Simon Fraser's grave in eastern Ontario falls into disrepair

July 07, 2005, vol. 33, no. 6
By Marianne Meadahl



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The cemetery that holds the body of SFU's namesake, explorer Simon Fraser, has fallen into disrepair, according to an historical group in St. Andrews West, Ontario, where the pioneer is buried.

While the grave itself is intact, resident Maureen McAlear says the stone fence erected in 1938 to protect the site has crumbled due to weather and road salt. She is spearheading a move to restore the the eastern Ontario cemetery and is raising funds for the project with the local Cornwall township historical society.

McAlear decided to contact SFU about the project because she thought the campus community might have some interest in the development, and could possibly provide some support. “I would think that Simon Fraser would be amazed that people separated by such great distance could be brought together just because of his name and his deeds,” she says. The details have been passed on to various campus groups, including the centre for Scottish studies.

Centre coordinator Harry McGrath points out that Simon Fraser actually shares a single grave at St. Andrew's West with his wife Catherine (MacDonell) Fraser. They were married for more than 42 years and she died the day after he did. “It's vital that the graveyard of the great Scottish explorer, after whom this university is named, be maintained and we wish this project every success,” says McGrath, adding that the centre will support the renovation in any way that it can.

McAlear reports that an appeal for funding is being drafted at the municipal level in St. Andrews West and, when complete, will be passed on to provincial government officials in Ontario. She's hopeful that restoration funds will be made available and says word of potential interest “from as far west as B.C. has lit a fire under the folks here.”

She adds, “It's a slow process, given that I began this project one year ago, but we're determined to see it through.”

Simon Fraser, who explored the Fraser River in 1808 while employed by the Northwest Company, a fur-trading outfit, was buried at the site in 1862.

It contains the graves of other such notable individuals as John Sandfield MacDonald, the first premier of Ontario.

Anyone interested in the project can contact McAlear at maureen.mcalear@sympatico.ca.

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