William Canniff.

The medical profession in Upper Canada, 1783-1850. An historical narrative, with original documents relating to the profession, including some brief biographies online

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Online LibraryWilliam CanniffThe medical profession in Upper Canada, 1783-1850. An historical narrative, with original documents relating to the profession, including some brief biographies → online text (page 51 of 60)
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amid winter storms to pour the wealth of her sympathy and
the affluence of her prayers at the feet of outcast degradation,
and countless are the fainting hearts that she has cheered as

586 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

they advanced into the eternal. Her character was marked by
great strength and vigour. With the advance of years she
softened into a serene beauty, which surrounded her latter
days with an indescribable charm. Ever green shall be her
memory in the hearts of those who knew her. While the
generation lives, the names of Dr. and Mrs. Robinson will
abide as among the choicest examples of sustained and exalted
devotion to God. Evermore shall the recollection of Mrs. Mary
Robinson be enshrined in my heart, amid emotions soft and
tender, until the twilight and evening star of earthly scenes
have been exchanofed for the eternal morn of heaven."

Dr. Thomas Weeks Robison

Was the son of Richard and Mary Robison, who lived the first
years of their married life at Kingston, and then returned to
that place after a residence of some years at Napanee, where
Thomas Weeks was born, November 10, 1810. A sister of
Richard Robison was married to George O'Kill Stuart, after-
ward the Venerable Archdeacon of Kingston. Young Robison
was educated at Kingston, then studied medicine in Dr. Samp-
son's office, and attended a course at New York Medical College,
where he graduated. His last year of study was spent in
London, England. He passed the Upper Canada Medical Board^
July, 1833. Dr. Robison commenced practice in Kingston and
there passed his life. He married his cousin, Elenora Cum-
mings Robison, of Portland, Maine. They had no children.

Dr. Robison's life was an active one. He was surgeon to the
3rd Frontenac Battalion, organized at the time of the Mackenzie
rebellion. He was at one time medical officer to the Peniten-
tiary, He had charge of the fever hospital and sheds during
1847, when the " emigrant " fever raged. The following, taken
from the Kingston News, relating to his death, which took
place. May 6, 186G, pretty fully records the events of his life :
"Dr. Robison, one of the most prominent citizens of Kingston,
died in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He was elected Mayor,
in August, 1844, and served the remainder of the year, which


Biographical Sketches. 587

ended in April, 1845, and was re-elected. His appointment
as Police Magistrate was dated 1847, which office he filled for
nearly nineteen years. He was always considered a just and
faithful public servant.

Dr. Thomas Rolph,

The father of the Hon. John Rolph, was the son of George
Rolph, of Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England, Esquire, Attor-
ney and Solicitor, and was born in Thornbury, April 29, 1768,
where he received his early education. He afterwards removed
to the Parish of St. Olaves, South wark, Surrey. He married,
when about twenty years of age, Frances Petty, only daughter
of Ann Petty, of St. Mary's, Rotherhithe, Suri-ey, on the 25th
Februar}^ 1788, at St. Margaret Pattens, Fenchurch Street,
London, by whom he had seventeen children.

He became a member, April 21, 1790, of the " Corporation of
Surgeons," London, England, now the " Royal College of
Surgeons," and his name appears on the books of the college
up to the yeiir 1807. He practised his profession at Thorn-
bury, Glouce.stershire, until October, 1797, when he was
succeeded by Mr. Edward Salmon, a cousin of the late Colonel
Salmon, father of Judge Salmon, of Simcoe, County Norfolk,
Canada, who had previousl}' been articled, or apprenticed, as it
was termed in those days, to him. Dr. Rolph was a personal
friend of Dr. Edward Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination,
who.se re.sidence was only nine miles from his place, and doubt-
less they were often in professional consultation. Dr. Rolph
then practised at Camberwell and Peckham, Surrey, finally
returning to his native place, where he had purchased the
Grovesend Estate, about a mile from Thornbury, and in view
of the beautiful river Severn, from Henry Stephen, Escj.
(lately called Henry Willis), of Chavenage House, an old
historical place in the Parish of Horseley, Gloucestershire, in
1803. After residing there .some years, he came to Canada.
The exact date is not known, but it was some time after 1807
and Vjefore 1810, and settled in the County of Norfolk, in the
Long Point District. There is a deed registered in the Simcoe

588 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

Registry Office, conveying property in Charlotteville from David
Secord to Thomas Rolph, dated September 27, 1810.

He acquired a considerable quantity of land, and we learn
by a deed executed January 14, 1813, that he conveyed 1,218
acres of land in the Township of Malahide, County Middlesex,
to his son John, in consideration of £800 currency. Dr. Rolph's
property was situated between Normandale and Vittoria,
County Norfolk. We have no record as to what extent he
engaged in the practice of his profession in Canada, but the
sparse population at that time necessarily limited the field of
practice. He died at Charlotteville, March 24, 1814, leaving
four sons and several daughters. Frances (Petty), the widow,
died at the residence of her son George, at Dundas, on August
27, 1829, aged 57.

The sons of Dr. Thomas Rolph require some notice in these
pages. The eldest. Dr. John Rolph, receives due notice in a
separate sketch. (See page 590.)

George Rolph, born in Thornbury, April 7, 1794, came with
his father to Canada. He had, before leaving England, acquired
a liberal education, and was qualified to become, as he did, a
member of the Canadian Bar. But before this, Mr. Rolph took
an active part in the war of 1812. Before the writer is the
Commission received by him from General Brock, dated York,
February 14, 1812, in the fifty-second year of George III.'s
long reign, appointing him Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment
of Norfolk Militia. Lieutenant Rolph accompanied General
Brock's expedition to the West, which resulted in the surrender
of Fort Detroit, August 16, 1812, by General Hujl, by which
the State of Michigan was ceded to the British. The writer
has also before him the silver medal and crimson ribbon with
blue edge, presented to Lieutenant Rolph. The medal bears
these words : " 1848— To the British Army, 1795-1814," while
on the clasp above is engraved : " Fort Detroit." On the rim is
also engraved : " G. Rolph, Lieutenant, Canadian Militia."

At a gathering of the veterans of 1812, at Hamilton, 1860,
to meet the Prince of Wales, Lieutenant Rolph had the honour
of wearing the medal (for the last time) when presented to the

A correspondent says that Lieutenant Rolph was present at

Biographical Sketches. 589

the battle of Queenston Heights, and took part in the engage-
ment at Stony Creek, as well as other engagements with the
enemy. Mr. George Rolph settled at Dunda<^, Gore District,
in 1816.

He commenced the study of law at York, to qualify himself
for the office of Clerk of the Peace, there being at that time
no one learned in the law in the Gore District, and became the
first Clerk of ^the Peace in the Gore District. Subsequently he
was in partnership with his brother, Dr. Rolph. The firm had
an office in Vittoria, at that time the district town of London
District, and one at Ancaster. They had for some years the
largest practice west of York.

He sat as member for the Gore District in the " last parlia-
ment of the King." It may be mentioned that Mr. George
Rolph had no little public zeal and enterprise. Among other
acts, he had constructed, at his own expense, a then very impor-
tant public work, the Sydenham road, leading up the mountain
from Dundas to Flamboro' Township. Mr. Rolph was Clerk of
the Surrogate Court for about fifty-four years.

He died, at Dundas, July 25, 1875, aged eighty-one, leaving
two sons and three daughters.

The eldest, the late Thomas Lawford, was educated in Canada,
at Cheltenham College, Eng., and at Trinity Hall, Cainl)ridge,
where he gained a scholarship and obtained his B.A. degree.
He was some time private tutor to the Marquis of Huntley,
Aberdeenshire, and subsequently a partner in the law firm of
Dawes, Son & Rolph, Throgmorton Street, London, Eng.

William M., the second son, is Lieut.-Colonel of the 1st
Leicestershire, formerly the old 17th, Regiment of Foot, which
was stationed in Toronto in 1866. On entering the army,
he was commissioned in the 17th Regiment, which was then
stationed at Quebec, in 1802, and he has remained with
that regiment up to the present time (1894); passing through
the various ranks to the command of the regiment, which he
reached, February, 1890.

Of the throe daughters, one is the wife of Dr. Allen Holford
Walker, of Rotherhara House (his private hospital); and
another the wife of Dr. Charles O'Reilly, Superintendent of
the Toronto General Hospital. ,

590 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

RoMATNE RoLPH, the third son of Dr. Thomas Rolph, was born
May 7th, 1795, in Thornbury. He came with the family to
Canada, and was a student of divinity under Dr. Strachan, at
York. On October 10th, 1819, he was ordained Deacon by the
Bishop of Quebec. He was the first missionary to Sandwich,
Essex County, and became curate at Amherstburgh, for we find
the first entry in the burial register there is signed, R. Rolph,
with date 1820. He was ordained priest in the cathedral,
Quebec, October 21, 1821 ; subsequently holding a parish at
Innsbruck, then at March, near Ottawa, and finally at Queens-
ton, where he died at the age of seventy-three. In St. Mark's
church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, is a tablet to his memory, and the
register states that " Romaine Rolph was interred, January
22nd, 1868." He left several children.

Thomas Rolph, the fourth son, born, September 16th, 1803,
and baptized at St. Giles, Camberwell, Surrey, October 13,
1803, visited Canada several times. He received his early
education at Peckham, Surrey, and took the degree of A.B., at
St. John's College, Cambridge. He studied for holy orders, and
was ordained Deacon, December 12, 1829, by the Bishop of
Gloucester, and Priest, June 5, 1831. For many years he
was a popular curate of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and was
appointed domestic chaplain to the Earl Bathurst, September
21, 1838 ; at the same tiine he was curate of North Cerney and
perpetual curate of Baunton, Gloucestershire, November 8,
1841, being nominated to the same by the patroness, Jane
Master, of the Abbey, Cirencester. Finally he became Vicar
of Chiseldon, in Wiltshire, being appointed by the Bishop of
Salisbury, April 26, 1866, where he died on March 14, 1887.

Dr. John Rolph.

A full history of this most eminent member of the medical
profession of Upper Canada remains to be written. The
sketch for which room can be made in this volume must
necessarily be comparatively brief, and consequently imperfect.
We have endeavoured to gather up the facts relating to that
portion of his life not generally known. Matters relating to

l)i;. .iiiiix i:i»i.i'ii.

Biographical Sketches. 591

his middle life and advanced years are more familiar to the
public, as they form an important chapter in the history of
Upper Canada. Dr. Rolph was distinguished as a politician
and as a successful practitioner of medicine, while he stood high
as a member of the Bar. But his crowning glory was achieved
in the lecture room of the Medical College. As a teacher of
the Science of Medicine, it is doubtful if he had his equal.

Dr. John Rolph was born at Thornbury, Gloucestershire,
March 4, 1793. Whether he accompanied his father to Canada
is uncertain. Dent, who had access to many of Dr. Rolph's
papers, says he did. But the writer has received information
from Dr. H. H. Wright, who was for a long time closely
associated with Dr. Rolph and living with hira, also from Dr.
J. H. Richardson, as well as from other sources, which strongly
supports the belief that he remained in England to prosecute
his studies, and did not cross the Atlantic until 1812. In the
summer of that year he sailed from England to join the family
in Canada, by way of New York. Before he reached New
York, war had been declared by the United States against
Great Britain, and it seems that the vessel in which he sailed
became a prize. Dr. Rolph obtained a passport from President
Madison to proceed to Canada. Reaching Buffalo, he was
detained for a time, and while waiting, passed the time in solv-
ing a problem in Euclid. Being observed making unusual
characters on a paper, he was suspected of being a spy and of
making a sketch of the position of the United States forces,
and was taken back by the authorities to Greenbush, and it
was some time before negotiations could make it plain that he
was not a spy. Shortly after the battle of Queenston, he was
allowed to cro.ss over into Canada. An informant says, " Up
to his last years he would refer to the kindly way in which he
was treated by the American surgeon and other officers, while
he was detained a prisoner." He was at this time about nine-
teen years of age. Dr. Rolph served during the war as pay-
master of His Majesty's militia forces in the London District.
After the war he returned to England and engaged in the
study of both law and medicine, probably concurrently^. He
was a student at Cambridge, where " he was recognized as a
young man of very remarkable and precocious intellectual

592 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

powers. He absorbed knowledge with marvellous facility, and
never forgot anything he had learned." — Dent. He was a
student-at-law in London, and in due time was called to the
Bar of the Inner Temple. In medicine, he was a pupil of Sir
Astley Cooper. Tickets of attendance at Sir Astley's lectures,
dated 1818, are now in the possession of his son, Thomas
Rolph, barrister, of Toronto. He was a student of Guy's and
St. Thomas' Hospital, before they were separated into two insti-
tutions. He became a member of the Royal College of
Surgeons, England. Dr. Rolph remained in England until
1821, as is shown by an entry in a Bible, now in possession
of George Salmon, of Thornbury : " To Philemon Salmon, the
gift of his Godfather and friend. (Signed) John Rolph, May
24, 1821." Returning to Canada, he made his residence in the
township of Charlotteville, County Norfolk, at that time patt
of the Talbot District. He was called to the Bar of Upper
Canada, 1821. He was the fourth Bencher in the Province.
Dr. Rolph engaged in the practice of both law and medicine,
and soon became a great favourite among all classes. He
was the legal adviser and familiar friend of Col. Talbot, and
one of the originators of the Talbot anniversary, kept up for
more than twenty years in honour of the day of the Colonel's
arrival, May 21, 1803. Subsequently their divergent political
views caused an estrangement between them. It is related
that Dr. Rolph at one time, being dissatisfied with law and
medicine, turned his attention to divinity and applied for orders ;
but finding that he would be required to undergo some proba-
tion for this, abandoned the idea." — Gamble. In some remin-
iscences of medical men kindly furnished to the writer by Mr.
Clarke Gamble, Q.C., he says : " My first introduction to Dr.
Rolph was at the assizes in London, about the year 1827
or 1828, when he came into Court carrying a pair of saddlebags
in his arms, one side being filled with surgical instruments,
vials and package of medicine, etc., and the other with briefs
and legal documents and books. He would attend to a case in
Court, and, when through, would catch up his saddlebags, ascend
the Court House steps, mount his horse tethered near by and
ride off to visit a patient. He was not much of a lawyer,
though an eloquent counsel." He became a prominent person

Biographical Sketches. 593

in the London District. In 1823, he was a public school
trustee and a member of the Board of Education ; also a com-
missioner for taking affidavits.

The vast amount of energy which Dr. Rolph possessed was
not exhausted in the two professions which he simultaneously
followed, and he gave his attention to politics ; and at the
general elections of 1824, he was elected by the Reformers as
member for Middlesex. About this time he removed to
Dundas. Although he had practised medicine, he did not pro-
cure his license to practise in Upper Canada until 1829, as this
announcement shows : " John Rolph, of the village of Dundas
in Gore District, having complied with the provision of the
statutes, was gazetted as a licentiate, July 10, 1829." In 1831,
Dr. Rolph was a member of the Board of Education, also
trustee for London District.

But Dr. Rolph's career, as a member of the Bar, was drawing
to a close. In 1828, dissatisfied with a legal decision of Justice
Sherwood, he, with Dr. Baldwin and his son Robert, threw^ off
his gown and left the court. Soon after, believinij, it is said,
that he would never have justice, he resolved " to abandon the
practice of law and to resume that of medicine," which latter,
indeed, he had never wholly abandoned. This resolution was
not fully carried out until more than two years after it had
been formed, though he meanwhile accepted no new suits, and
steadily prepared himself for the impending change. The
decisive step does not appear to have been taken until 1832,
when he transferred his legal practice to his brother George.
Thenceforward John Rolph never again appeared in a Court of
Justice in the capacity of an advocate. It was a momentous
decision, for he had a fine legal practice and enjoyed the reputa-
tion of being the most eloquent man at the Upper Canada Bar.
He had outlived the exuberance of youth, and was, at this time,
nearly forty years old — an age at which few men would have
had the courage to abandon a pursuit which had Ijceii followed
with signal success for many years. He resumed the practice
of medicine and surgery, and was thenceforward known as
" Doctor Rolph." " He soon won a distinguished place in the
ranks of his new calling, and reached a preeminence therein a.s
great as he had ever attained at the Bar. There was no regu-

594 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

larly orcranized medical college in Upper Canada, and the facili-
ties for acquiring a competent medical training were few. In
response to urgent requests from a number of influential per-
sons in Toronto, he established a private medical class and gave
instruction to a limited number of students. His teaching was
eminently successful, and he made himself greatly beloved by
his students. He seemed to have the whole round of medical
literature at his fingers' ends, and his marvellous knowledcfe and
graphic power of expression kindled in the breasts of the young
men a love of knowledge for its own sake." " By no one were
his attainments held in higher respect than by the Lieutenant-
Governor. Sir John urged him to found a permanent medical
college, and promised that Government aid for such an enter-
prise should not be wanting. But Dr. Rolph had other views."
— Dent.

Dr. Rolph came to York, 1831, from Dundas. In the same
year he was Vice-President of the Mechanics' Institute and one
of the lecturers. He was commissioned a member of the Medi-
cal Board in 1832, and was present at the April meeting. In
1834 his name is given in York Directory as living in Macaulay
Town, now near the site of the new Court House and City
Hall. After the incorporation of Toronto as a city. Dr. Rolph
was elected one of the first Aldermen. At that time the Alder-
men elected one of their number to fill the Mayor's chair. Dr.
Rolph aspired to the position and had expected that he would be
elected, but Wm. Lyon Mackenzie was the choice. Mr. Macken-
zie had recently received hard treatment from the Legislature,
and his political friends in the City Council, who were in a
majority, wished to show their sympathy in a marked manner,
and resolved, at a caucus, to make him the first Mayor of
Toronto. Dr. Rolph, although surprised and chagrined, acqui-
esced. He resigned before the election, thus paving the way
for Mackenzie's election. Dr. Tims was elected to fill Dr.
Rolph's place as Alderman.

October 30, 1834, this marriage notice appeared : " At Kings-
ton, on Thursday, the 30th of October, by the Rev. Mr. Cart-
wright, Dr. John Rolph, M.A., of the city of Toronto, Member
of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, London, bar-

Biographical Sketches. 595

rister-at-law, to Grace, daughter of George Henry Haines, Esq.,
late of Leicester, England.

Dr. Rolph had been twice elected for Middlesex and once for
Norfolk, and in 1835 he was appointed a member of the Execu-
tive Council of the Province with Drs. Baldwin, Dunn and
Bidwel],but, in consequence of some act of the Lieut.-Governor,
they all resigned. In 1836 Dr. Rolph was again elected for
Norfolk. In the same year we find him delivering the closing
lecture of the Mechanics' Institute.

In March, 1834, an address was publicly presented to Dr.
Rolph, asking for the privilege of having his portrait painted.
From this, and the various positions he occupied from time to
time, it was evident that he was a very popular person.

During the period Dr. Rolph lived in Toronto he had received
a number of pupils. He had already exhibited those qualities
which subsequently made him famous, of imparting medical
knowledge to students. The list of young men studying with
him included Geo. H. Parks, James Mitchell, Jatnes Beatty,
Barnhart, Frank Cameron, David Lee, J. W. Corson, J. W.
Hunter, H. H. Wright and J. H. Richardson.

The year 1837 was one fraught with grave events. The
Mackenzie rebellion had culminated in overt action on the part
of the insurgents, and Dr. Rolph became involved in the out-
break. It is not our intention to enter into a discussion of the
matter, but will give a statement from Dent. He says that at
a conference at Dr. Rolph's house, Dr. Morrison, Mackenzie and
one Lloyd, from Lower Canada, " a plan was discussed for seiz-
ing the arms in the City Hall, for taking into custody the chief
ofRcials, and for establishing a Provisional Government, with
Dr. Rolph at its head " — the day fixed being December 7.

An account of his escape, after the collapse of Mackenzie's
attempt to take Toronto, is of sufficient interest to merit a place
in these pages. Dr. Morri.son had been arrested on suspicion,
and his arrest had been witnessed l)y H. H. Wright, then a
house pupil with Dr. Rolph. " He lost no time in acquainting
Dr. Rolph with what he had seen, and in advising him to seek
safety in flight. Dr Rolph speedily made up his mind. There
was no longer any hope of success for the rebels. His own
connection with the movement could not fail to become known,

596 The Medical Profession in Upper Canada.

and he might count upon being prosecuted with the utmost
rigour of the law. Dr. Morrison's arrest seemed to indicate
that the Government had already become possessed of crimina-
tory evidence — evidence which was quite as likely to compromise
himself (Dr. Rolph) as the gentleman who had actually been
deprived of his liberty. If so, no time was to be lost. In a
very few moments one of his horses, a gray three-year-old colt,
was saddled, and his young friend had mounted it and ridden
westward along Lot Street. He himself followed leisurely
on foot. A short distance up the street he encountered Chief
Justice Robinson and two of his sons, who were probably on
their way to the Lieutenant-Governor's headquarters in the
Parliament Buildings. A grave salute was exchanged between
them, after which each proceeded on his way. The Doctor
continued his walk until he reached the spot where Dundas
Street branches off northward from Queen Street, where he
found his young friend awaiting him with the horse, from which
he had dismounted. They exchanged quiet and undemonstra-
tive farewells, after which Dr. Rolph mounted the horse and
proceeded along Dundas Street, while the young medical student
returned to the city.

" The Doctor made the best of his way to the United States.
His journey was not unattended with peril, for any Tory whom
he met on the way might possibly resolve to arrest him, and his
complicity in the rebellion was susceptible of proof. He,
however, rode westward about twelve miles without any mis-
adventure, and was approaching the River Credit, when he
encountered a company of loyalist volunteers en route for the
capital. The gentleman in command was well acquainted with
Dr. Rolph's political proclivities, but would probably not have

Online LibraryWilliam CanniffThe medical profession in Upper Canada, 1783-1850. An historical narrative, with original documents relating to the profession, including some brief biographies → online text (page 51 of 60)