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Peter D. Fraser

was born on either 5 June or 15 August 1803 in Demerara, British Guiana, now Guyana. He was the second of three children and the younger son of John Douglas, a merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, and the “Creole,” almost certainly a free colored woman, Martha Ann Ritchie, later surnamed Telfer (?–1839?). The two were never married. Genealogical research suggests that Martha Ann Ritchie was born in Barbados. Ritchie and her mother were both slave owners until slavery was ended in 1834. His father married in 1809, but moved Douglas and his siblings to Scotland, where he attended preparatory school in Lanark and learned French. Douglas and his elder brother Alexander then went to Canada, where they were apprenticed to the North West Company, which soon merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company—both were fur-trading concerns. Moving westward, he reached the Pacific Coast for the first time in 1826 ...