Fraser, William (birth/death dates unknown)

William Fraser was one of eight men who sailed aboard the barque Harpooner on November 30, 1848 for Fort Victoria to help colonize a homestead for Captain Grant in the Sooke region. The Colonial Office had come to an agreement with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) whereby the Company would see to the colonization of the Island in return for proprietary rights. The Harpooner arrived on May 30, 1849, to wait off Trial Island, then entered the harbour the next day. The men waited in the vicinity of the Fort for two months until Captain Grant arrived on August 8, 1849. Grant’s hired men proved troublesome to the Fort as Finlayson recorded on July 31, 1849 that the men “discontinued work . . . alleging as a reason that they had not fresh beef for dinner.”  By October 1849, James Douglas reported in a letter to the HBC London office that Captain Grant had been obliged to double the salary of his hired men to “induce them to remain in his Service, while the work they have done is hardly sufficient to pay for their food.” It is perhaps in this context that Grant came to the Fort on January 24, 1850 with William Fraser and charged him with theft. At the time of Grant’s resignation as a surveyor for the HBC in April 1850, he admitted he had dismissed half his men for misconduct while the remainder deserted him in September. Fraser disappeared from the record books until 1856 when he was reported to be at Fort Simpson.  In May of 1857 it was discovered that he had stolen fifty blankets from the sale shop and he was sent to Fort Victoria to be held in irons.  William Fraser’s whereabouts following this incident have not been traced.


  • Bowsfield, Hartwell, ed.  Fort Victoria Letters (1846-1851). Winnipeg: Hudson's Bay Record Society, 1979.
  • Evans, Mike. "William Fraser." BC Metis Mapping Research Project.
  • Ireland, Willard E.. “Captain Walter Colquhoun Grant: Vancouver Island’s First independent Settler,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XVII, Nos. 1 and 2 (Jan-Apr., 1953): 87-125. (This essay also includes Douglas’ letter to the Company in London regarding the state of affairs at Captain Grant’s farm and the hired hands).
  • Roots Web Ancestry. "Passenger List of 'The Harpooner.”
  • Watson, Bruce McIntyre. Lives Lived West of the Divide. Kelowna, B.C.: Centre for Social, Spatial, and Economic Justice, University of British Columbia, 2010.
Frederick Gentz and Graham Brazier