Writers often mention how, once begun, a story takes over and goes off in its own direction. It exercises a power leading the writer in the way it wants to be told. This is so true in reference to the book Major Fraser’s. The spirit of those who lived at 201 Prince Street was emerging as if from the woodwork and overpowers my thoughts and my fingers as I type their histories. They stay with me throughout the day, becoming my constant companions even when I’m not at the computer. The bond between houses and people lay in the back of my mind and smolder there.
The writing of the story began when the present owner of the house, John, asked me if I would put his massive collection of information on the house in order. I misunderstood and thought he wanted me to research the house from its earliest inhabitants and put them in book form. I believe there are no accidents in life only events that happen for a reason.
When I completed the work and presented it to John, he was surprised. He had no idea that I was writing a book for him, yet was pleased with the end result. I was finished, or so I thought.
The story would not let go of me. It stayed with me, nagging at me. I dreamed of the inhabitants who lived at that address as if they are my ancestors waiting to be brought to the drawing room to be introduced to company. The Major’s wife and family came to me, waking me at 3 a.m. pleading with me to tell their story, too.
So I asked John if I may publish his story. As the frame of a house wants filling in, adding to it; so the histories of some people want to be brought forth. With his permission, my research expanded.
Facts kept falling into place like a child’s puzzle. Information that I couldn’t find before, popped up in front of me. Material that came to me from the Internet was searched and researched in print form for accuracy. Of course errors are made in print also, especially when transcribing forms from the 1600s and 1700s.
Alas, in this day of the Information Highway, new facts are always coming to the surface. I expended hour after hour to prove what I wrote was the truth…….at least as someone had seen it and I believed it.
The Farnsworth family first grabbed onto me. There were a few different lines of Farnsworths that came to the Colonies early. It was devilish trying to keep them separate.
A few stories were extended because they were just too good to let lay in a drawer somewhere. A chuckle told me that not all our ancestors were serious and respectable was definitely welcome after hours of dry, dusty words.
Another particular family story, that of the Fraser’s, held me tight. It was as if Major Fraser wanted his honor and respect for his military record to stand on its own merit. His wife, Mrs. Anne Loughton Smith Fraser came to me at night, (they were visits, not dreams) told me where to seek her background; the family she came from with their honorable saga of settling in the Charleston, South Carolina area. Every place she guided me to, had the information I needed. With her maiden name of Smith, the search could have been difficult, if not downright impossible, without going to Charleston. Wow, what a way to research!
Not to be put aside, the Fraser children tugged at my shirttails, letting me know that they, too, became a part of history in our still young country. It was a wonder that I got any sleep at all with all this company coming to me at night.
Their stories left Bordentown to extend outside the United States borders, but were too good not to include. Caroline Georgina attached hers, through the love of a prince, to France. Caroline Georgina’s twin, William eventually settled in Washington D.C. I think about his selling horses to the Union Army during the American War Between The States. He must have been torn by this war between the north and the south and the two homes he was raised in.
On a visit to the Wilson Library in Chapel Hill, North Carolina I held in my hands, Jane Winter Fraser’s hand-written books, written for her nieces and nephews, from her days in Bordentown. Rampant emotions ran through me as I struggled to decipher her hand writing. I heard her whispers in my ear. She was whispering in my ear while I was reading her book! I kept looking around to see if anyone was noticing. Becoming too unsettled, I finally copied page after page of her book to take home to decipher.
Her sister Maria Fraser blazed trails in the west. Because she was coming to me at night and woouldn’t let me go either, I continued to search and to record what I found.
The Major fought valiantly on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War. Bordentown was a majority of Patriots but forgiving after the War of some Loyalists, certainly where the Major and his family were concerned. By the time he came to Bordentown peace had returned to a nation still building itself.
After the War he settled into plantation life of South Carolina. In summer he brought his family north, first to Philadelphia then by invitation from his friend Dr. William Burns to Bordentown. He was leaving behind the fatal diseases of the heat that invaded their own southern home and often the city of Philadelphia.
Out of his eleven children several of them later made Bordentown their primary home, even buying property of their own after the Major died in 1820.
His daughter Caroline Georgina’s marrying Prince Lucien Murat, nephew of Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte, probably influenced folks to continue calling the house by a name given to it two hundred years ago. It is still referred to as “Major Fraser’s” house.
It is their visits to me in the middle of the night that encouraged me to continue writing their family stories and publishing them, so this part of history will not be left in some dusty storeroom and forgotten.
Frasers Visit Me at 3 a.m.
Filed under American History, books, Bordentown, living with ghosts
3 responses to “Frasers Visit Me at 3 a.m.”
This made the book come alive. Made me want to read it again.
Thank you Dawn. I sometimes forget how the ‘backstory’ makes such a difference in looking at a book read.
Hi Arlene, I have a specific question about something mentioned in your book about Bordentown. What’s the best way to reach you to explain my question? Thanks,