Biographical Sketch of Col. John Fraser

Col. John Fraser, second chancellor of the University of Kansas and state superintendent of public instruction, earned his military title and became widely known as an educator, while a citizen of Pennsylvania. He was born in Cromarty, Scotland, about 1823; graduated with high mathematical honors from the University of Aberdeen and thereafter spent several years in the Bermudas as a teacher. Coming to the States he conducted several private schools in New York and Pennsylvania, and then held the chair of mathematies at Jefferson College for seven years from 1855, during which period he raised money for the first telescope used in a Western Pennsylvania institution and superintended the erection of an observatory. In 1862 he enlisted as a private at Canonsburg and fought for the North throughout the Civil war. He won the rank of captain of the One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania volunteers in August, 1862; became lieutenant colonel in September, and in July of the next year was made colonel. “During the charge of Hancock at Spottsylvania he was wounded by a shell, and in September, 1864, he was captured and held at Libby Prison, Richmond, Va., Roper’s Hospital, Charlestown, S. C., and finally at Camp Sorghum, Columbia, S. C.” He was finally exchanged, and returning to his regiment was made brevet brigadier general and was mustered out in May, 1865. He then became president of the State College at Bellefontaine, Pennsylvania.

On June 17, 1868, Professor Fraser became the second chancellor of the University of Kansas, succeeding Robert W. Oliver. The university building which bears his name was erected during his term of service, which ended in 1874. During his connection with the university he served as state superintendent of public instruction. His last position was in the Western University of Pennsylvania and he died at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, of smallpox, in June, 1878.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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1 thought on “Biographical Sketch of Col. John Fraser”

  1. “He then became president of the State College at Bellefontaine, Pennsylvania.” That should read “He then became president of The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania.” The town near State College is Bellefonte — not Bellefontaine — and the university is about 10 miles away from Bellefonte.

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