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Additional Information About Alexander Fraser, Friend of James Hamilton and Rachel Hamilton

© Posted on March 5, 2018, by Michael E. Newton.

A few weeks ago (see here and here), I wrote about the friendship between “James Hamilton and Rachel Hamilton his housewife” and “Alexander Fraser and Elizabeth Thornton his housewife” on St. Eustatius in 1758. I then shared information about Alexander Fraser’s background and family as found in the records of St. Croix.

Alexander Fraser in the Connecticut records

Doug Hamilton, the fifth great grandson of Alexander Hamilton, did some searching and found a webpage—the Fraser Annex—all about Alexander Fraser’s life before moving to the West Indies and the family he left behind in Connecticut. Sources are not provided for all the information, and it would require too much effort to verify everything on the webpage. However, the details provided on the page agree with what is found in the St. Croix records, so it appears to be reliable.

According to the Fraser Annex, Alexander Fraser was born in Scotland in 1702. He came to Connecticut before 1745 as a “political refugee,” and settled in Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut.[1] He was described as a shopkeeper, apothecary, and merchant. He imported spices and drugs from the West Indies and reportedly operated his own ships. Alexander Fraser owned more than 500,000 acres “eastward of Boston, in the county of York, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England, being a tract of land laying twenty-eight miles upon the sea and about thirty-two miles back.”[2]

Alexander Fraser married Damaris Boardman, daughter of Timothy Boardman, before 1745. Together they had five children:

  1. Alexander Fraser Jr., born October 1745, married Lucretia Wright in 1766.
  2. Charles E. Fraser, born January 1747.
  3. Mary Ann Fraser, born August 1748.
  4. William Fraser, born after 1749.
  5. Olive Fraser, born April 1753.

Alexander Fraser in the St. Croix records

The firstborn son Alexander Fraser Jr. is the same person as the “Andrew Alexander Fraser,” about whom I wrote previously, who had written in April 1767 from Wethersfield to his father Alexander Fraser on St. Croix. The copy of this letter in the probate record clearly has a signature of “And Alexander Frasser,” but the misspelling of the last name and addition of the “And[rew]” first name must have been transcription errors.

It is interesting that Alexander Fraser Sr. in his will bequeathed certain gifts to Mary Ann Fraser and left the remainder of his estate to the younger Alexander Fraser Jr., the son he had with Elizabeth Thornton in 1758 (not the above Alexander Fraser Jr. born in 1745). He left nothing for the other four children he had in Connecticut, all of whom were still alive when he died. However, in a 1753 deed of entailment, Alexander Fraser had given to the elder Alexander Fraser Jr.  his “lands eastward of Boston . . .  excepting twelve hundred acres which I now reserve to pay my debts and likewise one thousand acres which I reserve for the portions of my beloved son and daughter Charles Fraser and Mary Anne Fraser as per each of their respective deeds.” Nevertheless, he still chose to give additional gifts to Mary Ann Fraser, but not to the other Connecticut children. The letter from the elder Alexander Fraser Jr. regarding the apparent misunderstanding between father and son must explain why Alexander Fraser Sr. left these other children out of his will.

The Parallel Lives of Alexander Fraser and Rachel Faucett

According to the Fraser Annex webpage, Alexander and Damaris Fraser were divorced in 1759. This means that they were still married when “Alexander Fraser and Elizabeth Thornton his housewife” gave birth to a son in 1758 and had him baptized in October of that year.

Does this story sound familiar? A person separated from his spouse living far away meets someone else, falls in love, and has a child together. This unconventional relationship of Alexander Fraser and Elizabeth Thornton is exactly the same as that of James Hamilton and Rachel Faucett Lavien. (For those who don’t know, Rachel Faucett left her husband John Lavien without obtaining a divorce and subsequently established a relationship with James Hamilton, and they had two children together—Alexander Hamilton and James Hamilton Jr.)

Coincidentally, Damaris Boardman Fraser divorced her husband in 1759, the same year that John Lavien obtained a divorce from Rachel Faucett. John Lavien used Rachel’s departure, her “affair” with another man (James Hamilton), and their having children together as grounds for a divorce. Damaris Boardman Fraser probably heard that her husband Alexander Fraser had a child with another woman down in St. Eustatius and similarly used that as means for obtaining a divorce.

With their similar histories, it is easy to see why “James Hamilton and Rachel Hamilton his housewife” and “Alexander Fraser and Elizabeth Thornton his housewife” befriended each other on St. Eustatius in 1758. This information about the Frasers demonstrates yet again that unconventional marital arrangements were quite common in the West Indies. It also shows that churches baptized illegitimate children, a topic relevant to whether Alexander Hamilton would have been baptized as a child.[3]

James and Rachel Hamilton on St. Eustatius

All the evidence suggests that, at least on the island of St. Eustatius, James Hamilton and Rachel Faucett were treated like a normal married couple, even by the local Dutch church, that illegitimate children were not held responsible for the circumstances of their birth, and that the Hamilton family lived happily alongside friends.

© Please cite this blog post when writing about these new discoveries.

Endnotes

[1] The Fraser Annex says that Alexander Fraser “emigrated/fled (as a political refugee) from England to Connecticut about 1745,” but he married his wife in Connecticut and with her had a son in October 1745. In fact, the site later says that Damaris Boardman married “Alexander Fraser before 1745 at Wethersfield, Connecticut.”

[2] The Fraser Annex says that this tract of land was about 50,000 acres, but an area of 28 miles by 32 miles equals 573,440 acres, if it were a perfect rectangle.

[3] It has already been well established that churches in the West Indies baptized illegitimate children (Newton, Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years 42 and 521–522).

© Please cite this blog post when writing about these new discoveries.

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