Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about

Dr. John Fraser (1806-1882)

John Fraser was born in March  14 or 16, 1806 in Finwick Kirk, Ayrshire Scotland. His father was William Fraser and his mother Abigail Stewart, his father’s second wife.

Dr Fraser graduated from Glasgow College of Physicians and surgeons at age 19, in June 1825. He enjoyed a large medical practice in Ayr, Doune and Perthshire for 12 years before coming to America. He was also very active in politics..

He came to Canada in 1837. He settled on the townline between Pelham and Thorold. He lived with Israel Bradshaw and John McKinly. He never married. He later moved to Fonthill and lived and practiced in his home  on Haist Street and Canboro. The house is still standing at 1 Haist Street.

By 1854, he was chosen Liberal candidate for Welland County. He served one term in Parliament. In 1867 he was nominated as candidate in Monck, but it was won by L. McCallem.

Dr. Fraser held many positions, he was on examining board of physicians for Canada, district surgeon for the militia, warden of the county in 1856 when county buildings were created. He took active part in securing the location of the county town at Welland. He was member of the Presbyterian church and member of the Masonic Fraternity.

Dr Fraser was associated with many Drs. In their early careers—Dr, Comfort, Dr De La Mater, Dr. Burgar, and DR. Hansler.

Dr Fraser died at his residence October 7, 1882 and is buried in the Fonthill cemetery. His funeral was attended by 2200 people and led by the Crowland Band.

Fraser Street in Welland was named after Dr. John Fraser.

[Pelham This Week, Wednesday, March 17,1993]

By Shirley Ruth May

Fonthill’s First Physician was well-liked

John Fraser, Fonthill’s first Doctor, was born of his mother after she was in her coffin.

His mother, Abigail Stewart of Ayrshire, Scotland, was 15 when she sickened and was pronounced dead. A grave was dug, a wooden coffin was built and her grieving family had her body prepared for burial.

The coffin was closed, nailed shut, and loaded onto the horsedrawn wagon serving as a hearse. The cortege was about to start for the cemetery when suddenly an old family servant arrived from a distance and asked to take one last loving look at the child she had nursed.

In deference to the woman, the coffin was opened. The servant, bent to kiss the dear face  only to find an unexpected warmth in the supposedly dead body. She threw up her hands, exclaiming, “My God, would you bury my darling alive?”

Shock and disbelief rippled through the assembled crowd. A mirror was brought and held to the girl’s lips. Sure enough, a faint moisture was detected. Immediate steps were taken to resuscitate the girl who years later, was to become John Fraser’s mother.

Abigail Stewart married William Fraser, a widower with 14 children. John was her seventh child. He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in Marchbank House, on March 14,1806.

At a very tender age he chose medicine as a career, perhaps because of his mother’s near burial because of a medical misdiagnosis. At age 19 he graduated from the Glasgow College of Surgeons. Sometime after 1828, he came to Fonthill.

Dr. Fraser was well-liked by his patients because, in addition to being a good physician, he had a chronic disregard of having his accounts collected. Although he left a comfortable property when he died it is estimated he lost five times that amount through uncollected accounts.

A bachelor, he was liked socially because of his love of congenial company and respected politically because of his hard good sense, frankness in speaking, and sterling integrity.

Besides running a busy medical practice, he found time to become a member of the examining board of physicians for Canada and district surgeon of the sedentary militia. He was warden of Welland County when the county buildings were erected. He was the first reeve of Pelham after the separation of counties in 1850. He was an elected Member of Parliament.

He was president of the Welland Herald (the forerunner of the Welland Tribune) published in Fonthill from 1854-1863.

On Oct. 7, 1882, Dr Fraser died at his Fonthill residence.

[The Peoples Press, Aug. 7, 1906]

Dr. John Fraser may be styled the father of the County of Welland, as a separate municipal organization. He was elected to represent the County of Welland in the Parliament of Canada in 1854, and took a leading part in securing municipal separation from Lincoln and in locating the seat of the new county town at Welland. He was the first Warden of the County of Welland, and laid the cornerstone of the court house, on Friday, the 16th day of July 1856. His name is inscribed on the tablet above the main door of the Courthouse, with the councilors of the day.

Dr. Frazer was born in Ayrshire, Scotland on March 14, 1806, and died at Fonthill, Ont. On Oct 7, 1882. He never married.


[Welland Tribune, 1 December 1882]

              Only a short time ago the death of one of our most respected residents, unfortunately occurred from the administration of chloroform to deaden the pain expected from a dental operation, and again on Friday great excitement was occasioned by a young lady named Nellie Shea (or Shane) going into convulsions whilst under the influence of some new-fangled process to deaden pain. Fortunately, however, in this case the results were not so serious.

Mr. J.H. Burgar re Gaol Surgeon’s Duties

[Welland Tribune, 29 December 1882]

Editor Tribune:

             DEAR SIR: In reply to my former letter, Mr. J.H. Burgar’s “conception” of uprightness seems very much shocked when I acknowledged to have used the county medicine to put up a small mixture for each of two county councillors, and he can hardly find words sufficiently strong to express his seemingly astonished indignation when I use the county medicine for a man who has dropped down of syncope, and whose heart shows a feebleness of action that means death in a few moments unless restoratives are immediately applied. But before I am through we will examine the motives which prompted this paragon to act, and we will see whether it was a wish to protect the interest of the county, or a desire to gratify the green-eyed envy and bitterness of soul which have been nursed in the breast of both Mr. J.H. Burgar and his brother for the past twelve years.

When there is a “dirty object to be accomplished” we find Mr. J.H. Burgar’s “conception” of uprightness shown in its true light. Under such circumstances this would be manly man stands forth in all the “unblushing” perfection of a pharisaical hypocrite, and, in the council chamber, in the dignity of his official position as reeve of the town of Welland, he sniffs the air and declares he smells something putrescent. He, however, does not ask that the prison inspector be requested to investigate any irregularities he imagines may be connected with my duties as gaol surgeon, for he knew such an investigation would be open and manly; I would have been present to hear the evidence; there would have been no opportunity for him to have done otherwise than to face the investigation honorable and “squarely;” the evidence would have been taken under oath and the report would have been in accord with that evidence. Such an investigation would not have answered Mr. J.H. Burgar’s purposes, and he would not have accomplished the object he had in view; so he moves for the appointment of a committee, he himself forming one of said committee, and in his last week’s letter he acknowledges that the committee had not the power to properly investigate his charges, but he evidently thought that by scheming he could get them to accomplish what he had undertaken. In a measure he succeeds. The committee is appointed. They hold “hole and corner” investigation, I am excluded from the room. The evidence is taken and a report is written out, the first of which is so outrageously false that even some members of the committee refuse to sign it; then another report is written and after much persuasion all the committee sign it except one. This report is presented to the county council and finally passed, and I know nothing about the matter until all has been completed, and yet in the face of such contemptible duplicity and intrigue, Mr. J.H. Burgar prates about honesty in a “county official.” Respecting the other members of the committee, I do not think they desired to do me an injustice.

             With references to the price of medicine, I have no defence to offer for either Mr. J.H. Burgar or Mr. Hobson in respect to any excessive charges either of them may have made to either a brother druggist or the county. In my former letter I merely referred to this part of the committee’s evidence, which places both of these gentlemen on a par so far as profit on medicine is concerned; but when Mr. Burgar tells the pubic it is a part of my duty to audit Mr. Hobson’s accounts, he tells them what he knows to be untrue. The county have auditors for this purpose, and as to certifying to drug accounts, I merely certify that the drugs ordered were supplied. Here my duty ends, and in no instance have I certified as to price, simply because it was not a part of my duty.

             I will be short in my reply to the gentlemen who seem to think the public cannot believe them except when under oath. In regard to Dr. Burgar’s declaration, the only essential part in which he is correct is where he swears he made application for the appointment to the position of gaol surgeon. The other part of the declaration is not true, for at the time to which he refers I neither applied for an increase of salary now did I put a document to that effect into “the hands of a member of the then council.”

             With reference to Dr. Glasgow, I might be willing to acknowledge that he may understand the Indian language, but he certainly seems incapable of comprehending a very simple sentence in English. I did not say Dr. Glasgow applied for the position of gaol surgeon. I said he figured for it, and if the Doctor wishes to carry out the impression he desires to give the public, let him come out next week with another declaration and swear that he never asked any person to use his influence to obtain for him (Glasgow) the position of gaol surgeon. If the Doctor will do this I will try and convince him he is swearing fast and loose.

Yours truly,




[Welland Tribune, 22 December 1882]

To the Editor Welland Tribune:

             DEAR SIR- In your last issue I see a reply, or rather what purports to be a reply, to the report of committee of county council re meideal supplies and medical attendance in connection with gaol. I am glad that Dr. Schooley has seen fit to rush into print to justify a certain party in charging the county exorbitant prices for medicines. But then what could you expect of a man who unblushingly admits that he took medicines belonging to the county and used them for his own private practice, excusing himself by saying that in one instance it was on a Sunday. I suppose he thinks the better the day the better the deed. It appears he thinks it no sin to appropriate others property on a Sunday. But he seeks to defend Mr. Hobson in his excessive charges by stating that I charged Mr. Cumines a high price for certain articles, making Mr. Cumines a fulcrum on which to rest his lever of defence of Mr. Hobson. This is absurd on the face of it. Mr. Cumines understands his business and knows the price of drugs, and if I overcharged him he could have returned the article. Not so with the county. They were buying articles of which they had no conception as to price, and were depending on the honesty of the gaol surgeon (an officer of the county) to check anything that was wrong in these bills. But he coolly states in his letter “that the price of drugs does not concern me.” A nice county servant, surely who would stand by and see the people’s money taken without a fair compensation. He stated before committee that he called Mr. Hobson’s attention once to a high charge. Why did he certify to correctness of account when the charge was so excessive that he in his simplicity could not see?

             For the Doctor’s information I will state that the committee based their report on the evidence of two witnesses substantiated by his own admissions; and, if necessary, that evidence can be printed and also verified by declaration, then the public can judge for themselves whether the committee reported facts or not. I am positive that the people of the county have every confidence in such gentlemen as Messrs. Joseph Garner, Cruickshank and Ramsden, a majority of committee and that those gentlemen would not be guilty of presenting a fraudulent report. All I have to say in answer to such an assertion is that the above named gentleman have held the trust and confidence of their fellow electors for years, and must consequently be honest, truthful and upright or they could never have enjoyed the confidence that has been so often reposed in them. The Doctor labors hard to show that the quantity of medicine used depends on amount of sickness. Nobody denies this fact, but the Doctor only quotes a part of the sentence viz: “for the immediate wants of such supply.” Here he stops and forgets to add the remainder contained in report. Further Dr. Schooley states, “That Messrs. Garner and Burgar intimate that there is something more to be told; who asked them to conceal anything?” Now Mr. Editor, if the gaol surgeon desires to know more, and is not satisfied with the report, all he has to do is to ask that the inspector of prisons hold an official investigation. This would be done under oath (a power that the committee could not avail themselves of) and then he could learn the particulars to which Messrs. Garner and Burgar referred. Dr. Schooley says we had 11 months to enquire into the matter. True! And Mr. Editor why did not the committee report at June session of council? Simply because several of the members of the committee were told that there was nothing in the charge but petty spite, and it was impossible to get the chairman (Mr. Fraser) to act; and the committee had to appoint another chairman. The truth was that the parties interested did not want an investigation, and did what they could to have it staved off. To the final reply or charge which the Doctor styles, “The true investigation inwardness of the investigation.” That Dr. Burgar, a brother of mine, wanted the position, and when he failed Dr. Glasgow tried to get the appointment and failed also.” I append the declaration of those two gentlemen. Thanking you, Mr. Editor, for kindness in allowing so lengthy a reply. I remain, yours truly, J.H. Burgar


             In the matter of the position of Gaol Surgeon for the County of Welland:

             I, William E. Burgar, of the Town of Welland, in the County of Welland, Physician and Surgeon, do solemnly declare:- I have this day read the letter of Dr. Schooley, published in both the town papers under the caption, “Report of Special Committee and Gaol Supplies.” The said letter reflects personally on me in this, that it alleges that I was an applicant for the position above referred to, and that my application was refused.

             The facts in regard to this statement are as follows. About ten years ago the present gaol surgeon who occupied the position put an application for an increase of salary into the hands of a then member of the council to be presented to the council. A great deal of dissatisfaction was always expressed by the prisoners in gaol as to the treatment received by them from the said surgeon. Those two facts coming the ears of another member of the council, I was requested by that member to put in an application for the position.

             Microfilm here unreadable. Drawn into notice in the letter just referred to is the application the particulars of which are herein set forth, and the statements there in the said letters are evidently made with the intention of detracting pubic attention from the matters now in question.

             And I make this declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of an act passed in the thirty-seventh year of Her Majesty’s reign, entitled, “An Act for the Suppression of Voluntary and Extra Judicial Oaths.”

Signed, W.E Burgar

             Declared before me at Welland in the county of Welland this 15th day of December A.D., 1882. 

Thos. D. Cowper

A Commissioner


In the matter of the position of Gaol Surgeon for the County of Welland:

             I, Sinclair Holden Glasgow, of the Town of Welland, in the County of Welland, Physician and Surgeon, do solemnly declare that:

             I have read the letter of J.W. Schooley, M.D., of this town, published in the Welland Telegraph and Welland Tribune this day the 15th of December under the caption, “Report of Special Committee on Gaol Supplies, etc.”

             With regard to the allegation contained in the last part thereof, stating that I applied to be appointed gaol surgeon of this county, I say that the case is altogether untrue, and without foundation, in fact.

             And I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the act passed in the thirty-seventh year of her Majesty’s Reign, entitled, “An Act for the Suppression of Voluntary and Extra Judicial Oaths.”

Signed, S.H. Glasgow

             Declared before me at the town of Welland in the county of Welland, this 15th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1882.

Thos. D. Cowper

A Commissioner


[Welland Tribune, 15 December 1882]

 To the Editor of the Welland Tribune:

             DEAR SIR- I ask space for a few comments upon the report of the committee re my duties as gaol surgeon.

             The report states that the county has been paying from 100 to 125 per cent more for drugs than it should. Now Mr. Cumines told me that he showed the committee over Mr. Burgar’s own signature, that he (Burgar) charged him (Cumines) 60¢ for 1½ ounces of a medicine, the price of which was 11¢. I merely mention this to show that if Mr. Hobson has charged the county a good profit on medicines, Mr. Burgar has charged even a brother druggist an equally large profit, and in the face of this fact has united with other members of the committee to condemn another brother druggist for taking a profit which he himself charges. The price of drugs does not concern me, and with this part of the report I really have nothing to do. I, however, fully agree with the suggestion that the medicine should be furnished by tender. The report also states that the quantity of medicine supplied appears more than was necessary and that in a few instances medicines were used for other than gaol purposes. The quantity of medicine used will invariably depend on the amount of sickness, and all I can say is there was no more medicine used than was necessary. Respecting the use of medicine for other than gaol purposes, I told the committee that during a session of the county council, I put up a small mixture for Mr. E. Furry, the warden, one for the late Mr. Edwin Hershey; one for Mr. G.L. Hobson, when he was suddenly ill at the court house; one for Mrs. J.P. Evans, on the Sabbath when the drug stores were closed; and one for either Mr. or Mrs. Gill.

I also told the committee that I had frequently used medicines from my pocket case for the prison, and that I had supplied more medicine than had been used for other than gaol purposes. In the discussion of the report before the county council, Messrs. Garner and Ramsden are reported as saying that the amount of medicine used for other than gaol purposes was not worth over one or two dollars. From this I infer that the only evidence the committee had on this part of the report was what I gave. If so, they must have gone at their work with a determination of bringing in a damaging report, and they succeeded in doing so only by rejecting a part of the evidence, and putting a construction upon the balance which the facts did not warrant. In this discussion Messrs. Burger and Garner intimate there is something else to be told. Now I am interested in this matter, and I would like to know why they did not tell it. Who asked them to conceal anything? It was eleven months from the time the committee was appointed until they brought in their report. Surely this ought to have enabled them to ventilate this matter, and it is not creditable for them to intimate that they had found something but they would not bring it out in the report. In conclusion, I may as well tell the public the “true inwardness” of this investigation. Dr. Burgar, a brother of Mr. Hamilton Burgar, the mover in this charge, applied to be appointed gaol surgeon, but did not succeed; then Dr. Glasgow figured with the same object in view, and also failed. Consequently there was no alternative but to bring the charge which, as far as its real object was concerned, has failed also.

Yours truly,

J.W Schooley

Welland, Dec. 13th, 1882