Medical assistance in the 1800s

By Rochelle Burns, PhD, social historian

Today we worry about what OHIP will cover in times of a medical concern. In pioneering times, they were grateful if a doctor was somewhat in the area of their home.

So, when Dr. Archibald Pass, believed to be the area’s first doctor, arrived in the Barrie area in 1835, pioneers rejoiced. His medical travels forced him to travel as far as Nottawasaga, and sometimes even further.  But travel he did until 1861 when he died at the age of 55.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons noted another problem. They didn’t like the medical education provided in this province. Their 1839 minutes declared: “Resolved – That a committee be appointed to prepare and address to His Excellency the Governor General, relative to the deficient means of medical education in the Province, and to pray that His Excellency may be pleased to assist us in providing a remedy for so great an evil.”

And, they were wary of the medical education newcomers to the province claimed they had.

Doctors then shared another thing in common with doctors today. Many were newly arrived immigrants. They felt their training back home should give them a license to practice in Upper Canada.

As is the case today, their credentials were scrutinized and they often had to prove their abilities. In 1840, Mr. R. Coucher applied for a license to practice in Upper Canada. He presented his credentials from the London School of Medicine to practice “Physic, Surgery, Midwifery.” The college stated he had to sit for examinations in ‘Physic and Midwifery’. Coucher then had second doubts about his training. The college recorded “he withdrew, stating he would not trouble the College any further.”

Just as pioneers rejoiced at the arrival of Dr. Pass, today’s inhabitants in the Barrie area are equally grateful for the efforts of their doctors and, indeed, all those connected to the health of those who depend on them.

Photo: in 1903, a new 35-bed hospital is built on Ross Street in downtown Barrie at a cost of $20,000. Photo courtesy of Foundation@rvh.on.ca

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This