half King and the other Indians present, and interpreted to them the said Letters. After which Mr. Trent delivered four Strings of Wampum in behalf of the Governor of Virginia, telling them that he look'd upon the Ohio Lands to belong to them the Indians, and that if the French attempted to settle them or to build any Forts, the Virginians would supply them with Arms and Ammunition. Mr. Croghan pressed the Indians to let us know whether they wou'd oppose the French or not, or whether it was safe for the Traders to continue among them.
The Indians seemed all much concerned, and said it was an affair of great Consequence which they wou'd take some time to consider; accordingly they counselled all that night and next day till about two o' the Clock in the afternoon, when the Half King, in behalf of the Six Nations' Indians at Ohio, stood up and addressing himself to the English, said they were greatly obliged to their Brother Onas for his care in forwarding the News to them, which they had Intelligence of before and now believed too true; that if the French came peaceably they would receive them as Friends, but that if they came as Enemies they would treat them as such; that they hoped their Brethren the English wou'd consider how they were circumstanced and send them a supply of arms and ammunition, which if they did they did not doubt but that they wou'd be able to strike the French; that as to their Brethren the English Traders, any of them that had any skins to carry into the Inhabitants or any Business to do there might go, and that those who had goods might leave their Servants with them under their care, and that they wou'd be safe under their Protection while they were safe themselves. The Sixteenth they receiv'd another Letter from John Fraser, informing them that some Frenchmen had come down the Ohio to Weningo with a Parcel of Deer skins, which they said they brought with them to swap for Furs; these French Men told the Indians that a Body of French was coming there with a considerable Present for them from the Governor of Canada, the Indians as well as Fraser imagined that they were come as Spies to see what Situation they were in.
That when he came away the Shawonese and Delawares had not which shall be issued by their order, as has been formerly the usage within this Province.
Fraser reports that the Half King delivers a warlike message to the French
The following is included in the minutes of a September 21, 1753 council meeting at Philadelphia attended by Lieutenant Governor Hamilton that references an August 27, 1753 letter from John Fraser:
Then was read a Letter to the Governor from Mr. Edward Shippen, Prothonotary of Lancaster County, and another enclosed in it to one Young, an Indian Trader, from John Frazer, his Partner, and one who had lived at Weningo; but apprehensive of a visit from the French had in the Summer removed thence to the Forks of Mohongialo, about fourteen Miles from the sd. River's entring into the Ohio, where he now has a Store of Goods and carries on a Trade with the Indians, And as Fraser's Letter contains a large Account of the French Proceedings, and Mr. Shippen's Letter explains several Matters in it, they are both ordered to be entered, placing Fraser's first.
FORKS, August 27th, 1753. Mr. Young:
... I have not got any Skins this Summer, for there has not been an Indian between Weningo and the Pict Country hunting this Summer, by reason of the French.
There is hardly any Indians now here at all, for yesterday there set off along with Captain Trent and French Andrew, the heads of the Five Nations, the Picts, the Shawanees, Owendots, and the Delawares, for Virginia; and the Half King set off to the French fort, with a strong party along with him, to warn the French off their land entirely, which, if they did not comply to, then directly the Six Nations, the Picts, Shawanees, Owendots, and Delawares were to strike them without loss of time. The Half King was to be back in twenty days from the time he went away; so were the Indians from Virginia. Captain Trent was here the night before last, and viewed the ground the fort is to be built upon, which they will begin in less than a month's time. The money has been laid out for the building of it already, and the great guns are lying at Williamsburg ready to bring up.
The French are daily deserting from the new Fort - one of them came here the other Day whom I sent to Capt Trent; he has him along with him to Virginia; he has given the true Account of the Number of French and all their Designs; there are exactly Twenty Four Hundred of them in all; here is enclosed the Draught of the Fort the French built a little way the other side of Sugar Creek, not far from Weningo, where they have Eight Cannon.
The mouth of Sugar Creek is at Latitude 41.417956, Longitude -79.876420, in Franklin, Pennsylvania.
The location of Fraser's long-time gunsmith shop is identified by Edward Shippen
A September 9, 1753 letter from Edward Shippen to Pennsylvania Governor James Hamilton shows that Fraser had been living at Venango as a gunsmith, stating, "Weningo is the name of an Indian town on Ohio, where Mr. Frazier has had a gunsmith shop for many years. It is situate about eighty miles up the said river, beyond Logstown."
An English translation of Pouchot's Memoir, published in 1781, describes Frazier as a blacksmith, stating, "...a blacksmith named Frazier, a German who had settled there to begin his trade with the Indians, but had left when the French to occupy upon the Ohio."
John Fraser was living at the mouth of Turtle Creek in November 1753
The November 22, 1753 journal entry of Christopher Gist states, "We set out and came to the mouth of Turtle Creek, about twelve miles, to John Frazier's, and he was very kind to us, and lent us a canoe to carry our baggage to the forks, about ten miles." Washington's journal entry for the same day states:
The excessive Rains and vast Quantity of Snow that had fallen, prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier's an Indian Trader, at the Mouth of Turtle-Creek, on Monongahela, till Thursday the 22d. We were informed here, that Expresses were sent a few Days ago to the Traders down the River, to acquaint them with the French General's Death, and the Return of the major Part of the French Army into Winter Quarters.
The Waters were quite impassable, without swimming our Horses; which obliged us to get the Loan of a Canoe from Frazier, and to send Barnaby Currin, and Henry Steward, down Monongahela, with our Baggage, to meet us at the Forks of Ohio, about 10 Miles, to cross Aligany.
The following snippet from George Washington's 1754 map shows where John Fraser was living at the time of Washington's journey to the Ohio to surveil the French forts.
Fraser memorial tablet at Braddock, Pennsylvania A memorial tablet was erected in honor of John Frazier at Braddock, Pennsylvania in 1917. The inscription states "One thousand feet due south from this tablet, on the right bank of the Monongahela, stood the first white man's cabin west of the Allegheries, built by John Frazier, about 1742. Here George Washington was entertained, Thursday, November 22, 1753, and Sunday, December 30, 1753, while on his mission from Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia to warn the French against building forts in the Ohio Valley. The British Army crossed the river at Frazier's cabin on their march to Fort Duquesne the morning of the battle of Braddock's defeat, July 9, 1755." Obviously, the inscription on the tablet contains an error, because this is where Frazier moved after retreating from his house at Venango.
Washington visits the Venango house John Fraser was driven from
Washington's "Journal to the Ohio" describes arriving at Venango (the site of Franklin, Pennsylvania) on December 4, 1753, and going to John Fraser's former residence:
This is an old Indian Town, situated at the Mouth of French Creek on Ohio, and lies near N. about 60 Miles from the Loggs-Town...
We found the French Colours hoisted at a House which they drove Mr. John Frazier, an English Subject, from; I immediately repaired to it, to know where the Commander resided...
A February 14, 1754 message from Dinwiddie to the Council and House of Burgesses states that while at Venango, Washington "ask'd the reason of taking Mr. Frazier's House from him, w'ch he had built and lived in upwards of twelve years. He s'd that Man was lucky that he made his Excape, or he w'd have sent him Prisoner to Canada."
Washington and Gist arrive at Jacob's cabins
Christopher Gist's January 1, 1754 journal entry, written on the return leg of his trip with George Washington, states, "We set out from John Frazier's, and at night, encamped at Jacob's cabins."
Washington is informed that the French are coming in the spring
Washington was informed by the French that they intended to come to the Logstown area and build a fort in the spring of 1754. The January 12, 1754 journal entry of George Croghan, read at a council held at Philadelphia on February 20, 1754, identifies Fraser as an Indian trader, stating:
I arrived at Turtle Creek about eight miles from the Forks of Mohongialo, where I was informed by John Frazier, an Indian Trader, that Mr. Washington, who was sent by the Governor of Virginia to the French Camp was returned. Mr. Washington told Mr. Frazier that he had been very well used by the French General; that after he delivered his Message the General told him his Orders were to take all the English he found on the Ohio, which orders he was determined to obey, and further told him that the English had no business to trade on the Ohio, for that all the Lands of Ohio belonged to his Master the King of France, all to Alegainay Mountain. Mr. Washington told Mr. Frazier the Fort where he was is very strong, and that they had Abundance of Provisions ... there are about one hundred soldiers and fifty Workman at that Fort, and as many more at the Upper Fort, and about fifty men at Weningo with Jean Coeur; the Rest of their Army went home last Fall, but is to return as soon as possible this Spring; when they return they are to come down to Log's Town in order to build a Fort somewhere thereabouts.
Dinwiddie's cover letter to William Trent mention's Fraser as a source of venison
A January 1754 letter Governor Dinwiddie sent to William Trent states:
Y'r Letter of the 6th Curr't I rec'd from Maj'r Washington, from his report, Informat'n and Observat's I find the French intend down the Ohio to build Forts and take Possession of the Lands on that River, w'ch I w'd very earnestly prevent. And as You think You c'd ________ this Winter, if properly impower'd to do so, I therefore inclose You a Capt's Com'o to raise 100 Men in Augusta and in the exterior Settlem'ts of this Dom'n and a blank Com'o for You to choose a suitable Lieut. to Co-operate with You. Y'r Comp'a will be in the Pay of this Gov't agreeable to the Assembly. Maj'r Washington has a Com'o to raise 100 Men, with them he is to join You and I desire You may march Y'r Men out to the Ohio where a Fort is propos'd to be built. When You are there You are to protect and assist them in finishing the Fort and to be on Y'r Guard ag'st any Attempts of the French. I doubt not the Woodsmen You may enlist will be provided with Guns &c., I have appointed Maj'r Carlisle of Alexandria a Commiss'y of Stores and Provisions, he will supply You accordingly with what Necessaries You may want and in case of want of Guns I have sent some to his Care to be delivered to the Com'd'rs of either of these Compa's giving receipt accordingly for them. As You have a good Interest with the Ind's I doubt not You will prevail with many of them to join You in order to defeat the Designs of the French in taking their Lands from them by force of Arms. The Ho. of Burgesses are to meet the 14th of next Mo. w'n I hope they will enable me to send out 400 more Men early in the Spring to Y'r Assistance. I wrote to the neighbouring Gov'rs for their Aid and Assistance on the present Emergency and I am in hopes they will supply a good Number of men &c. I have some Cannon come in - ten I send up to the Comissary at Alexandria - they carry four Pound shot - I fear there will be a difficulty in carrying them out - as You are acquainted with the Roads, I shall be glad of Y'r Advice therein, and comunicate the same to Maj'r Carlisle. You see the Confidence and good Opinion I have of Y'r Capacity and Diligence w'ch I hope You will Exert on this Occasion by keeping a good Comand and strongly engaging our friendly Ind's to be on the Active. Provisions will be difficult to send regular Supplies. Mr. Washington says one Mr. Frazier can provide large Qu'ty of Venison, Bear, &c. I desire You may write him to get what he can. When You have compleated Y'r Comp'a send me a List thereof and the time of their enlisting and the Places of their Aboad. I wish You Health and Success in the present Expedition ...
A June 12, 1754 letter indicates that John Fraser was a lieutenant
A June 12, 1754 letter from George Washington to Robert Dinwiddie indicates that John Frazier was a lieutenant under William Trent, and like Trent, was absent when Trent's forces were ejected from the fort they were building at the present-day site of Pittsburgh:
Lieutenant Frazier, though not altogether blameless, is much more excusable, for he would not accept the commission, till he had a promise from his captain, that he should not reside at the fort, nor visit it above once a week, or as he saw necessary.
John Fraser loses his property at Fort Necessity
The May 25, 1774 minutes of the Virginia House of Burgesses include the following:
A Petition of Jane Fraser, Widow, and Administratrix of the Estate of John Fraser, deceased, was presented to the House, and read; setting forth, that the said John Fraser, in his lifetime, on his way to Pennsylvania, the place of his Residence, from the River Ohio, where he had been concerned in Trade with the Indians, in June, 1754, met with the Troops of his Colony, commanded by George Washington, Esquire, at the place called Fort Necessity, or the Great Meadows; that Colonel Washington pressed several Horses of the said John Fraser, which were carrying in his Effects, and employed them in bringing Stores, a Party of Men, and Ammunition and Provisions, to the Camp, whereby the said John Fraser was detained, until the Battle happened at that Place; when the Virginia Troops Capitulated, and all the said John Fraser's Goods were taken and plundered by the Enemy, for which loss the Petitioner cannot discover, that he ever received any Satisfaction; and submitting the matter to the confideration of the House, and praying such an allowance as shall feem just.
Ordered, that the said Petition be referred to the Consideration of the Committee of public Claims; and that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their Opinion thereupon, to the House.
The text of the petition indicates that John Frazier was retreating from the Ohio valley in June 1754:
That your Pet'rs said husband had been concerned for many years in a trade with the Indians on the River Ohio, where he was in the Month of June 1754, when he received Intelligence that hostilities were Commenced or likely to take place, between this Colony & the said Indians, and thought it prudent to retire from that Country with his effect: He accordingly set off with his goods carr'd by Sev'l Horses to Return to Pensylvania & on his way, met with this Colony Troops under the command of George Washington Esq'r. at the place called Fort Necessity, or the Great Meadows: where Col'o Washington, expecting an Attack from the Enemy, pressed the s'd John Fraser's horses to be emploid in bringing some stores and a partie of men from Mr. Christopher Gist's, & also in bringing ammunition & Provisions from Col'o Cresup's to the s'd Meadows for Protection of the Forces; in consequence of which the s'd John Fraser was detained at the Meadows, until the Battle happened at that place & the Virg'a Troops Capitulated, when all the s'd John Fraser's goods were taken and Plundered by the Enemy (A particular Account of which was taken the day before the s'd Engagem't amounting to £2252.4, is hereto annexed) and were totally lost to him.
That the s'd John Fraser soon after Came to the City of W'msburg to Petition for a Recompence for his said losses, the event of which y'r Pet'r is wholly unacquainted with except that he declared on his return that he was offered a moietie of his loss, ... and nothing was done. That the said John Fraser being of a dialatory disposition, never concerned himself further in the s'd Claim during his life; Nor should y'r pet'r have undertaken this long and fatiguing Journey, or troubled this Hon'ble House on the Subject, but that she has been lately called on by two Merch'ts in Philadelphia for about seven hundred & fifty pounds, now due for the Purchase of part of the s'd goods, w'ch she cannot discharge, without the total ruin of herself & seven young children. Y'r Pet'r, impelled by this Necessity, humbly submits the Claim afors'd to the Consideration of the House, and prays for such recompence for the loss sustained by the s'd John Frazer, in the Public service, as their Justice shall suggest.
I've seen a list, or a reference to a list, somewhere, wherein John Fraser itemized his losses at Fort Necessity, and the losses included gunsmith tools. I may have seen it in the "Western Pennsylvania Magazine of History".
Repairing firearms in Winchester in 1754
According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", pages 35 to 38 of Volume 8 of the 1976 book "Frederick County Historical Society Papers" indicates that John Fraser repaired Militia arms in Winchester, Virginia in 1754 under a contract from George Washington.
A grass guard at Fraser's in May of 1755
An entry in Braddock's orderly book for May 10, 1755, written from Fort Cumberland, includes the following statement:
Col Dunbars Regiment to relieve the Fort Guard immediately, and the Fort Guard is to march to Fraziers as a Grass Guard, and to be relieved every 48 hours. Capt Pilson's company of carpenters is to send one corporal and 6 men with their tools and to make such fences as the officer of the Grass Guard shall think proper.
The reference to fences indicates a plan to graze animals at Fraser's, which in turn indicates available pasture on his property.
Adam Stephen indicates that Fraser lost two people to raiding Indians
Adam Stephen's October 4, 1755 letter to Washington, written from Winchester, states:
Matters are in the most deplorable Situation at Fort Cumberland - Our Communcation with the Inhabitants is Cut off - By the best Judges of Indian affairs, it's thought there are at least 150 Indians about us - They divided into Small parties, have Cut off the Settlement of Paterson Creek, Potomack. Above Cresops, and the People on Town Ck about four miles below his house - They go about and Commit their Outrages at all hours of the Day and nothing is to be seen or heard of, but Desolation and murder heightened with all Barbarous Circumstances, and unheard of Instances of Cruelty. They Spare the Lives of the Young Women, and Carry them away to gratify the Brutal passions of Lawless Savages. The Smoke of the Burning Plantations darken the day, and hide the neighboring mountains from our sight - Frazer has lost two of his Family and moves to the Fort to do the Arms...
Many people reportedly killed or captured, including Mrs. John Fraser
William Trent's Saturday, October 4, 1755 letter to James Burd, written from the "Mouth of Conegochege", states:
Last night came to the Mill at Wolgomoths an Express going to the Governor of Maryland with an account of the Inhabitants being out on Patterson's Creek; and about the Fort the Express says, there is forty killed and taken, and that one whole family was burnt to Death in an house. The Indians destroy all before them; firing Houses, Barns, Stackyards, and every thing that will burn. Jenny McClane, the Girl that lived with Fraser, was taken just by the Fort; the man that was with her had his Horse shot through, but carried him off; the mischief was all done partly at one time, Wednesday, between eight and ten o'clock in the forenoon, all the Inhabitants back are flying. I expect we shall soon be the Frontier; my Complements to Mrs. Burd, & I am,
Sir, Your most humble servant,
Since I wrote the above, I see another express come down to get the Militia to raise, he says, two and forty they buried on Patterson's Creek within a few Miles of the Mouth, they durst not venture higher up, but as there is no word from any of them, without doubt they are all killed; and since they have killed more, and keep on killing, the woods is alive with them; how long will those in power by their Quarrels suffer us to be massacred? Its time for every body to provide for the safety of their Families.
I am, Sir, Yours,
The letter mentions 42 people killed within a few miles of the mouth of Patterson's Creek. This appears to be the incident in another letter reporting that 42 people were killed at a blockhouse near Fort Cumberland.
The October 1, 1755 Fraser incident is reported in the news
The October 9, 1755 issue of the "Maryland Gazette" states:
We learn from Fort-Cumberland, that as Col. Stevens was going thence, with a small Party of Men, to Winchester, he was fired on at two different Places by some Indians that lay concealed by the Road's Side; Two of the Virginians were killed, but the Enemy did not choose to stay for their Scalps.
By a person who arrived in town last Monday (October 6th) from Col. Cresap's, we are told that last Wednesday (October 1st) morning the Indians had taken a man prisoner who was going from Frazier's to Fort Cumberland, and had also carried off a woman from Frazier's plantation, which is four miles on this side Fort Cumberland. The same morning they fell in with a man and his wife who had left their plantations, and were retiring into the more populous part of the country; they shot the horse on which the man was riding, but as it did not fall immediately he made his escape. The woman, it is supposed, fell into their hands, as neither she or the horse on which she was riding have been seen since or heard of. The same party of Indians also have carried off or killed Benjamin Rogers, his wife, and seven children, and Edmund Marle, one family of twelve persons, besides fifteen others, all in Frederick County. On Patterson's Creek many families have within this month been murdered, carried away, or burnt in their houses by a party of these barbarians, who have entirely broke up that settlement.
Another person, who left Stoddert's fort last Sunday, acquaints us that the inhabitants in that part of the country were in the greatest consternation. That near eight persons were fled to the said fort for protection, and many more gone off in the greatest confusion to Pennsylvania. This, it seems, had been occasioned by a dispatch sent to Lieut. Stoddert and the neighborhood by Col. Cresap, advising them that a party of seventeen Indians had passed by his house and had cut off some people who dwelt on the Town Creek, which is a few miles on this side of Cresap's. One Daniel Ashloff, who lived near that creek, is come down towards Conococheague, and gives the same account. He also says that as himself and father, with several others, were retiring from their plantations last Saturday they were attacked by the same Indians, as he supposes, and all but himself were killed or taken prisoners. 'It is said that Mr. Stoddert, who has command of fifteen men, invited a few of the neighbors to join him and to go in quest of the enemy, but they would not be persuaded, whereupon he applied himself to Maj. Prather for a detachment of the militia, either to go with a party of his men in pursuit of the savages, or garrison his fort while he made an excursion. We hope there will be no backwardness in the militia to comply with such a reasonable request, especially as any party or person that shall take an enemy prisoner will be rewarded with six pounds currency, and the person who will kill an enemy, with four pounds, provided he can produce witnesses, or the enemy's scalp, in testimony of such action.
Fraser lived on the Pleasant Valley tract circa 1755
The February 28, 1786 deposition of Daniel Cresap in the writ of Ejectment concerning the Pleasant Valley tract is included in Alfred Proctor James' Book "The Ohio Company: Its Inner History". The deposition states, "John Frazer Erected a log Cabbin near the banks of the River within the lines they had run around, and that he understood sd Frazer had purchased the Land from M r Tasker agent for M.r Bladen ab.t the year 1754".
The February 28, 1786 deposition of John Nicholls in the same case states, "a parcel of old Logs near the Bank of Potomack is the place where John Frazer Erected a Log House and that he understood he understood (sic) he settled there as a purchaser of a tract of Land Called Pleasant Valley from M r Bladen or his agent about the year 1755 1756". This deposition suggests that the original Fraser house on the Pleasant Valley tract was gone by 1786, yet a log house, reputed to be the Fraser house, was demolished to make way for an alteration to Route 51 in the 1960s.
I didn't understand how the original house could be gone by 1786, yet a log house reputed to be the Fraser house was still standing in the mid-20th century. This question is resolved by the portion of Jane Fraser's narrative (included below) that describes events after returning home. Her narrative describes their old house and also describes building a new house, stating, "Now here we both were again at the old home in the woods... We both went to work with a will prospering right along, dug us a farm out of the wilderness and built us a good house."
I wondered if the site of the above-mentioned log house was actually on the Pleasant Valley survey (Prince George`s County Unpatented Certificate No. 271). The survey can be oriented to a bend in the Potomac River, and definitely covers the location of the aforementioned log house that is depicted on an early topographical map. The log house was located near where present-day Messick Road terminates on Route 51, and the Fraser historical marker used to be located directly in front of the house. The December 1971 issue of the "Heritage Press" states that the John Fraser house was demolished in the 1960s to make room for widening Route 51, was referred to locally as the Valentine house, and that some of the "logs from the building were used to build the log building now seen by Frazier Lake beyond White Oaks Shopping Center". Historian Robert L. Bantz reports similarly, stating that when the house was demolished, "some of the logs were used in a house just a few hundred yards west and along the Creek".
The Frazier historical marker, which used to be posted directly in front of the log house, is now located at Latitude 39.624783, Longitude -78.734500. The marker states, "Jane Frazier wife of Lieut. John Frazier was captured by the Indians near this spot in October 1755 and taken to the Miami River. She escaped after eighteen months made her way back to her home." The image below shows the historical marker.
The Jane Fraser narrative
Jane Fraser was taken to Miami country, but eventually escaped and returned home, only to find her husband John Fraser had remarried. Her captivity story was sent to Cumberland by a descendant, Mrs. Cora H. Frey, of Logansport, Indiana, for verification. The document ended up in the possession of James W. Thomas, who included it in the 1923 book "History of Allegany County". Jane's narrative states:
My name is Jane Frazier, I was born in the year 1735 and raised near Winchester, Va. When nineteen years of age I was married to John Frazier, a young highland Scotchman. Soon after our marriage we removed to the State of Maryland and settled on a tributary of the Potomac called Tribbitts Creek, a few miles from the town of Cumberland. Soon after we settled my husband, a gunsmith by trade, determined to build a shop and set up his business. As a consequence he invited our neighbors (who at that time were few and far between) to come and assist in the building of his shop. Accordingly a few came and the erection of the building was commenced.
After I had prepared the dinner and they had eaten, I requested my husband to let our hired man, Bradley by name, take our horses and go with me to Cumberland to procure some necessities at the store.
He got the horses, saddled them, we mounted and started. Our road passed down the ridge from the house, crossed the creek and ascended the hill on the other side. As we passed the creek Bradley related to me a dream which he had had the night before which related to Indians. To this I replied that I did not like his dream and suggested that we turn back, but he laughed and said he had no faith in dreams and we went on. While conversing in this manner we ascended the hill and while yet in sight of our own home we were fired upon by the Indians. My horse fell and I fainted. When I recovered I was surrounded by Indians and the chief said to me "You no die; you pretty squaw; we no hurt you." Bradley was shot dead. My horse had only been creased-a ball through a little below the top of the mane, immediately in front of the withers-an animal shot in that way may fall prostrate but will soon recover. The chief inquired what so many men were doing at the house and I told him they were building another house. He inquired if they were well armed and I told him that they were armed (meaning arms of flesh) for they were poorly supplied with arms, and had the Indians known this they would have massacred the whole company. My captors immediately placed me on my horse, the chief walking by my side supporting me on my saddle while one of his warriors led my horse. Their course was westwardly to their homes in the wilderness.
No mortal can describe my feelings at this time. Thus in a moment, without warning, to be torn from husband and home, from all I had held near and dear on earth, and held as a prisoner by the savages-subject to all their savage notions, then it came to my mind that I was to be carried into a western wilderness, uncertain as to when, if ever, I should return. Added to this, I was not in a condition to endure such hardship and fatigue, and you may in a measure appreciate the awfulness of my situation.
The chief who had me in charge was very kind and assisted me all he could. He would not suffer the other Indians to offer me any harm. In this manner we traveled on till night when we camped on a low ravine near a stream. We lay without a fire as the Indians were fearful of pursuit. My captors spread a blanket on the ground and compelled me to lie down, then they spread another blanket over me and an Indian lay down at either end so as to prevent my raising without awakening them. In the morning our breakfast was made from provisions stolen from the settlers, after which we resumed our journey in a northerly direction.
My captors belonged to the Miami tribe and their big town was situated on the great Miami River.
We had a long journey before us and a tedious troublesome time passing many dangerous places and crossing streams of water. Wild animals and birds were numerous. During the entire journey I was allowed to ride my own horse, and each night was guarded as before. I suffered many privations and finally our provisions ran out and we had to endure hunger. Sometimes it was 25 or 30 hours at a time that I went without eating.
We passed through several tribes of Indians, but none of them were allowed to harm me. After traveling in this manner for three weeks, being worn out with exhaustion and discouraged, we arrived at a town on the Miami. When we came a sensation was created and the entire town was in motion. Warriors, squaws and children were all running to see the white squaw and welcome back their chief and his band, but my captors would not permit them to interfere with me. A council was soon called and the chief related the principal incident of his expedition, showing how they had waylaid us on the road, killed my companion and took me prisoner. The scalp of my man Bradley he had brought with him as a trophy and hung it up in his wigwam. I was adopted into one of the principal families of the tribe, and informed that I must consider myself an Indian squaw, for they intended I should live with them. It was with many misgivings and forebodings that I took up my abode with them, but there was no way for me to avoid it. Our family consisted of six people, an old grayhaired warrior, a middle-aged warrior and his wife, who was a robust squaw, and two children and myself. With this family I lived about one month, when my first child was born. The Indians were very kind to me, and took all the care of me they possibly could, in their wild way. They did all in their power to make me happy and contented. Some of them went to the nearest settlement and stole some clothing for my child, and said they wanted me to take good care of it until it grew to be a warrior, and a great chief, but the poor little thing died when it was three months old. Then my cup was full to overflowing.
Thus to be torn away from home and friends and all that was dear to me, and consigned to live like a brute among savages, and then to lose my only comfort, my first born, and have it buried in this wilderness, was more than my frail nature could bear, and I was nearly crazy for a time. Still the Indians were kind to me, and when they saw my child was dead, they cut a hickory tree, peeled off the bark and made a coffin, and wrapping it in some of the clothes they had stolen, they placed it in the coffin they had made and buried it near our town in their own burying ground. I remained with these Indians 13 months, in the summer time helping the squaws in their corn and vegetable patches and in the winter time assisting them in their cooking operations. While I was with this tribe they determined on another raid into Pennsylvania, consequently they performed their powwows and war dances, in order to give them good luck in their expedition, then left for their long trip. They took all their best warriors, leaving a few old men and some boys to hunt game and food for the squaws and papooses. The chief and warriors were gone about seven weeks. They returned bringing with them two Dutchmen from Pennsylvania, whom they adopted into the tribe. One of them was a tanner by trade, and they employed them to tan their skins for them. He worked a little ways from the town where there was a large spring and the other man was allowed to help him. These men were very restless in their confinement. A little later the Indians determined on another raid, and in a few days departed. The Dutchmen now determined to leave, and let me into their secret, so we procured an old rifle which they repaired, and we hid all the provisions we could find, and a week after the warriors were gone the game became very scarce, so the hunters had to be out nearly all the time for provisions for the squaws and children. We now concluded this would be the best time to gain our liberty, so obtaining a small amount of ammunition we gathered up our old gun and some provisions and left our new connections without stopping to say goodbye, and taking advantage of the warriors and hunters we left for home.
We started as near as we could tell in a southeasterly direction. We traveled constantly as long as possible, knowing that we would be followed as soon as the hunters returned home. When we were tired out we concealed ourselves and rested for a short time and then resumed our journey. On the second night we stopped on a high ridge near a stream of water, and in a few moments heard a dog bark and saw the Indians make a fire on the opposite side of the stream. We immediately started and entered the stream a short distance above and waded in the water for several hours in order to prevent the dogs from tracking us, but we saw no more of the Indians. On the fourth day our provisions gave out, and we were compelled to travel without food, as we dared not shoot for fear of being discovered.
On the sixth day one of the men ventured to shoot a rabbit which they discovered and they were so near famished that after dressing the rabbit and giving me my share they ate theirs raw and one of them took the entrails and forcing the contents out with his fingers, downed them. In this way we traveled on. Some times for days without provisions, and sometimes on small allowances, until we were convinced that the Indians had given up the pursuit. The men then shot a turkey and being so very hungry they foundered themselves, and next morning neither one of them were able to travel. Fearing that we might still be overtaken I would not consent to stay with them, choosing rather the chances of the wilderness than the danger of captivity again, I started on alone. Again I experienced untold privations, having to live on vegetables and the bark of trees and climbing up a tree or down in a hollow to be secure from wild beasts at night.
In this way I traveled for nine days, when I came upon a trail that led right across the trail I had chosen. Here I was in a dilemma, not knowing which way to take. While I stood undecided which way I should go a most beautiful bird such as I had never seen before came flying along passing close by me flew down the road as far as I could see. In a moment it came along passing in the same way. Taking this as an omen I followed, and I have always considered this as providential, as the other road would have led me back into the wilderness. Traveling on this road for two days I came to a settlement (Old Town) and soon found my way home again. When I got near home I was told by my neighbors that my husband having waited until near night the day I was captured, went in search of me and discovered Bradley dead and scalped, and saw the Indian trail and knew they had taken me prisoner, but as I had been gone for four or five hours and night coming on he could do nothing more that evening but, get some of his neighbors and bury Bradley, and next morning a half a dozen of them took the trail of the Indians and followed them for a week. My husband had afterwards concluded that I was dead and married again. My neighbors told me that if I would remain with them that day they would get me some decent clothes, put me on a horse and take me home in great triumph, for they knew my husband would most gladly take me back, so being completely worn out and almost unable to move I consented to their arrangement, and sure enough the next morning they had about fifty men, women and children and a couple of flags and some horns and a good horse and saddle, and having dressed me in good style, placed me on the horse and away we went as a surprise party, blowing horns, men and women singing and dogs barking, the weary wandered in triumph returning home. We had about eight miles to travel. When we got about half way the neighbors who had not been notified were taken by surprise, and come from every side to ask what it all meant, were pleased with the movements, joined in, and helped rejoice. We came in sight of the place and I was so glad I felt like I wanted to fly, nearing the house my husband and his wife came out very much frightened at the parade, then seeing some of his neighbors in the procession he came out and coming near the horse saw me and grabbed me off the horse, shouting with all his power, "The lost is found, the dead is alive," and so would not let me go for some time, fearing it was all an apparition. Finally we all went into the house and I met his second wife. She seemed a very nice woman, but he told her that he could not give me up again, that as I was living their marriage had been illegal, but he would still support her as he had, promised, but she would have to go back to her father and consider herself the same as before they were married, and she being a woman of good sense took it all in good part, wished me much joy and said she would come some time and hear me tell all about my captivity. So our friends got up a big dinner and after rejoicing with us for hours, returned to their homes. Now here we both were again at the old home in the woods, financially not quite as well fixed as when I was captured, both our horses gone, and my husband feeling so bad over my captivity and Bradley's death that he could not work and did not finish his shop. After mourning for a year, thinking me dead, he recovered himself and concluded to take a new start, got married and was only fairly well settled when I returned. We both went to work with a will prospering right along, dug us a farm out of the wilderness and built us a good house.
An independent reference to the Fraser Indian captivity story
Although not documentary evidence, Chapter XXVII of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" provides an independent family tradition-based reference to Jane Fraser's Indian captivity story:
Jane Dunlap, whose first husband was John Frazier, Esq., was the mother of the first white child born in Bedford county. Capt. Richard Dunlap was killed by the Indians near Frankstown, in 1781. ... Mrs. Frazier, above mentioned, was probably of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and came to Pennsylvania from Virginia with her husband, John Frazier, in 1755. Her maiden name was Jane Bell. (See history of Bedford borough.) She experienced all of the dangers of pioneer life, and, in addition, was held a captive by the Indians for eighteen months. By her first husband, John Frazier, she was the mother of one son, William, and four daughters. ... After the death of her husband, she married Capt. Richard Dunlap, by whom she had one child, Nancy, who became the wife of John Williams. Mrs. Dunlap spent the later years of her life at the home of her son-in-law, near Schellsburg, and there she died in 1815, aged about eighty years. She was a remarkably resolute and courageous woman, of exemplary life and Christian character. Her son, William Frazier, died in Harrison township, about the year 1844. ... James Z. Frazier, of Schellsburg, is a son of James Frazier, and a grandson of William Frazier, the first white child born in Bedford county.
Here is composite image of the information in the 1884 book:
Fort Cumberland is instructed to use Fraser to inspect and repair guns
George Washington's October 26, 1755 letter to Fort Cumberland Commissary Alan McLean, written from Fort Cumberland, includes the following statement:
You are to see that the arms here in Store be immediately inspected by Mr Frasier; and those fit for duty, to be packed in Chests to be sent down to Winchester - the remainder to be repaired by Mr Frasier. ... You are to receive and take an exact account, of all the Corn which is brought in here from the neighbouring plantations, which together with the Oats in Store, is to be delivered out only for the publick use, unless by particular Orders from me. You are to send down a Barrel of Flints with the arms, to Winchester, and about two thousand weight of Flour, for the two Companies of Rangers; twelve hundred of which to be delivered Captain Ashby and Company, at the Plantation of Charles Sellars - the rest to Captain Cockes' Company, at Nicholas Reasmers.
This letter shows that John Fraser was living at or somewhere near Fort Cumberland, and that there were other plantations near Fort Cumberland. Charles Sellers (Keller), for example, lived on lot 16, about four miles from the mouth of Patterson Creek.
George Washington pays John Fraser for gunsmithing services
According to Volume 6 of "Colonial Records of the Upper Potomac", on July 14, 1756 George Washington disbursed funds to John Frazier for repairs to and cleaning of arms.
Jane Fraser escapes her captors at Muskingum, and returns
A November 14, 1756 letter from Colonel Adam Stephen to Colonel John Armstrong, dated at Fort Cumberland, states, "By a woman who once belonged to John Fraser (his wife or mistress) and has now, after being prisoner with Shingas, &c, thirteen months, made her escape from Muskingum, we learn that Shingas and some Delawares live near the head of that river..."
According to John Heckewelder, who knew Shingas personally, Shingas was the brother of the Delaware Chief King Beaver, and was "a terror to the frontier settlements of Pennsylvania" during the French and Indian war, who "treated all those he had taken prisoners with affection". The letter shows that Shingas moved after the destruction of Kittanning.
Armstrong mentions Fraser's escape, but seems to bungle the location of her captivity
A November 30, 1756 letter Colonel John Armstrong wrote to Governor Denny from Carlisle includes the following statement:
We hear that two men and one woman (the Wife or Miss of Jon Frazer) has made their Escape to Fort Cumberland from Fort Duquesne, who say the French are but about 200 at that place, that they are assisting the Indians to Build a Fort a little way down the River from the Fort, that ye Indians are now employ'd in Hunting; 'tis said that two men from Virginia, in Company with Eleven Cattabas, are now out in order to espy fort Duquesne.
John Fraser loses horses kept at Cresap's in 1757
John Frazier may still have been living near Fort Cumberland in 1757. A February 14, 1757 letter, written by Adam Stephan from Fort Cumberland, states, "John Fraser Complains that Some of the Detachmt from Fort Frederick has Carried off a gang of His Horses brought in by the Cherokees & taken privately away from them & stabled at Cressops plantation until the Cherokees were gone out of the Way. William Ross has a Gray Lame Mare Carried down by the same party"
Forbes mentions Fraser at Wills Creek
Forbes' March 21, 1758 correspondence to Sharpe also contains the statement:
If it could possibly be contrived ______ some Intelligent person up to the Ohio, and Fort Duquesne, to get some Intelligence of the Enemys situation in those parts, I should make it very well worth his while perhaps Capt Dagworthy at Fort Cumberland, might find some such person to send. ... They say there is one Fraser at Wills's Creek who knows all the Ohio Indians perfectly well.
Jenny Fraser is at Raystown in November 1758
The Frazer's were at Raystown by November 4, 1758. Frederick Post's November 4, 1758 journal entry states, in regard to some Cherokees visiting "Rays-town", "Pesquitomen, finding Jenny Frazer here, who had been their prisoner and escaped, spoke to her a little rashly." Post's November 5 journal entry states, "Pesquitomen, before we went from hence, made it up with Jenny Frazer, and they parted good friends..." Kenny's May 28, 1759 journal entry states, "I have been setting Pisquetims raisors this morning; he says he is ye brother of Shingas ye Beaver ..." and his June 26, 1759 journal entry states, "Shingas is come & his brother Pisquiton, but ye Beaver King, their brother is not returnd yet ..." "Pesquitomen", "Pisquetims" and "Pisquiton" may be phonetically spelled variations of the same name.
A historical marker at (40.019177, -78.501640) that was erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1952 states, "Site of lots on which John Fraser and his wife established an inn and trading post in 1758. Fraser had been a guide and interpreter for Colonel Washington. The inn provided meals for army officers at Fort Raystown (Bedford)."
Fraser continues his trade at Fort Bedford
A November 13, 1759 letter Ourry wrote to Bouquet from Fort Bedford includes the following statements:
All the Artificers, except three Smiths, & as many Wheelwrights, & one Saddler, and some Carpenters have been discharg'd Some time. I have wrote to Mr Blythe to send me the Saddler from fort Cumberland that I may discharge the two together. This week I shall dismiss the Carpenters except two, having compleated all the Stores, & Granaries, & finish'd the necessary House & put the Guns under Cover, and perfected my Waggon-Bridge. I have also a Stock of Boards, seasoning against they may be wanted. In a little time we may discharge the Blacksmiths also, as I have set up a Smith, who is now at Work for himself in the Gunsmiths new House. And Frazer has built himself a Shop, intending to Work at his Trade. ...
John Fraser was living at Fort Bedford in 1759
Frederick Post's December 30, 1759 journal entry documents John Fraser living at Bedford for some time, stating, "...I...came late to Bedford; where I took my old lodging with Mr. Frazier."
Although not documentary evidence, Chapter XXVII of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" describes John Fraser's inn at Fort Bedford:
When the Virginians, under Washington and Burd, marched from Fort Cumberland northward to join other detachments of Forbes' army at Raystown, Fraser and wife accompanied them, and on their arrival at this point, a small log cabin was built on the right bank of the Raystown branch, just below the present iron bridge, where meals were cooked for officers. The place finally became known as Fraser's Inn. Their son William, whose birth occurred in 1759, was, it is claimed, the first white child born within the present limits of Bedford county. Fraser became one of the most prominent men in the region surrounding Fort Bedford. As shown in a chapter relating to the first settlement of the three counties, he was present at Fort Pitt, in 1768, during a grand council meeting held between the representatives of the province and the chiefs of the Six Nations and other tribes, and with Capt. William Thompson (also a resident of Bedford in, 1768) was chosen as a messenger to visit and warn off the trespassing settlers located west of the Alleghenies. When Bedford county was organized he was appointed one of its first justices of the peace, and served as such until his death, which occurred before the beginning of the revolutionary war. Subsequently his widow married Capt. Richard Dunlap. She was the mother of children by both husbands, and thus became the ancestor of the Frasers of Schellsburg and the Williamses of Napier, Rainsburg and Everett. She died in 1815, in Colerain township. Capt. Dunlap, her second husband, was killed in a fight with the Indians near Frankstown in 1781.
Fraser bills Mary Wood
The Hampshire County, Virginia estate record for Mrs. Mary Wood indicates that she was billed by John Fraser in May of the year 1761 for plowing. One charge was for four acres of plowing, and the other charge was for plowing a field that belonged to a Cornwell.
John Fraser property surveys
The following surveys to John Fraser are from Cumberland County, from which Bedford County was formed in 1771:
June 9. 1762 survey, Book C122, Page 140
June 21, 1765 survey, Book C62, Page 81
February 2, 1766 survey, Book C74, Page 42
A tavern in Bedford Towne
The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that John Fraser was in Bedford Towne" in 1770, and ran a tavern there that was still standing on East Pitt Street and known as the Graystone Hotel in 1983.
The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that John Fraser was in Bedford Township of Cumberland County in 1768.
The following transcripts of 1771 tax lists are from the 1878-1879 edition of "Farquhar's Official Directory of Bedford County, Pennsylvania":
Court of Quarter Sessions
Bedford County was established on March 9, 1771. The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that John Fraser was the first Judge of the Bedford County Court of Quarter Sessions.
John Fraser's death
The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" states that John Frazer died in 1773. I don't know what the basis of this death date statement is, but I think it is in the right proverbial ballpark. One basis would be 1774 probate papers.
Lord Dunmore's war
The Library of Virginia has a massive list of claims for payment in support of Lord Dunmore's War. In this list, John Fraser had a claim for a horse that was lost. Given the May 25, 1774 minutes of the Virginia House of Burgesses (reported above) that mention John Fraser's widow, this claim is not related to the John Fraser who is the subject of this web page.
A smithy in Friend's Cove
According to the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties", John Fraser moved to Friend's Cove circa 1768 and had a smithy there that was used for blacksmithing by George Funk and was purchased by the Bedford County gunsmith Jacob Saylor on August 14, 1779. I am not familiar with the origin or validity of this information. Regarding the move to Friend's Cove, the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" references a deed for 300 acres of property that is recorded in Deed Book D of Cumberland County.
Bedford County was formed in 1771
Bedford County was formed from a portion of Cumberland County on March 9, 1771. Friend's Cove is in Colerain Township.
An early gunsmithing tradition in Friend's Cove
The following composite image from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania" describes the early history of Friend's Cove, which includes an old gunsmithing tradition that could relate to John Doddridge, Jacob Saylor, William Jones, or John Fraser.
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