James Fraser jnr of Belladrum (1766-1832)
Return to Frasers of Belladrum
Seumas Eolach Eolach (Knowing Knowing James) [History of the Frasers of Lovat]
James Fraser, younger of Belladrum, was active in Demerara and Berbice from at least the early 1790s. By 1795 he had returned to London where, with George Inglis, he was granted a power of attorney by his father to collect debts due in the West Indies and Guyana.
He was again in London in December 1799, where he married Mary Fraser of Achnagairn. At this time he already owned, in his own name, two plantations on the West Sea Coast of Berbice - Lot no 8 and a tract of land refererred to as Lot D, which became Plantation Weldaad. He entered into a partnership with Lord Seaforth, Archibald Alves, Dr William Munro, Edward Fraser of Reelig and Anthony Somersall to purchase further coastal lands which were the property of the Society of Berbice and this was concluded in March 1801.
He was already reputed to have made substantial sums of money, up to £40,000, probably from land deals in Berbice and in 1803 he sold plantation Dochfour for £49,000, spending £20,000 on improvements to the family's house at Belladrum.
Over the following years he journeyed a number of times between Britain and Guyana, taking Mrs Fraser with him. By late 1807 they were described as having 'quite retired' to one of their estates in Berbice where Mrs Fraser was expected to 'increase the Clan shortly'. However, young Edward Fraser of Reelig, who spend Christmas with them, described it as 'not a very cheerful house' and told his mother than Mrs Fraser hated the country. He added that she 'sees nobody but a parcel of the neighbouring gentlemen who are not all of the first water – and no ladies at all except old Mrs Burnet'. All this suggests that the pregnancy did not go well and there is no other record of the couple having children.
Although his father died in 1808, James Fraser remained in Berbice and did not finally return to Scotland until 1821. By this time his only estate in Berbice was plantation Golden Fleece, with 374 slaves.
James Fraser sold his Belladrum estate in 1828 to a Mr Stewart, who paid £80,000, but a court case followed in which Stewart successfully claimed that Fraser had misrepresented the value of the estate [Inverness Courier, 5 January 1831]. Fraser was bankrupt later in the year [Inverness Courier, 12 October 1831].
Fraser had leased Redcastle on the Black Isle, remaining as tenant until 1831. The incoming tenant was given the option of purchasing Fraser's furniture [London Courier and Evening Gazette, 28 June 1831].
James Fraser returned to Berbice and died there on 4 October 1832 [see Inverness Courier 19 Dec 1832, not 1834 as stated by Duncan Warrand, Some Fraser Pedigrees, 15]. In 1834 there was a roup [sale] by court order of his remaining 'valuable and costly' collection of furniture 'nearly all London made . . . of the most superior materials and workmanship, having been made expressly by order of the late Proprietor, who spared no cost in the selection'.[Inverness Courier, 30 July 1834].
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Sources for an account of James Fraser in Demerara and Berbice
NAS = National Archives of Scotland
GD23/5/352 1795 (Draft) power of attorney by James Fraser, elder of Belladrum in Inverness-shire, to his son James Fraser, younger, of Demerary [Demerara], at present resident in London, and George Inglis of Demerary, planter, to uplift all monies and effects to which the said James Fraser senior could lay claim in the West Indies and the colonies of Demerary or Berbice in Dutch Guyana.
17 December 1799: Married Mary Fraser of Achnagairn in London [The Times, Wednesday, Dec 18, 1799]
Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, June 14, 1800; Issue 12283. Mr James Fraser, younger of Belladrum, has generously given to the poor of the parishes of Kiltarlity, Kirkhill and Kilmorack, oats to the value of 90l. Sterling, an example worthy of emulation by the benevolent and opulent.
Edward S Fraser to Lord Seaforth 18 Jun 1801
Chitchat –James Fraser is said to have made £40,000 by his last trip
Agreement between Lord Seaforth, Edward S Fraser, Anthony William Somersall, James Fraser and Archibald Alves to purchase lands on west sea coast and east sea cast Berbice
PF as Lord Seaforth’s attorney 31 July 1801
28 Nov 1801 Peter Fairbairn from Demerary
Arrived from Berbice, lodging with Capt Farquhar Macrae, whose brother is a respected merchant here. Travelled with the brother by horse and chaise to Berbice on Sunday last – reached lot adjacent to A&B, now property of James Fraser, his brother Simon residing there. He has become son in law to Governor van Battenburg, who he met the next day.
GD46/17/21 Memorandum Feb 1802
Hector Mackenzie to undertake impolders and manage land for a season
Seaforth and Reelig drew the easter 1/3 of A&B, adjacent to Paradise. James Fraser drew middle and proposed an exchange
GD23/6/391/1 Demerary 7th August 1802 Donald Mackay to James Grant, Inverness
‘I know none who has been so fortunate as Mr James Fraser of Belladrum [sold – not all – but ‘made handsomely from what he did realize]’
James Grant to Evan Bailie Esq MP for Bristol 1 Aug 1803
Young Belladrum Fraser passed about 10 days in the country but set out the week before to London from where I fancy he will have sailed for Demerary. I exceedingly regret the embarrassment he must be in at this time.
GD46/17/23 p202 Edward S Fraser to Lord Seaforth 25 Oct 1803
Hopes Lord Seaforth will have seen James Fraser, Belladrum, and Reelig’s son Edward who left Falmouth on 13 August. Lord Seaforth may be disposed to send Edward to Guiana. ‘I thing the boy will prove tractable and pleasant.’
Reelig archive 1st Nov 1803
Weldaad Estate, Berbice EF to his mother
Mr James Fraser was very kind to me while we were together.
Reelig archive 13th Nov 1803
Demerary EF to his mother
After some weeks Simon Fraser Belladrum may take me to Union with him. I wonder James Fraser does not send me there just now – don’t believe he feels any affection for his brothers, so sees no reason I should see mine more than once a year.
James [his brother] has gathered a great number of red beads you thought attractive and I will send them by James Fraser.
GD23/6/391/4 Demerary 14th November 1803 Donald Mackay to James Grant, Inverness
Mr James Fraser arrived four or five weeks hence & has sold Dochfour in this Country for £49,000. I am told he has laid out the immense sum of £20,000 in adorning his house of Belladrum
He is well as are Mr & Mrs Simon Fraser
18 Jan 1804 PF to Lord Seaforth
James Fraser remains willing to exchange between Kintail and ⅔ of 35&36 – but Kintail is so easily cultivated this should not be done. Could not undertake digging if our share of the canal – but James Fraser made his people dig it on very reasonable terms
26 Apr 1804 PF to Lord Seaforth
Dr Gordon, Geanies nephew, has given in his resignation to quit his practice on 1st May – had not any immediate prospect of making of it what James Fraser encouraged him to expect. I will have recourse to the man who formerly did the duty, who was discharged to make way for Gordon.
Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Thursday, September 18, 1806; Issue 13215. Steward at Northern Meeting 18 Oct 1806.
GD23/6/391/7 Demerary 30th October 1806 Donald Mackay to James Grant, Inverness
Must be very unpleasant for Mr James Fraser to come across the Atlantic so often particularly that he should be under the necessity of allowing Mrs Fraser to come out with him.
He has certainly speculated high & no doubt they have not answered his sanguine ideas.
GD23/6/391/8 Demerary 19th October 1807 Donald Mackay to James Grant, Inverness
Mr James Fraser has quite retired on one of his estates in Berbice with his Lady who I am happy to say is likely to increase the Clan very shortly – so that she need not regret changing climate. They both have had however considerable sickness some time back.
Reelig archive 29 Nov 1807
Starsbroek EF to his mother
Went to No 29 to see Mr and Mrs Fraser, but he was up coast with James and she was not well
Mrs Simon Fraser lives on Corantyn coast where Evan formerly lived
Mrs James Fraser lives here as well.
James Fraser well – but has been dangerously ill.
Simon Fraser well as are Mrs Fraser and children
Reelig archive 13th Dec 1807
No 28 West Coast EF to his mother
Mrs James Fraser detests the country – sees nobody but a parcel of the neighbouring gentlemen who are not all of the first water – and no ladies at all except old Mrs Burnet
Reelig archive 15th Jan 1808
No 28 EF to his mother
Christmas at No 29 with James Fraser and Mrs James Fraser. Not a very cheerful house. Dancing of negroes on Christmas day – very ludicrous
Reelig archive 14th Oct 1808
Belladrums are unwell. Mrs Fraser [not clear which Mrs Fraser]– has lent piano to her – plays Haydn symphonies. Does not play Scotch airs well. Looks better because she is fat.
15 Feb 1810 PF to Lord Seaforth
Dry season has increased facility of negroes running away – 10 from James Fraser’s estate left in the night some time ago– Quaco your lordship’s old cook went off with them from Kintail, carrying another negro of much greater value than himself.
100 runaways killed or taken – among those brought in are 20 belonging to Mr Fraser, including these 10 – Quaco and his companion also taken – likely that runaways will be shipped to islands – we shall get the value.
GD23/9/49 15 July 1812 Advertisement for the sale by private contract of the estate of Belladrum [Kiltarlity pa.] Inverness-shire
GD23/10/685 1 Sep 1812 Minutes of meeting of creditors of James Fraser of Belladrum regarding the sale of all his property in Scotland by his commissioners
Inverness Journal 10 August 1821
Return from West Indies: Belladrum Estate, Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire - Bonfires & celebrations on the return of the laird, Mr Fraser, from the West Indies
"Prize essay on the state of society and knowledge in the Highlands of Scotland, particularly in the northern counties, at the period of the rebellion in 1745, and of their progress up to the establishment of the Northern Institution for the promotion of science and literature, in 1825":
Donation to Northern Institution of Model of a West Indian Hut, with Furniture, &c. ; Ancient view of the town of Inverness by James Fraser of Belladrum Esq.
There was a further donation in 1831 by Mrs Fraser of 'Twenty varieties of birds from British Guaina, beautifully preserved'. Inverness Courier, 28 Dec 1831.
The Aberdeen Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), Wednesday, January 5, 1831; Issue 4330. 1830/31 Jury Trial Belladrum case: Mr Stewart claimed successfully that James Fraser has misrepresented the value of the estate when purchased for £80,000 in 1828.