Health Care As It Was:

The display cases in the Oakville Historical Society archives are always filled with one or more exhibits relating to Oakville's historical heritage. They're free for viewing by the public anytime our offices are open (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00 - 4:30pm).

The following material is based on an exhibit by volunteers Mary Noad and Rosemary Seeton concerning health care (and its practitioners and practices) as it was from the early 1800s to the early/mid 1900s. Much of the textual material is drawn from Hazel Chisholm Matthew's Oakville and the Sixteen.

Early Background:
Immigrant ship?A few short years after coming into existence the settlement at the mouth of the Sixteen (that was to become Oakville) suffered its first serious health care crises: an epidemic of Asiatic cholera.

The cholera arrived by ship along with immigrants from Britain to which the disease had spread from Europe. Conditions on those ships were horrendous in terms of crowding and sanitation, and food supplies (provided by the immigrants themselves) rarely lasted the two month voyage. Conditions were ripe for the spread of disease and the immigrants, wasted by starvation, died by the hundreds.

Boards of Heath were established at every landing-place for ships, and in June 1832 Oakville's Board appointed Dr. Daniel Black Health Inspector for all immigrant-carrying vessels arriving at Oakville and Burlington Bay. In August 1833 Dr. Black was dead of cholera.

During this time John Urquhart arrived in Oakville from Scotland via New York. He was put in charge of a new hospital set up on the west side of the Sixteen and, after two years amongst cholera victims both at York and Oakville, he was considered qualified to practise medicine. He remained in Oakville when the epidemic subsided and built a combined apothecary's shop, surgery and dwelling to which he gave the name "Medical Hall", a popular term during this period. This building still stands as 182 Lakeshore Road East and here his son, also named John who was to become an apothecary and then Doctor, was born in 1844.

Oakville suffered other epidemics which periodically swept the country. After the scourge of cholera in the thirties came typhus in 1847, carried by immigrants trying to escape the wretchedness caused by the Industrial Revolution and the potato famine in Ireland, and in 1854 cholera returned again.

Apart from the periodic country-wide epidemics, other diseases took their toll. The burial registers of Oakville churches show that infant mortality was very high, particularly among children under two years of age. “Malignant throat”, which we know to be diphtheria, in a few days wiped out a family of six between the ages of 2 months and 19 years.

The fever known as “ague” and “malaria”, which was the scourge of early settlers in Canada, was very prevalent in Oakville. Ague was associated with swamps and marshes, although it was not then known to be carried by mosquitoes. Since no screening was used it was just as well that night air was believed injurious and all outside air best left outside.

Justus W. Williams operated a store (now Thyme Restaurant) on Colbourn St. carrying "a general assortment of dry goods and Hardware, also a few groceries and medicines". He inscribed in his shop ledger (1830-36) his remedies for Ague, colds, Scarlet Fever, bowel complaints of every kind, etc. They are available by clicking here for his original notes or here for a transcription (slipperyjohn bark = elm bark).

Oakville Physicians 1830 - 1930:
Arnold Flexible Stethoscope 1885 1830 - 1840 Dr. Daniel Black
  Dr. William Kirkwood
  Dr. William Gunn - emigrated from Scotland
Stethoscope 1885
  Dr. Christopher Flock - "surgeon and accoucheur"
  Dr. David Dolmage Wright
1850's Dr. Edwy Ogden - also acted as local dentist, and practiced for over 20 years
  Dr. James Johnson
1860's  Dr. Anson Buck - Palermo
  Dr. Van Norman - Bronte
1870 - 1880 Dr. John Urquhart - initially trained as druggist and in 1882 became a physician and practiced until 1920's when he was in his 90's. Also ran Dr. Urquhart's Medical Hall.
  Dr. Justus Samuel Williams
  Dr. Charles Lusk
1900's Dr. Robert O. Fisher
  Dr. John H. Stead
  Dr. Fred Sparling
  Dr. Morely Wilkinson
1915 Dr. Charles Page
  Dr. Eric Soanes - moved his office into the Medical Arts Building at Reynolds and MacDonald and was later instrumental in establishing the Lions Club first temporary hospital on First Street, then in 1950 The Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.
1920 - 1930 Dr. Chesley Oake
  Dr. Brock Chisholm (1896 - 1971) - the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1948 - 1953 and Deputy Minister of Health for Canada (1944-1946). During the six years he practiced in Oakville, his office was in the building that still stands (2008) on the south-east corner of Lakeshore and Reynolds. Click here for more background about Dr. Chisholm.

Physicians and Surgeons in Oakville in 1953 (when Oakville was still a comparatively small town):

                      Dr. W.L. Anderson
                      Dr. R.D. Appleford
                      Dr. A.C. Bremner
                      Dr. D.H. Dixon
                      Dr. R.N. Hines
                      Dr. D.S. Kober

                      Dr. M.E. Lunau
                      Dr. Campbell MacArthur
                      Dr. G.K. Phillips
                      Dr. A.E. Ross
                      Dr. E.P. Soanes
                      Dr. F.N. Sparling

                      Dr. F.W. Wallace
                      Dr. G.O Warr
                      Dr. Bruce Wells
                      Dr. W.M. Wilkinson
                      Dr J.C. Worrell
                      Dr. J. Zaborowska

Today (2008) Oakville has over 200 doctors registered at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

(Click any image for a larger version)
Dr. C. H. Lusk
Dr. J. S. W. Willliams and his wife Jennie McGill
Dr. W. M. Wilkinson and son
Dr. M. Wilkinson - 50 years as Coroner
  Dr. C. H. Lusk
Dr. J. S. Williams
and wife Jennie McGill
Dr. W. M. Wilkinson and son
Dr. W. M. Wilkinson
50 years as coroner (1963)

Dr. John Urquhart
Dr. John Urquhart
Young John Urquhart had preferred the life of a sailor; and in 1860, at the age of sixteen, ran away from home to go on the lakes. But before John Urquhart senior died in 1867 (“a very large funeral – twenty-six teams”, observed George Sumner) he had the satisfaction of knowing that young John had bowed to his parents’ wishes and entered upon a medical career. "Young John's" first instructor was Dr. John Rolph, a supporter of Mackenzie during the Rebellion. John Urquhart graduated with honours from the University of Toronto and returned to practice at Oakville for a time before going to Edinburgh for a post-graduate course. When he died at the age of ninety, in the house where he was born, Dr. John Urquhart was reputedly the oldest practicing physician in the province. Urquhart’s and Gulledge’s were the oldest concerns in the town when, within a few years of each other, they were discontinued. The chemist’s shop had done business for just onto a century, and the harness shop for 104 years.
Medical Hall - est. 1835, 182 Lakeshore Rd.
Dr. John Urquhart in the Medical Hall opened by his father in 1835 (at what is now 182 Lakeshore Rd. E.)

Mrs. McCleary gives us this account of her father’s part in the serious smallpox epidemic of 1907:

“Father was the one who recognized the first case as being smallpox and soon it had spread all over town. He had a ‘camp’ set up on the west side of the river, on the lakefront near Holyrood, and everyone who developed the disease had to be taken there until they were better. The patients were picked up one by one and driven through town by horse and wagon (resembling a ‘lumber-wagon’) to the camp, where they were looked after. When people way one of these wagons, they know it was a case of smallpox and took care not to go near. I do not know how many contracted the disease, nor how long the camp was necessary, because Father decided to take the precaution of sending me away, and I was out of Oakville when the epidemic was at its worst.”

Dr. John Urquhatr's pharmacopoeia - 1826
Dr. Urquhart's Pharmacopoeia
Click on the image to the left for a readable look at a few pages from an 1826 pharmacopoeia - this one having belonged to Dr. John Urquhart and donated to the Society by his great great grandson, Dr. Gerald Colemen.
Residence of Dr. Black
Residence of Drs. Urquhart, Lusk and W. Wilkinson at different times.
Residence of Dr. J. S. Williams
Residence of Dr. Black
Residence of Dr. J. S. W. Williams
Cure for the bite of a mad dog. Ether mask etc Medicine Case Mouth Gag etc
Cure for the bite of a
mad dog (c1830s)
Tonsil Forceps,
Either Mask,
Head Lamp
Bone Cutter,
Craniotomy Clamp
Medicine Case
Upper Dental Forceps,
Mouth Gag.
Medical implements courtesy of Oakville Museum at Erchless Estates

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