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Health Issues Of Puslinch Settlers: Part 4: The Morriston Doctors

This is the fourth in a series of articles about the health of the people of Puslinch from the earliest days of settlement to approximately 1960.


By Marjorie Clark

In the first decades after settlement, there were no doctors in Puslinch. Those possessing some skill at healing among the settlers, such as Agnes Elliot of Badenoch and John Callfas of Morriston, were often called upon to do what they could, when sickness or accident occurred and these two individuals were quite capable.

After some time, a doctor set up a practice in Morriston, the only village in the township to have a doctor in residence, with the exception of Aberfoyle, where Dr. James King practised for a short time, before moving to Morriston. Over the years, a few doctors began their careers at Morriston – Dr. Keating, Dr. Cormack and Dr. Phillips. Dr. Keating may have been the first doctor in the village.

Dr. Thomas A. Keating (1837-1892), who was born in Guelph, the son of Thomas Keating, started his career in Morriston about 1859 and remained for nine or ten years. He was listed as residing in the village in the 1869 Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory. He was married to Eliza Orton. Their children were Thomas, who was born in Morriston in 1867, John Howitt (born 1870), Constance (born 1870), Mary Ann (born 1871), Richard (born 1872), Robert Norton (born 1875) and Florence Eliza (born 1877).

He was followed by, Dr. Richard Orton (1839-1892), son of Henry and Mary Orton, who practised in the village from about 1871 to 1881. He married two Puslinch women. His first wife, whom he married in 1867, was Mary Howitt, daughter of “Quaker” Howitt of School Section #12 in north Puslinch and in 1884, he married his second wife, Letitia Leslie, daughter of William Leslie of Puslinch Village. With Mary Howitt, he had children, Margaret Felicia (born 1870), Henry (born 1874), William (born 1876), Annie Howitt (born 1879) and Annie Magdalene (born 1881). Two more children were born to him and Letitia Leslie, Arnott (1889) and Henry (1892).

dr richard orton
Dr. Richard Orton, Morriston Doctors

Dr. William Cormack (1861-1896), who succeeded him, commenced at Morriston in 1882. Dr. Cormack was single. He was still living in the village in 1888 but died of a heart condition in South Africa at the young age of 37.

At points, there were two doctors in Morriston. Dr. John Dickson Courtenay, who married R. B. Morison’s daughter, Minnie, and Dr. Cormack were both in practice in Morriston in 1885. By 1891, Dr. Courtenay was working in Waterdown.

Dr. J. A. Phillips, who graduated in Toronto in 1887 and spent six months in residency at a New York Hospital, began in Morriston in 1888 but seemed not to have remained long, as there is no further mention of him.

Dr. John Alex Howitt (1863-1907), born at Puslinch Lake, son of Alfred Howitt and Elizabeth Parks, practised in Morriston around 1889-1894. He married Mary McIntosh and they had five children, Alfred (born 1889), Annie Lee (born 1891), Henry Douglas (born 1893), Mary (born 1895) and Helen Maud (born 1896). Dr. Howitt wrote poems about Puslinch, most notably “The Plucky Puslinch Six”, about the tug-of-war team. Dr. Howitt left Morriston for Hespeler and in 1906, he went to western Canada, where he died at only 44 years of age.

In 1893 and 1894, Dr. William L. Hilliard practised in Morriston. Dr. Hilliard attempted to establish a pharmacy in the village. He was quite an active man and was instrumental in the formation of the Morriston Football Team. He had left the township by August 1897.

Dr. James H. King was born in Eastern Ontario on Oct. 17, 1870 and raised in Dresden, Ontario. He received his M.D. from the University of Western Ontario and later studied at Trinity College of the University of Toronto. He began his medical career in Aberfoyle in 1901 but relocated to Morriston about 1904. The “doctor’s house”, the large cement block home on Badenoch St. in Morriston, was constructed for Dr. King and he married a local woman, Mary Jane Nicoll, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Nicoll of Badenoch. He doctored through a smallpox scare and he worked day and night during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1920. Alex Ord remembered his father and others driving the doctor from patient to patient, while he slept in the cutter, between house calls. He practised in Morriston until 1922. On Friday evening, April 21, 1922, approximately 300 residents of Badenoch and Morriston sections gathered in the Forester’s Hall in Morriston to wish Dr. King and his family well. They presented Dr. King with a gold watch, Mrs. King with pearls and daughters, Vera and Mildred with pencils. His third daughter, Peggy, must have been born after this. So trusted was Dr. King, that many of his Puslinch patients afterward attended his office in Guelph. In Guelph, he was Medical Officer of Health for a number of years. In 1934, Dr. King was elected by a large majority to the Provincial Legislature as Member for Wellington South. He remained the representative for the riding until 1943. Dr. King died in 1949.

Dr. Freeman followed him in Morriston for a short time. Dr. Lorne J. Stuart (Sept. 15, 1889-Dec. 15, 1960) was born in Cainsville, Brant County, Ontario. He graduated from McGill University in 1917 and served with the Canadian Army until 1920. He practised in Morriston from 1922 until 1936, then in Scotland, Ontario, near Brantford, until his death on Dec. 15, 1960. Dr. Joseph T. Campolongo (c.1926-July 11, 2004) was also in Morriston for a while, before re-locating to Guelph. The last doctor in Morriston was Dr. Edward Crispin, who was in the village around 1960.

Patients on the west side of Puslinch attended doctors in Galt and Hespeler, Dr. Charlton being one of them. Those on the northern fringe saw doctors in Guelph.

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