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James Fraser of Pitcalzean

James Fraser of Pitcalzean (parish of Nigg, Ross & Cromarty) was active in Berbice in the 1790s, as a partner of John Ross (of Nigg) and John Sinclair (from Halkirk, Caithness). They owned plantation Nigg on the east sea coast and were also merchants in the only town in the colony, New Amsterdam. James Fraser's father (first name unknown) was also in Guyana, returning from there in April 1803 [920 PAR/II/7/1 9 June 1803 Eliza Sandbach (Liverpool) to Charles S Parker (Cheltenham)].

Fraser was the grandson of the Rev James Fraser (1695-1769), minister of Alness (Ross & Cromarty), who was a notable evangelical preacher and author of 'A Treatise on Sanctification'. His grandmother was Jean Macleod of Geanies, a family also active in Berbice. She was described as ‘a cold, unfeeling, bold, unheeding worldly woman’ who all but starved him, leaving Fraser to pick up food that a friend would leave for him at a secret place on one of his walks [J. Kennedy, The days of the fathers in Ross-shire, 2nd edn (1861), 37]

In 1799 James Fraser received a consignment of slaves from John and Alexander Anderson, merchants of London, who owned the major slave-trading station on Bance Island, in Sierra Leone. At this time Fraser was in partnership with John Hubbard, of Boston, who owned plantaton Mainstay in Demerara.

In late 1800 Fraser sailed for Liverpool on the ship Dictator, and drowned when it was wrecked off the Irish coast in early January 1801. [See below - his father (see above) may have gone to Guyana to deal with his sons affairs].

His son, James Fraser jnr, later went out to the West Indies - probably to Berbice - but contracted fever which was said to have reduced him to ‘a state of mental imbecility’. The outstanding debt on the cargo of slaves, and subsequent financial transactions, led to the sale of Pitcalzean. [Cases decided in the House of Lords, on appeal from the courts in Scotland]

Fraser's widow, Sarah, remarried to an Archibald Stewart, with whom she returned to Berbice c1805. [Cases before the Privy Council, 1831]

James Fraser's will [Prob 11/1361], made in Berbice in November 1799, names a number of his relations and business associates. Among his executors was the banker, merchant and slave-trader John Anderson.

The wreck of the Dictator

The Dictator of Liverpool a fine new West Indiaman mounting 24 brass guns in returning from her first voyage to Demerara was unfortunately wrecked at Rosebegh in the bay of Castlemain in the county of Kerry the 5th inst, and out of 60 sailors who happened to be on board only three persons were saved.

The shores of that wild region being covered with bales of cotton and puncheons of rum and all the other precious contents of a very rich cargo were for three days exposed to the pillage of the natives as no magistrate resides in that neighbourhood.

On the 4th day however Mr Marshall late High Sheriff of the county who lives at 40 miles distance arrived still in time by means of great exertions to save part of the cargo for the owners, bills and Bank of England notes to the amount of 20,000L. were rescued from destruction and 12000L worth of property was discovered to belong to the heirs of a gentleman passenger from Berbice, who had perished with the crew and whose body being found and identified by three surviving sailors was interred with all due decency at Inch.

The Aberdeen Journal, Monday, February 16, 1801

1801 -Jan. 4. James Fraser, Esq of Pitcalzean passenger on board the Dictator, Lovelace from Berbice to Liverpool, which was wrecked on the Irish coast when he and all on board with the exception of three of the marines unfortunately perished.

Edinburgh Magazine or Literary Miscellary 1801