Part-printed document signed by John Fraser. John Fraser
was an Indian trader and gunsmith in Western Pennsylvania in the period
1726-1773. His first wife was held captive by the Indians ((2 pages of notes
re: Fraser are included) Document Dated 1772 at Bedford County, Pennsylvania is
an arrest writ for the arrest of Samuel McKee, signed by Fraser as a Justice of
the Peace. Size 13 1/2" by 6 1/2" on laid rag-content paper. Age toned, heavy
along folds and edges, edge nicks, mottled appearance from stains, small hole
along fold, otherwise FINE condition.
Any one who has read the history of Bedford County could
not help but come upon the name of John Fraser. Not only is his name inscribed
in the history of this county, but he played an important part in the early days
of western Pennsylvania.
In reviewing the Colonial Records in Volume III there
appears there were two men by the same name but the years of their existence do
not correspond. The first John Fraser was a Scotchman by birth and in 1719 one
John Fraser presented a petition stating he was a merchant of London and that he
was appointed "supercargo" of a ship "Nathaniel and Charles" in a voyage to
several ports in America. After the departure of the ship for Jamaica the
Commander died. Members of the ship mutinied. He was set ashore at Philadelphia
where he appealed to the governor for help to obtain possession of the sloop.
We found no reference as to whether this man was or was not
related to the John Fraser who later became an Indian trader. If this Indian
trader was not the son of the London merchant, then he was one of the Scotchmen
or ScotchIrish who came here and settled in Cumberland Valley in 1726. In 1737
he lived in Paxton along the Susquehanna River. His farm of 192 acres was
patented to Arthur Park who died in 1739.
In the Pennsylvania Archives Volume 2 he is mentioned as a
licensed trader in Pennsylvania. His license was granted August 10, 1747 by the
courts of Lancaster County, his place of residence.
Many of the early settlers discovered it was very
profitable to exchange trinkets, clothing, guns and ammunition as well as
whiskey with the Indians for their furs. However many took advantage of the
Indian and cheated him where ever possible. As a result of their complaints laws
were made for the purpose of weeding out this type of dishonest trader..
In order to get to the various villages, particularly in,
through and over the mountains, it was necessary for them to follow the paths of
the Indians from place to place. Thus it was necessary to carry these goods or
pack them on horses to places where canoes could not reach. These trails became
known as 'Packers Paths'.
John Fraser was shrewd but fair and honest in his dealings
with the red and white men. Because of this his reputation soon spread and thus
he was able to remain in business in areas where others were either driven out
or were murdered.
When the French came into the western part of what is now
Pennsylvania in 1749 they found an English trading post on the mouth of French
Creek (now Crawford County), being operated by a young gunsmith John Fraser.
This place was known as 'Weningo'. When Washington came to Venango in December
1753 he found the French flag flying over Fraser's house. He then located on the
Monongahela river at the mouth of Turtle Creek. Apparently he was driven out of
this spot within a short time due to the French possession of the Forks. (now
Pittsburgh). We next find that John and Jean were residing in Virginia in 1755.
At Winchester, John joined Washington and Braddock to act as a guide and scout.
After Braddock's defeat, John and his wife settled near Cumberland, Maryland.
(This old house was torn down within the past twenty years. It was left to
deteriorate as no one organization cared to spend money to preserve it).
A short time after they settled here, Jane was captured by
the Indians and was taken into what is now Ohio. She was adopted by a chief of
the trlbe. After a number of years she managed to escape. When she returned home
she discovered that John had remarried. One report states that John erected a
cabin on his property for his second wife where she lived until her death. A
number of years ago we heard a historian from Cumberland give a talk on John
Fraser. His version of what happened to his second wife was quite different. He
said that when Jane came home and found another woman had taken her place she
ordered her off the place. When she refused to leave, a fight took place. Jane
ended the dispute by flattening her opponents head with a shovel.
A short time later Fraser accompanied Washington to
Raystown. He soon brought his family with him. He built a log cabin on the
outside of the Fort on the south side of the Juniata River. According to
historians Jane soon set up an Inn and served meals to the officers of the army.
It was named 'Fraser's Inn'. When the town of Bedford was laid out by the
Proprietaries in 1762, he obtained a property (lot number 23) and later
purchased several thousand acres in what is now Bedford County.
Records in the present Courthouse show that Jane Fraser was
granted a liquor license in 1771. John continued his activities as a trader and
gunsmith. In 1768 he was selected as one of the commissioners to settle the
difficulties with the Six Nations in regard to the encroachments of the whites
in western Pennsylvania. (Colonial Records Volume 1, pages 539 and 543).
He became a very influential citizen of Cumberland
County-later Bedford. When the latter was formed on March 9, 1771 Fraser was
appointed by the governor on March 11 as one of the Justices of the Peace and a
Judge of several Courts which he held until his death on April 16, 1773.
Fraser's third son, William, was born in Raystown in 1759.
Various historians have claimed he is the first white child born in Bedford
County. Others have challenged this statement stating that records show families
lived in what is now known as 'Dutch Corner' and Soutbampton Township many years
prior to 1759 and that children were born in the homes of these settlers.
However, there is no surviving records to prove this point.
At John's death he was survived by his wife and eight
children-James, Margaret William, Benjamin, Catherine, Jane, Mary and Amelia.
John left no will. However in Wili Book number 1, page 5, one can find an
Indenture of his estate.
Letters of Administration were granted on his estate to his
wife and General Arthur St. Clair. Through some mismanagement of the estate
there appeared to be a deficiency of 217 pounds, 45 shillings and 9 pence.
On July 17,1775 the Orphans Court allowed, Margaret,
Benjamin and William, who were under age to choose guardians. Their choices were
James Piper, Bernard Dougherty and David Espy. The Court also appointed these
same persons as guardians for the other five children who were under fourteen
years of age.
His remains were interred in the burial ground located on
East Penn Street. This cemetery had been granted by the Proprietaries to the
Episcopal Church. Many early settlers were buried here, yet no church was ever
built on the ground. In the course of time the ground was neglected and the old
fence was entirely rotted away.
On August 6,1867 these lots in the cemetery were sold by
the St. James Episcopal Church under the authority of the Court and the proceeds
of the sale were invested in the lots on which the Episcopal Church now stands.
Perhaps there is some question as to what happened to Mrs.
Fraser. In 1775 she married Richard Delapt, who was of Scotch-Irish descent. He
had been a resident of Bedford. A daughter, Agnes was born March 9, 1776.
Delapt was a Captain of a Company of the Battalion of the
Bedford Militia. In 1781 when this county was over run by the Indians, Captain
John Boyd's Company, commanded by Colonel William Parker marched to Frankstown
to relieve the Cumberland County Militia. Captain Delapt and his step-son,
Benjamin Fraser were members of this unit. On June 3, 1781 a fight took place
between this company and the raiding Indians. Captain Delapt and Benjamin were
killed and scalped.
1796 Jane Delapt made application for a pension. On December 7,1790 she
purchased lot number 6 on the northeast corner of the Public Square. A real
estate office is now located on this site today.
Please join us in our mission to incorporate America's Four United Republics discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The
People. Click Here