George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Arthur St. Clair, 5 May 1774

From Arthur St. Clair

Ligonier [Pa.] May 5th 1774


Tho. I am an utter Stranger I have taken the Liberty to write to you and request your Advice and Assistance for the Bearer Mrs Fraser the Widow of Mr John Fraser late of Bedford in this Province.

Mr Fraser has in his life time often mentioned to me a great loss he met with at the Battle of the Meadows, and amongst his Papers, after his Death, an Account of it was found—The Colony of Virginia have always been so Generous to People who suffered in the War that she is encouraged to apply to it for some Satisfaction, and if it be as Mr Fraser told me, she has a right to expect it, the Goods having been lost in consequence of his Horses being impressed for some Service to the Colony.

Mr Fraser has left a Widow and seven Children very slenderly provided for, which to a Gentleman of your Humanity would recommend them to your Assistance, and if the Claim be a reasonable One will also engage you to direct her to the proper Mode of Application.1

I should have done myself the Honour to wait on you on purpose, as it was Mr Frasers dying request, that I would endeavour to recover this Claim for his Children, and I had procured introductory Letters from Mr Allen & Doctor Smith,2 but some Affairs that have lately happened in this Country, render it improper for me to Go to Virginia at present—the Storm will flow over by & by when I shall have an Oppurtunity to deliver them. I Am Sir Your very Humble and most Obedient Servant

Ar. St Clair

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter is sent “by Mrs Fraser.”

Arthur St. Clair (1737–1818) was born and educated in Scotland and came to America as a subaltern in the Royal American Regiment during the French and Indian War. He settled at Fort Ligonier, about forty-five miles east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

1Jane (Jenny) McLane Fraser, the “wife or mistress” of blacksmith and trader John Fraser of Pennsylvania (see Adam Stephen to GW, 4 Oct. 1755, n.2), must have arrived at Mount Vernon after GW left for Williamsburg on 12 May. She undoubtedly took the letter on to him there. Her petition was presented in the House of Burgesses on 25 May, probably by GW: “The Petition of Jane Fraser widow & Administratrix of John Fraser Formerly of the Province of Pensylvania, humbly sheweth, That your Petr’s said husband had been concerned For many years in a trade with the Indians on the River Ohio, where he was in the Month of June 1754, when he received Intelligence that hostilities were Commenced, or likely to take place, between this Colony & the said Indians, and thought it prudent to retire from that Countrey with his effects; He accordingly set off with his goods carrd by Sevl Horses to Return to Pensylvania, & on his way, met with this Colony Troops under the Command of George ⟨mutilated⟩ Great Meadows⟨;⟩ where ⟨Colo.⟩ Washington, expecting an Attack from the Enemy, pressed the sd John Fraser’s horses to be emploied in bringing some stores and a partie of men from Mr Christopher Gists, & also in bringing amunition & Provisions from Colo. Cresups to the sd Meadows for Protection of the Forces; in consequence of which the sd John Fraser was detained ⟨At the⟩ Meadows, until the Battle happened at that place & the Virga Troops Capitulated, when all the sd John Frasers goods were taken & Plundered by the Enemy, (A particular account of which, taken the day before the sd Engagemt amounting to £2252.4 is hereto annexed) and were totally lost to him.

“That the sd John Fraser soon after Came to the City of Wmsburg to Petition for a Recompence For his said losses, the event of which, yr Petr is wholly unacquainted with ⟨mutilated⟩ that he declared on his return that he was offered a moietie of his loss, ⟨mutilated nothing⟩ was done.

“That the said John Fraser being of a dilatory disposition, never concerned himself Further in the sd Claim during his life; Nor should yr petr have undertaken this long and fatiguing Journey, or troubled this Honorable House on the Subject, but that she hath been lately called on by two Merchts in Philadelphia For about seven hundred & fifty pounds, now due for the Purchase of part of the sd goods, wch she cannot discharge, without the total ruin of her self & seven young children.

“Yr Petr, impelled by this Necessity, humbly submits the Claim aforesd to the Consideration of the House, and prays such recompence for the loss sustained by the sd John Fraser, in the Public service, as their Justice shall Suggest” (Vi: Colonial Papers). The petition was sent to committee, but Governor Dunmore dissolved the House of Burgesses the next day, and nothing further was done at this time. A condensed version of the petition is in JHB, 1773–76 description begins H. R. McIlwaine and John Pendleton Kennedy, eds. Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia. 13 vols. Richmond, 1905–15. description ends , 129, but no earlier petition by John Fraser has been found. For more on John Fraser and his wife, see Robert Dinwiddie to GW, 4 May 1754, n.4.

2Dr. Smith was probably William Smith of Philadelphia. See Cash Accounts, June 1775, n.7. Mr. Allen is probably Pennsylvania Chief Justice William Allen, or one of his sons, James or Andrew, all prominent Philadelphians.

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