The epitaph on John Alexander Fraser's tombstone is simple and brief... belying the tragic story of a young man's life and death.
Sacred to the memory of J. A. Fraser.
Late of St. Andrew's C. W.
Died 20 May, 1865. Aged 32 years.
May his soul rest in peace
John Alexander Fraser was the fourth son of Simon Fraser, the North West Company explorer who in 1808 first made his way down the river that now bears his name. Simon Fraser died in 1862. Two years later John came to Cariboo and began business as an engineer in Cameronton. To finance his move, Fraser mortgaged the family farm left to him by his father. Though his investments in several claims did reasonably well, he could not support himself and keep up mortgage payments. Fraser was a morose, poetic young man, also described as "upright and generous." Troubles haunted his life, and were reflected in his poetry. In the chorus of a song called "The Broken Miner" we hear his growing dismay.
Then let our chorus loudly ring,
The Broken Miner's lot I sing,
Most bitter is the lot indeed
Of him who cannot find the "lead"
Fraser could not find the lead. The farm mortgage was foreclosed, a love affair fell apart, and on a spring day in 1865, he slashed his wrists and jugular. Friends found him and tried to save his life, but it was too late. The following day one of the claims he had heavily invested in struck a rich lead and brought good returns to investors, but John Fraser's Mason brethren and the "largest concourse of friends ever before assembled in Cariboo for such a purpose" were laying him to rest.