From 1790 Simon lived in Montréal with his uncle, Judge John Fraser, who supervised his nephew's education, then, in 1792, apprenticed him to the fur-trading NORTH WEST CO. In 1793 Fraser was sent to Canada's far northwest to learn his trade at the isolated Athabascan posts. In 1801 Fraser was elected one of the company's youngest partners. In 1805 he was selected to expand the company's operations beyond the Rockies. He founded the first European settlements in the wilderness domain that he named NEW CALEDONIA (central BC); establishing Fort McLeod in 1805, Fort St James and Fort Fraser in 1806 and Fort George (present PRINCE GEORGE) in 1807.
Fraser is best known for his daring exploration of the FRASER RIVER (then believed to be the Columbia). On 28 May 1808, hoping to discover a new transportation route to the Pacific, Fraser left Fort George with 2 clerks, 16 voyageurs and 2 native guides. This gruelling 520 mile expedition ranks as one of Canada's greatest explorations. Entering territory unknown to Europeans he struggled through the perilous terrain of the Fraser River canyon. With native assistance and perseverance they survived the turbulent waters and hair-raising cliff-side portages.
At the river's mouth Fraser took bearings and realized that it could not be the Columbia. Threatened by local inhabitants and greatly disappointed, he retreated. David THOMPSON, who explored the real Columbia, named the river the Fraser; Simon had already named the THOMPSON RIVER in David's honour.
From 1810-1814 Fraser was in charge of the MacKenzie River Department. Weary of FUR-TRADE life, and the increasingly violent competition with the HUDSON'S BAY CO, Fraser determined to retire in 1815, but he was persuaded to return to Athabasca for one last winter. He was amongst the partners arrested by Lord SELKIRK at FORT WILLIAM and charged with complicity in the 1816 SEVEN OAKS INCIDENT. The case was tried in 1818 - all were acquitted.
Fraser immediately retired and settled at St Andrews West, where he farmed and operated mills. The rest of his life was uneventful except for participating in the 1837 REBELLION, during which he sustained a crippling knee injury. He eventually received a meagre government pension but, thereafter, lived in straightened circumstances.
Links to Other Sites
In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company
An extensive website featuring digitized archival material related to the fur trade and its role in the early exploration, settlement, and economic development of Canada. From the McGill University Digital Collections Program.
Opening New Caledonia
A superb online exhibit that document the history of the "New Caledonia" region of British Columbia. Check out the glossary of related terms. From the Exploration Place at the Fraser-Fort Geroge Regional Museum.
Fort St James National Historic Site
This Parks Canada website chronicles the history of the 19th century Hudson’s Bay Company post located on Stuart Lake in British Columbia. Also discusses the relationship between local Carrier communities and European fur traders.
Archival Research on the Traditional Use and Occupation of (First Nations lands in British Columbia)
A review of archival material documenting the history of First Nations communities in British Columbia and their early encounters with European settlers.
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