Historical Plaque Properties


William Fraser - Carpenter
290 Mornington Street
Stratford, ON

William Fraser was born in April 1821 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. He was one of eight children of James Fraser (!792-1869) and Ann Cumming (1793-1831). James and Ann were Scots from Kiltarlity, a parish west of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. They left Scotland in 1820, crossing the Atlantic to Nova Scotia on the sailing ship Diligence and settling in Pictou. A likely reason for their emigration is the Highland Clearances, the forced displacement of small-scale farmers from traditional land tenancies in the Highlands.


William was the first child born to the family in their new home in Nova Scotia. About 1830 the family moved west to what was then Upper Canada, settling in London Township north of London. At the age of 20 William married Mary Johnston there in 1844. Mary had been born in Scotland in September 1821, came to Canada in 1834 and was from Yarmouth Township, now part of Central Elgin.


By 1849, with their first two children, William and Mary are living in the Stratford area. Stratford had been established only 17 years before. The 1851 census shows them living in Downie Township and William’s occupation as farmer. Stratford was incorporated in 1854 and the 1861 census indicates that by then they are living in the village and William is working as a framer, a carpenter who assembles the major structural elements (walls, floors, roof) of a wood-framed building.


William and Mary have ten children in all and some of their sons follow in their father’s footsteps and become carpenters and masons. In 1881 it is likely that father and sons build the new house at 290 Mornington Street on what was then the northern edge of town. By 1891 William and Mary continue to live there with two of their unmarried sons and a woman named Ann McNeil (who may be a housekeeper).


Sometime later in the 1890s many members of the Fraser family make another big move — they leave Stratford for western Canada. By 1901 William and Mary, aged 80, are living with their son William Benjamin, whose occupation is shown as framer, in the small settlement of Wolseley east of Regina in what was then the Northwest Territories (Saskatchewan became a province in 1905).


Mary dies at Indian Head, Saskatchewan, sometime before the next census in 1911. By that time William, at 90 years old, is living in Regina with his son Alexander Malcolm. Alexander Malcolm Fraser, born in Stratford in 1858, was one of the first architects to practise in Saskatchewan and undoubtedly trained under his father.

William dies before 1921. It is not known where he and Mary are buried.


A framer is someone who frames (shapes or gives shape to, particularly in this case someone who constructs).[1] In building construction a framer is a carpenter called the framing. Framers build walls out of studs, sills, and headers; build floors from joists and beams; and frame roofs using ridge poles and rafters. Timber framers are framers who work in the traditional style of timber framing with wooden joinery.