This was the official government photograph of the Hon. C.F. Fraser, taken in 1873. He was the Commissioner of Public Works for Ontario from 1874-1894.
Sources: This portrait of C.F. Fraser is in the photographic collection of the Library Archives Canada, #PA 28663
The Story of His Life and Career in Politics
Christopher Finlay Fraser was a young Brockville lawyer who rose to the post of Commissioner of Public Works in the Ontario government.
He was born on October 24, 1839 at Brockville to John S. Fraser, a shoemaker, and his wife, Sarah Burke. He was born and raised a Roman Catholic, and promoted the interests of his religion all his life.
Because his parents did not have enough money to send him to school, young Christopher made up his mind to work his way, making whatever money was needed to provide his own schooling. One of his jobs as a youth was as a “printer’s devil” at the Brockville Recorder. He could work at a variety of jobs and go to school between stints of work.
He was apparently quite bright, and was able to express himself with brilliance, force and wit when a mere boy. He finished his high school education at the Seminaire de Quebec about the year 1859, and became a student-at-law in the office of Albert N. Richards, a Brockville lawyer who later became Lt.-Gov. of British Columbia.
In 1864 Fraser passed his legal examinations, and went to work with Alonzo Lafayette, a young lawyer in Brockville. In this office he began to handle cases on his own, having been admitted as an attorney in Easter Term, 1864. He was called to the bar early in 1865, and became a partner with Alonzo Lafayette in April 1865.
On January 10th, 1866, he married his partner’s sister, Mary Ann Lafayette, the daughter of John Lafayette. He also turned his attention to politics as a young lawyer, supporting the Liberal side. At the first Dominion Election in 1867, he offered himself as a candidate but was narrowly defeated. Four years latter he tried again in South Grenville for the Provincial seat, and was similarly defeated this time by McNeil Clark.
He was also during this time strongly working for Catholic rights, helping to form the Ontario Roman Catholic League about 1869. When Mr. Clark died in 1871, his South Grenville seat became vacant. Fraser received the nomination of his party, and was elected in March of 1872 to the Ontario Parliament.
A year later, his abilities being recognized, C.F. Fraser was appointed Provincial Secretary and Registrar in the Mowat administration. He held this post until April 4, 1874, when he became Commissioner of Public Works. He was re-elected again for South Grenville in 1875, and carried on in his cabinet position. He was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1876.
In 1879 he was defeated by F.J. French of Prescott by 137 votes. Soon after, in the riding of Brockville, he was successful by defeating David Mansell, the Conservative candidate. Mr. Fraser was successfully elected as the MPP for Brockville in 1879, 1883, 1886, and 1890. He remained as Minister in charge of the Department of Public Works until 1894. He succeeded in having the Brockville Asylum for the Insane built just east of Brockville in his last term.
In 1868 he and his wife had purchased the stylish brick home in the centre of town at 8 James St. W. (still standing). This house remained in family hands until 1963. Christopher and Mary Ann Fraser had a daughter, Hattie born in 1868. She resided there with her mother, who died in 1929, and then until her own death in 1955.
Fraser was a lifelong member of St. Francis Xavier Church, a founder of the Roman Catholic League of Ontario, and president of the Roman Catholic Literary Association of Brockville.
He maintained a law office in Brockville in partnership with A.E. Richards for a while, and later with Edmund J. Reynolds in the Comstock Block.
In 1894, the Hon. C.F. Fraser resigned from the Government and was appointed Inspector of Registry Offices. Shortly afterwards he died at Toronto on August 24, 1894.