In 1986, a request for information about the Philp family of Waterdown was received. A member of this family, Dr. William Philp, was one of the early doctors to serve the village and surrounding area. Further research resulted in the discovery of an article by Dr. Philp, written just before his death in February 1932, on the practice of medicine in 1867. This Heritage Paper is a listing of doctors known to have served the area, and an extract from Dr. Philp’s article.
Taken from the directories, card index and reference books in the Archives of the Society.
WILLIAM BILLINGS 1851 – M.D.JOHN J. MURRAY 1851-1868 Physician and SurgeonORMOND SKINNER 1857-1878 Physician and SurgeonDuring the 1860’s, Dr. Skinner was in partnership with Dr. Christopher W. Flock, and they listed themselves as Physicians, Surgeons and Druggists of Dundas Street, Waterdown.CHRISTOPHER W. FLOCK 1865-1870 Physician and SurgeonWILLIAM PHILP 1864-1878, 1899 Physician and Surgeon, Dundas StreetJAMES McLAREN 1875-1880 PhysicianJ.P. McGREGOR 1885- PhysicianJ.D. COURTENAY 1889-1900 PhysicianJ.O. McGREGOR 1889- Physician and Druggist, Main StreetPETER STEWART 1895-1910 Veterinary Surgeon, Dundas StreetDANIEL A. McLENAHAN 1898-1912 Physician, Mill StreetWALTER THOMPSON 1900-1925 DentistJAMES VANCE 1910-1925 DentistDR. HOPPER 1913-1926? PhysicianD.A. HARPER 1914-1916 PhysicianWILFRED C. LANGFORD 1923- Druggist
Dr. William Philp was born in Cobourg, Ontario, the son of Cornish immigrants who came to Canada in 1833. His father, a minister, served the Wesleyan Methodist Church for over 40 years–Rev. Philp and his wife are buried in Union Cemetery. In the spring of 1864, Dr. Philp came to Waterdown and remained in practice in the area until 1878, when he moved to Hamilton. Just prior to his death, 9 February 1932, he was interviewed by the Hamilton Herald. In the article he recalled some stories from the early days of his medical practice in the Waterdown area. This is an extract from that article.
There is perhaps no one better qualified to speak of the progress made in medicine than Dr. W. Philp, 94 Hess Street North, who, in spite of the fact that he has been 64 years in practice is still able to give his skilful attention to many patients, and, incidentally, pointers to men of a younger generation. He is, in fact, the only physician who survives the doctors of that day in these parts. While in practice in Waterdown, Dr. Philp was also, of course, in close touch with Hamilton and the physicians and surgeons of the city, being associated with some of the eldest doctors then in practice, including Dr. William Case, Dr. Harmonus Smith, Ancaster and Dr. Mann.
This writer, during a short interview with the subject of this sketch, suggested that conditions were comparatively speaking, rather primitive in those days.
“We of course made all our distance calls with a horse and buggy, and in winter–and there were some real winters in those days–in a cutter. Do you know one of the things we should be most grateful for is the modern motor ambulance. Why, I have seen the police making a sort of sedan chair of their arms to carry a man under the influence of liquor to the station.
I well remember one case, that of a man who had been accidentally shot in the axilla (armpit). I think, if I remember rightly, he had been shooting wild fowl in the bayshore. Drs. Malloch and Millins were called in consultation with myself, and I remember we had to drive him part of the way in a democrat and then row him across the bay in a small boat to the old hospital at the foot of John Street. It was one of the most terrible wounds I have ever seen, the large blood vessels being burst and torn. In spite of day and night nurses and the most careful attention, bleeding commenced again and death resulted.
One of the diseases with which I had a great measure of success was erysipelas, which I found to be more prevalent in the country district than in the city. And I may say that the same treatment I made use of then, I make use of today, and the cures average 100 percent. One case in particular I recall. This was a boy about six years of age, the son of a blacksmith . . . I was called in to see the boy and immediately diagnosed the trouble as erysipelas. I followed the usual course of treatment, but the parents decided, as the trouble had spread up the leg, to call in an older man. The second doctor, however, declined to name the disease, and some days later, having received permission from his father to see the patient, I found the trouble had spread to the thigh. I was asked to undertake the case again, but declined and a third doctor was called, and this man said that, although he had been called at the last minute, he was of the opinion that he could save the child. However the disease progressed rapidly and death followed.
I also recollect the case of a very near relative of mine who was suffering from this disease. He was first attended by one whom we called a water-curer in those days, and poultices made from the roots of the pond lily were applied. Of course this did not prove effective, and the limb had to be lanced before proper treatment could be commenced.”
Asked to comment on the greatest improvement in medical science, Dr. Philp replied:
“In the use of various vaccines and in the case of antiseptics in surgery. Take the case of diphtheria for instance. We feel quite confident of recovery with a supply of vaccine on hand. In the old days when the membrane had to be removed by the use of caustic we were handicapped and the disease was one of the most dreaded of all.
Another case I remember was that of an entire family who were suffering from smallpox, the maid included. The last-mentioned, who was one of the worst cases I have every seen, the disease spreading over her entire body, was the only one who died, the others making a complete recovery–rather an extraordinary happening, all things considered.”
“I would not care to say,” said Dr. Philp, in conclusion, “that we lost more patients then than now–we cannot always stop the approach of death.” But, as this interviewer left the home on Hess Street he could not help wondering upon how many occasions the veteran practitioner had done that very thing.
Hamilton Herald, “Remembers Days of Pond Lily Poultice”. February 1932.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, October 1987.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1987, 2021.