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Descendants celebrate pioneer doctor’s life

June 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments


A new stone stands in the ancient Prospect Cemetery on Innis Lake Road. It was purchased and erected by the deceased, Dr. Samuel Allison’s, great granddaughter, Marina Turner. This was promised by her to her father, Thomas  E. Allison.

Said Ms Turner, “I meant to do it sooner but I was in the middle of a divorce and, so, I’ve done it now. There are three baby birds in a nest on the stone – he had three sons and there are three children buried in that plot. There are 16 altogether.”

The message on the stone is simply the dates of his life: born 15 June, 1836; died 29 September, 1928 and his wife: Susanna Wilson Allison, born 1868 – died 1908.

Dr. Samuel Allison – or Dr Sam, as he was known – was the only medical person in the whole wide area around Caledon East from the time he set up his practice in 1868 until his son, Dr. Thomas Wilson Allison, joined him in 1901. Before arriving and settling here, the  story of his life’s history was enough to almost fill another life.

Born in Toronto Township, he attended (in due course) at the Toronto School of Medicine, graduating in 1862.

Perhaps, longing to test his own mettle, he went to join the Civil War in the United States, going to Pittsburgh, where he passed the necessary military examinations in medicine and surgery. Stationed at Richmond, he tended the wounded, who were bond for hospitals in larger cities, deepening his own knowledge of emergence surgery.

During the course of his duty in the war, he developed typhoid for which he was transported to a hospital in New York. Once recovered, he returned to Canada, first to Tullamore and, then, to the Village of Caledon East.

Over the next 60 years, he persevered in answering every call of need in his patients, regardless of roads that were barely tracks through swampy lands, some roads being nearly impassable. However, riding on horseback, he continued to respond to those calls. He delivered more than 5,000 babies during those long 60 years of his attending patients. In the early times, his practice area covered as far east as Bolton, westward to Claude and all the way north to Tottenham.

The Citizen attended the Celebration of Life for Dr. Sam at the St. James’ Anglican Church in Caledon East, of which Dr Sam was a member for most of his life in Caledon East. Many members of the family  decedents were there, some of them meeting each other again after many years. There was a family tree, sketched out on Bristol board, showing the way back to predecessors coming from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Scots were penned in blue and Irish were shown in green.

The Irish side the family are those forefathers of Dr. Sam himself. The “coffin ship” bearing passengers, amongst whom were his parents, Andrew and Sarah Allison, was on its way to Canada, sailing from Cork. A storm blew the ship off course and it was forced to dock at Boston, where the immigrants disembarked. Many of them, including Dr. Sam’s parents, continued on to Canada, settling in this area. Dr. Samuel Allison, of six siblings, was their only child who went on to study medicine. His four brothers were farmers in the Cooksville region.

Along with an impressive life’s story, the family remembrances of tales they had heard were equally of interest.

There were a large number of bedrooms in the old brick house, the Allison family home, in Caledon East, still proudly standing in the village on Airport Road, something between 13 and 17 bedrooms.

Said one of the family members, to explain the need for so many rooms: “The farm hands used to come in from the fields and they needed someplace to sleep. So, the house had lots of bedrooms for them.”

A memory passed down, as it were, talked about the two horses that used to pull the doctor’s cart in his later years.

“The cart horses were named Doc and Dan,” the Citizen was told. “Dr. Sam’d be coming back late from attending a patient, and he would just get into the cart and say, ‘take us home, Doc.’ And the horses would bring him home while he slept.”

Marina Turner narrated the story: “A young girl was caught by a threshing machine in the fields. Her leg was so badly cut, it was just barely hanging on. They rushed her to Dr. Sam. Since he had all his experience in the war, he knew what to do and he re-attached her leg. He saved her leg.”

She commented that Dr. Samuel’s medical bag and instruments and Grandma Allison’s wedding dress were both on display in the Dufferin Museum. (DCMA)

Remembering an incident from her own childhood: “When I was a little girl, I was sitting with Grandma Allison on the porch and a man came across the grass toward us. He told my Grandma that he was looking for his proof of birth and asked if she had the books and could help him out.

“So, she went upstairs to find the book, kept along with other things and she found his name, posted 70 years ago. He was wanting the proof to collect his pension. She told him, ‘Your birth fee wasn’t paid for – every other birth was paid for, but not yours.’

“He asked how much it was and she told him $5.00. He said , ‘Well, let’s pay it’ and gave her the five dollars.

“People came to trace their records because this was the only place to find them in those days.”

Ms Turner had the records book from the years of 1895 to 1917 which she decided was to be put with Peel County records office. However, she remembered hearing that Dr. Sam had found a four leaf clover and had put it in the book.

“So I looked all through the book before it went and I found the four leaf clover, after all those years,” she related.

“And I kept the four leaf clover,” she said.



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