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Capon’s final book documents remarkable life of Senator Fraser

Senator-Billy-Fraser-book-by-Capon-600Senator William Fraser had a lifetime of accomplishments and though his achievements were considerable and remarkable, very little was documented of his life – until now.

Alan R. Capon’s final book will be released by his family on Canada Day. The Prince Edward County journalist and historian is author of about 25 titles. He died late last fall, before his final book rolled off the presses.

On Wednesday, July 1 the book launch of ‘Senator Billy Fraser, His Life and Times’ will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at County Traders, 39 Stanley St., in Bloomfield.

Alan R Capon

Alan R Capon

In the foreword to the Senator’s biography, which was commissioned by his nephew Eben James ll, Capon wrote: “Throughout his life, Billy Fraser devoted himself to building up his hometown of Trenton. He not only wanted to see the town grow and prosper, he was determined through his own efforts, to see that it did.

“Throughout his life, Fraser was always concerned for his fellow man, particularly for those that had fallen on hard times. He could, however, be an implacable enemy to those he felt had wronged him, his family, or his friends. He always settled scores, particularly those of a political nature.”

It was through Fraser’s influence that the government was persuaded to choose the Trenton area for construction of the Royal Canadian Air Force base, during the Depression years. It was his greatest legacy, for today the Canadian Forces Base Trenton is one of the most important military facilities in Canada.

The Senator also played a key role in bringing industry to Prince Edward County. In July 1956, a special ceremony attended by a distinguished audience of financial and political leaders launched the Lake Ontario Cement Company near Picton. A controlled explosion, rather than a cornerstone, marked the official opening of the joint U.S.-Canada venture that had been envisioned by Picton Mayor Harvey McFarland, with the active support of Senator Fraser, who had arranged much of the company financing.
Fraser, who was the president of the new company, declared the project one of the most important ever established in Prince Edward County.

Senator Billy Fraser – His Life and Times includes a 58-page epilogue written by Eben James ll who shared a long working relationship with his uncle. James recalls Fraser’s final challenge, establishment of the Trentonian newspaper and tells of his involvement in the project.

“The last industry Fraser brought to Trenton was the Trentonian and he had the satisfaction of seeing it a complete success before he passed on. In the end, he had accomplished what he set out to do – to give the town a first-class newspaper.
It was his final challenge,” James wrote.

Fraser established the newspaper because he believed the Trenton Courier-Advocate had treated him unfairly during his lengthy political career and that the editor’s attacks on him had become personal. The Senator had made several unsuccessful attempts to buy the Courier-Advocate before deciding to establish his own newspaper.

The first two-section 12-page issue of The Trentonian was published on Dec. 20, 1956. Neither Fraser’s nor James’ name appeared on the masthead, the publisher being listed as Tri-County Publications Ltd. Burton Lewis was editor and general manager and James Muir, news editor.

Fraser’s involvement in the newspaper was known to many and, in a speech made to the South Hastings Conservative Convention held in Belleville in February, 1957, Trenton Mayor Burtt Ross implied Senator Fraser influenced the content.
Editor Lewis immediately responded declaring Fraser had no more advance knowledge than anyone “of anything that is to be said in the Trentonian, nor has he influenced a word that has appeared in the paper so far.”

The rumour mill continued to connect Fraser with the newspaper and the editor, in his column, Speaking for Myself, complained of the “plague of bickering” in the town.
“No town needs to waste its time arguing with or worrying about the snipers, snarlers, pettifoggers and cheap poltroons in its midst. All it needs to do is turn away from them and let them wither on the vine. Or to express it otherwise, the way to end gutter brawls is to get up out of the gutter.”

In April, 1957 The Brighton Ensign was purchased by Tri-County Publications Ltd., and amalgamated with the Trentonian. In July, 1961, the The Trentonian purchased the files and circulation list of the Courier-Advocate and this newspaper was also  amalgamated with the Trentonian.

Senator Fraser died in October, 1963. Eben James was one of the executors for Fraser’s complex estate and in 1963 the newspaper was sold to Thompson Newspapers.

Alan R. Capon was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England and he came to Canada in 1957. He was a retired staff writer for the Kingston Whig-Standard and had written a column for the County Weekly News for the past 14 years. Previously he worked for the Peterborough Examiner and was the Editor of the Lindsay Daily Post, and Editor and Publisher of the Picton Gazette.

Capon’s first book was a biography of Sir Sam Hughes, titled His Faults Lie Gently, written at the urging of Leslie Frost, former Premier of Ontario. It was soon followed by several books on Prince Edward County; Everyone Called Him Harvey (a biography of Picton Mayor H.J. McFarland), This House of Healing, a history of Prince Edward County’s hospital; Triumphant Journey, the history of Trenton Cold Storage and Upon the Level, by the Square, the history of the Prince Edward Masonic Lodge.

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