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William Frazier (1851 - 1913)

"He was an honest horsetrader." — the Rev. Henry Marcotte

Census - March 30th, 1851
Shieldaig, Applecross Parish, Ross and Comarty, Scotland
Ages: George, 37 (boat carpenter); Janet, 25; Hector, 3; William, 1 month.

The death of his parents when he was a mere child forced William Frazier to undertake the problem of self-support at a very early age, but the self-reliance thereby developed proved of incalculable benefit to him. Though his youth was less free from care than those of most boys, the activities of his manhood doubtless have been more successful by reason of these very deprivations and hardships. He was born in Shieldaig, Ross Shire, Scotland, February 18, 1851, and was the second of three sons. His father, George Fraser, a ship carpenter by trade, was lost in a shipwreck off the coast of England. On May 26, 1857, the widowed mother, Janet nee McDonald, joined her brothers and left Shieldaig for Liverpool. On June 5, they sailed from there on the Pomona and arrived in New York on July 8, 1857. Janet, her three sons, and the McDonald families settled near Kewanee, Henry Co., Illinois. Two months later, on September 17, she married Farquhar Bain. Within a year she had another son, Ronald, and she died August 17, 1858, possibly from complications of childbirth.

Elmira Twp, Stark Co., IL
July 5th, 1860 Federal Census
Series: M653 Roll: 229 Page: 904
Years later, William would write: That summer crossing the plains, to me, a fourteen year old boy, was just one long picnic, and was one of the happiest times of my life.

When the family crossed the ocean, William Frazier was only six years old. For a time after their arrival in Illinois all went well, and he had the privilege of attending the country schools of Henry county for three winter terms. After his mother died, the boys were taken care of by their uncle Donald McDonald who had a farm in Elmira Township in nearby Stark County. In the spring of 1863, under the escort of another uncle, John McDonald, the boys crossed the plains to Oregon along with a train of one hundred wagons. At that time the Indians were particularly troublesome, and his party never would have reached the coast had it not been for a government escort of thirty-six mule teams and one hundred and fifty men under the command of Captain Crawford. The great cavalcade of emigrants and soldiers proved too formidable for the wandering bands of Indians to attack, and they were permitted to pursue their course unmolested. One of the wagon teams was driven by the twelve-year-old boy, William Frazier, who in many ways proved himself a useful companion for the older men. On October 5th the company entered the Grande Ronde Valley, and so charmed were they with its beauty and possibilities that some of the company decided to call it home. These were the Shaws, the Murchisons, McKenzies, and the McDonalds. The McCraes, Camersons, and Dewers continued on to Walla Walla. Instead of homesteading, John McDonald bought a farm of 320 acres with a house or a cabin. This place, situated at the foot of the Indian Trail near Mt. Emily, with wooded back ground, a beautiful stretch of meadow as the foreground, and babbling streams running through it, was home for the McDonald family for many years. William's younger brother, Collin, grew up and farmed in the same area. The older brother, Hector, eventually made his way to the Seattle area where he was murdered over a card game.

March 25, 1958.

I, Mrs. Charles R. Frazier, am writing from memory some of the life events of Mrs. William Frazier, née Margaret Ellen Long whose son was my deeply cherished husband. When I was eleven months old in 1878, our family, the Peter Mathiots, moved from Woodburn where I was born, to Portland. We rented a house which was on the same block as the Frazier's. Our family and theirs were very close friends all the rest of our lives.

Mrs. Frazier was a real artist. Our daughter, Mrs. Thomas Jones, has a beautiful collection of a good many of her pictures. She also did a hand decorated complete set of Haviland.

William Frazier was one of the early Livery Stable owners. Mrs. Frazier was a very fine driver of horses and a good rider. She used to ride from their home on horseback with her young son, Charles, riding with her at times. They had a near accident once when the horse stumbled, but all escaped injury.

When she was married, she lived in a home on the Long Donation Land Claim near Johnson Creek. She used the water from a spring that flowed into this creek which was below it. She had to carry all water uphill to her house.

Mrs. Frazier was a regular member of the Baptist Church and assisted in many ways. She was a great lover of flowers and trees. She was a very generous woman and for her many nice qualities had many friends.

They had one of the first summer homes at Long Beach, Washington, where they entertained many friends each summer. Since Mrs. Frazier was so capable at handling horses, she would take a horse and buggy to the beach and could drive all along the peninsula. The boats from Portland would take the horse and buggy for her. The roads at that time were not available from Portland. The boat would land at Ilwaco.

After three months with his uncle, Mr. Frazier went to Umatilla Landing, where he worked in a dry goods store for Mr. Case during the winter. In the spring he secured employment on a pack train from Umatilla to Boise City, Bannock, Albany and Placerville, Idaho, which occupation he followed for two years, riding the bell horse and acting as cook for the train. During the fall of 1865 he arrived in Portland, where he lived for the rest of his life. At first he followed any occupation that presented itself, including working as a logger and a farm hand. He strove to attend to his neglected schooling and for one winter attended Portland Academy. In the spring of 1869 he bought an interest in a butcher shop in Portland, but after a year or more began to take contracts for the piles on the lower docks of the Willamette. This work consumed two years, during which time he cleared the neat sum of $10,000.

In 1871, Mr. Frazier married Margaret E. Long, who was born near Portland, her father Edward Long having come from Ohio in 1847 and settled two miles from the city of Portland. The only child of Mr. and Mrs. Frazier was Charles R. Frazier, who graduated from a business college and attended Leland Stanford University for two years, afterward acting as deputy county sheriff under his father.

In 1875 he formed a partnership with James Powell and with a portion of his earnings from the docks, he invested in a livery stable which he conducted for three years and then sold. His next enterprise was with Lewis A. Goddard, under the firm name of Goddard & Frazier, the two conducting a large stable on Morrison and Second streets. In 1883 a three-story barn was built, 100x100, on Fifth and Taylor streets, there they conducted business until Mr. Goddard retired in 1897. He then found a new partner in Ellis McClean. In addition to the renting of horses and vehicles, he did a large business in buying and selling stock.

It was estimated that "Bill" Frazier bought more than 200,000 horses. At one time Frazier examined his records and found that he had bought enough horses to form a line of two-horse teams reaching from Portland to Seattle, a distance of 183 miles. During the Spanish-American War, Frazier was commissioned by the U.S. government as horse buyer, and he bought all the horses that were shipped for service in the Philippines, and many of those used in the Cuban campaign. Besides those, Frazier bought mules by the ship-load for the batteries. Most of the horses which Frazier selected were conveyed on transports to the Philippines under charge of Captain Archibald Butt, later military aide for presidents Roosevelt and Taft, and one of the heroes of the Titanic tragedy in 1912. When the United States government wanted horses, it cast about for a responsible man to act as agent, and Frazier was selected, for his reputation as an honest horse dealer was well established.

During the Boer War (1899-1902), Frazier was commissioned by the British government to buy and select horseflesh. In supplying animals for the two wars, Frazier made a large amount of money.

So widely recognized was his honesty in horse dealing that for years he bought the horses for the Portland Fire Department, and the horses used there were considered the best in the country. Wealthy people of Portland never thought of buying a piece of horseflesh without the assistance of Frazier, for his judgment was known as absolutely sound, and if an animal possessed the slightest defect it was impossible to conceal it from Frazier.

East Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon
June 2nd, 1880 Federal Census, Series: T9 Roll: 1083 Page: 370

All that was necessary to secure a good horse from Frazier was to say, "Bill, I want you to get me a good horse. I know nothing about them myself and it is up to you." Put in this manner Frazier would never attempt to take advantage of his customer. It was said that Frazier was the only man in the country whose word could be taken on a horse trade.

Peace at the Polls
1898 Election
By an irony of fate there was but one horse vehicle at the funeral – that in which Joseph Buchtel, the blind ex-Sheriff, was conveyed to and from the cathedral.

During 1896, Frazier was nominated on the Republican ticket for Sheriff of Multnomah County. His nomination was popular with the farmers of the county, for Frazier always bought the best quality of feed for his horses and paid the farmers the top market price in spot cash, and cash in 1896 was scarce. This business system cemented the country vote and elected Frazier, who served three terms from July 1896 to July 1902. With a robust mental and physical sturdiness, he was a terror to evil doers and law-breakers, and his administrations won the commendation of the law-abiding element of the county.

At 5:30 Tuesday evening, January 14th, 1913, his son Charles honked his auto horn in front of the stable at 5th and Taylor streets. Frazier entered the car and was driven home. Later at 8:00, he was standing in front of his house, talking to the driver of an auto delivery wagon whose machine had broken down, when he saw the street car coming toward town. He ran to catch it and slipped on the wet pavement, half falling against the side of the car. Frazier was hurled to the sidewalk curb fourteen feet away, fracturing his skull. He died before his ambulance reached the hospital. E. F. Lind was the motorman and F. A. Dagon was conductor of the streetcar.

While he not identify himself with any denomination, he contributed to the Baptist Church, to which his wife belonged.

He was survived by his wife Margaret (1852-1935) and son Charles Frazier (1872-1953). He was a Shriner, member of Al Kader Temple; a Scottish Rite Mason, member of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Woodmen of the World, Portland Driving Club, and Commercial Club.

The funeral was held Saturday, January 18th, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. So crowded was the cathedral that standing room was a premium. Among the attendees were eight former sheriffs: J. M. Caywood, E. J. Jeffery, Joseph Buchtel, Thomas A. Jordan, Penumbra Kelly, William A. Storey, Tom Word, and Robert L. Stevens. The services opened with a hymn, followed by a reading of the scriptures, and then came the favorite hymn of the deceased—"Lead, Kindly Light." At its conclusion, the Rev. Henry Marcotte spoke:

He was an honest horsetrader. Acquit me of the slightest suggestion of humor when I say this, for to my mind it is one of the greatest tributes that could be paid him. In a trade where the ideals of honesty are generally considered less high than in other professions, he stood out for honesty inflexible, and his word was his bond.

His every record points him out a man. Forced, at the age of 15, to make his own way in the world without the guidance of a father and among rough men and rough work, with hardly any education, he fought his way through, at a time when things were harder than they are now, until he had made for himself a competence. But he did more than that. He made for himself a name for sterling fearlessness, for sure but kind-hearted judgment and for honesty—a grand heirloom for his son.

He gave an opinion only after much thought, and in his judgment of men, if he erred at all, it was on the side of kindness. That is why you loved him, and the greatest test of all is that a man be well loved by his fellow men. That is why you are here in such large numbers today, to show that you were glad to be known as a friend of his, and glad that he was a friend of yours.

The Oregonian, 24 Jan 1913, page 11

William Frazier, ex-sheriff, who was killed by collision with an Irvington streetcar which he was running to board on the night of January 15 [sic], died intestate leaving an estate estimated to be of the value of $182,000. Of this, all but $75,000, which is personal property, is real estate with a monthly rental value of $690. The heirs are: Margaret E. Frazier, the widow, 62 years of age, and Charles R. Frazier, a son. Mrs. Frazier was appointed administratrix by Probate Judge Cleeton.

Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Mausoleum, Level 4

The urn to the left of William's picture is for son Charles; to the right is for Charles' wife Camille Mathiot.

The only child of William E. Frazier and Margaret Ellen Long was:   Charles Ronald Frazier, born 13 Aug 1872 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, and died 19 Oct 1953 in Long Beach, Pacific Co., Washington. He married Camille Mercedes Mathiot, 26 Feb 1903 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. She was born 26 Dec 1878 in Woodburn, Marion Co., Oregon, the daughter of Pierre Emile Mathiot and Cecile Marianne Mathiot, and died 4 Sep 1964 in Vancouver, Clark Co., Washington.


  • Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon, Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1904; pages 163-164.
  • The Oregonian,16 Jan 1913, page 10, column 1 (Obituary)
  • The Oregonian,19 Jan 1913, page 11, column 5 (Memorial service)
  • López, Ellen and Mildred Nystrom, The McDonalds from Shieldaig, Scotland, Carmichael, California: McDonald & Hezlep, 1995