John Fraser Estate collection  1823-1873
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Fraser Estate collection consists of 22 letters and documents relating to the litigation for the disputed estate of John Fraser, one of the wealthiest men in Eastern Florida at the time of his death in 1813. The collection begins with a 30-page probate document from William Robertson and Ann Fraser Robinson, Fraser's sister who contests the legitimacy of his will on the grounds that his wife and children were slaves. The probate document includes several "Exhibits" including a copy of the letter to his executors, in which he leaves the estate to his "natural children," whom he notes are "persons of colour" living in Africa. Another exhibit is an 1822 letter from one of his executors, describing the settlement of the estate and the sale of slaves and property. Also included is a detailed estate inventory, indicating that he owned " land, Negros, money, bank stocks and other things of value of three hundred thousand dollars, or upward," and listing by name and value many of his slaves and the values of the land and plantations that he owned. The Robertsons also contested the value of the estate, since much of it was destroyed in the Patriot War of 1812.

Subsequent items document Fraser's children's protracted legal fight for their inheritance between the years 1837 and 1857. These contain evidence of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and the convoluted ways the estate was divided and distributed over the course of the many legal disputes. By this time, only Fraser's youngest daughter Elizabeth was still alive. The 1850’s letters are from Elizabeth to her lawyer William W. Campbell as they approach a final settlement that would give her $12,500 for the remaining estate. The legal disputes, however, continued throughout the decade. The final letter, dated 1873, is from Henry Younge, son of Philip R. Younge (one of the original executors), who is still inquiring about the sale of Fraser's land in Florida. Together, these items closely document the latter part of a long and complicated legal battle, borne largely from untrustworthy executors and problems with ambiguities in interracial and transnational estates law in the 19th century.

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