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Simon Fraser was born on May 20, 1776 at Mapletown near Bennington, Vermont. He was the eighth and youngest child of Simon Fraser of Culbokie and Isabel Grant of Duldreggan who immigrated to America in 1773. The Fraser family settled near present-day Cadillac, Quebec in 1784 after his father was killed in the American Revolutionary War. Fraser worked for the North West Company from 1792 to 1818 and was made a full partner of the company in 1801. In 1805 he began exploring the country west of the Rockies, establishing trading posts and trade routes. In 1808 he travelled down the river that now bears his name. After retirement from the fur trade he settled on family land near present-day Cornwall, Ontario where he farmed and operated mills. On June 7, 1820, he married Catherine MacDonnell and they raised five sons and three daughters. Fraser was one of the last surviving partners of the North West Company when he died on August 18, 1862. His wife died the next day, and they were buried in a single grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery at St. Andrew's.
Communities in British Columbia founded by Simon Fraser include Hudson's Hope (1805); McLeod Lake (1805); Fort St. James (1806); Fort Fraser (1806) and Fort George (Prince George) (1807). Place names and institutions named for Simon Fraser include: the Fraser River (named for him by the explorer David Thompson); Fraser Lake (a lake in north-central British Columbia and a community on the lake's western shore); Fort Fraser (east of Fraser Lake); Simon Fraser University (located in Burnaby, BC, opening ceremonies on September 9, 1965 attended by Simon Fraser's kinsman, Lord Lovat, and his second great-grandson, Donald Fraser of Fargo, North Dakota); the Simon Fraser Bridge in Prince George over the Fraser River along British Columbia provincial highway 97; and numerous neighbourhoods and roads, most notably the Fraser Highway.