Remembrance Day: A Lifetime of Dedicated Service – James Eadie Fraser M.D.

I was going through some old local history “stuff” and found the following story about Dr. James Eadie Fraser M. D. It was in a 1974 publication distributed by the Rotary Club of Port Elgin …
G. William Streeter

“JAMES EADIE FRASER M. D. 1891 – 1973”

On June 8, 1972, the community was saddened by the passing of Dr. J. E. Fraser. Born in Breadelbane, Ontario in 1891. He graduated from Queen’s University School of Medicine in 1916 and served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in the Great War. On his return from overseas, he established a General Practice in Port Elgin and for more than 50 years gave selflessly of his time and talents in caring for the sick.

During his lifetime, he left an indelible mark on the community. No call ever went unanswered. Whatever the time or the weather, one could take reassurance in the fact that no obstacle was to great to prevent him reaching the bedsides of his patients. His ingenuity in devising modes of transportation to get him there were well-known. He was credited with developing one of the first snowmobiles in the area by attaching tracks to the wheels of an old car. He found time too, out of his busy schedule, to involve himself in a host of community activities. He was active in Rotary, Masonic and Oddfellows Lodges. He even operated, in his early years, a drug store in connection with his practice. In 1967, he was singularly honoured by being awarded The Centennial Medal of Canada for service to his country and its people.

He is gone now, but his zest for living, his friendly manner, his devotion to duty and his compassionate concern for the well-being of those in his care endeared him to all, and he will live on in the memory of the town’s people.”

                              For larger view, Click on Image

My mind immediately raced back to my only direct involvement with Doctor Fraser. It happened on a Sunday in late spring or early summer of, I believe 1954 or 1955, when he was the weekend “on call” doctor at the Saugeen Memorial Hospital. The hospital had opened in 1947.

As best as I can recall, the emergency system worked this way, from being raised in a family of six with somewhat frequent mishaps.

There was a total of four, five or six doctors in total in Port Elgin and Southampton during that time. At night and on weekends, emergencies were covered by them on a rotating basis. They would either drive to the hospital when an emergency patient arrived, or the patient would be sent to their office. In the emergency situation that I had to see Dr. Fraser, it was on a Sunday, and we were told to drive to his office in Port Elgin.

There was a short period of time during the spring/summer season back then, that Silver Bass were plentiful off the end of the short dock in front of Chantry Island. My dad and I went fishing there after church. During the excitement of removing the hook from a fish, I succeeded in embedding a fishhook deep into my hand well past the barb. So, it was off to the hospital and then off to Port Elgin when the nurse called Dr. Fraser that we would be coming down to get the fishhook removed. By then the good doctor would have been in his mid 60’s.

I remember wondering how he would get it out. Would he cut it out or would he pull it out? Well no. He pushed it out so the barb would not get caught. How much it hurt I cannot remember but he did put antiseptic of some sort on it and a bandage. The two holes were small, and no stitches were required,

So it was off to being a kid again and doing the things that young teenagers did.

After reading the Rotary tribute this week, I decided to have a look and find out what I could about Dr. Fraser’s time in the Canadian Army. There is always something new to learn when you do this, and such was the case when I looked at his career and his service in the army.

He completed his enlistment documentation in December of 1916 while doing postgraduate work at Queens in the Medical lab. He reported for full-time active service on March 26, 1917 and by that April 4th he had arrived in Liverpool, England. From his laboratory work at Queens, he was immediately attached to a mobile laboratory group serving Canadian training camps throughout England.

On October 22, 1917, he was assigned to the 13th Canadian General Hospital in Hastings in Sussex. That November, he was promoted from his original rank of Lieutenant to Captain. On July 18, 1918, his life went through a major change when he arrived in France to serve as a Medical Doctor in a unique Army Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Canadian General Hospital Hastings


The story of the Railway Corps is one of the romances of the war recording how one Battalion of Canadian Railway men grew into a Corps of nearly 16,000 strong. They played a major part in the construction of railways of all gauges to within easy range of the front lines. Originally, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was requested to form a company and create a corps to come to France to build railways to be used by the Allies. Initially, it consisted of 500 men picked from CPR’s construction workers in Canada. Very shortly, another 1,000 men were required. The Canadian Railway Corps was then created and was a major part of the eventual success in defeating the German Army.

By August of 1918, the railway infrastructure was in place for the beginning of the 100 Days Offensive that brought about the end of the Great War on November 11th … with thanks to the Canadian Military Engineers Association.

Doctor Fraser left France on January 30, 1919. He then served in a Canadian Casualty Hospital in London England until boarding the R.M.S. Adriatic on May 31st and arriving in Halifax on June 7th.

Shortly after that, he arrived in Port Elgin for a long and distinguished career serving our community for a “Lifetime of Dedication”.



Researched and written by G. William Streeter October, 2023
With Thanks to the Rotary Club of Port Elgin and the Canadian Association of Military Engineers