*”The Doctor’s House” 22 Wilson Street Perth Ontario-Photo: Rideau Heritage Initiative 2006-Perth Remembered
Perth Courier, March 4, 1864
Death of Dr. James Stewart Nichol
The subject of this meager obituary notice was born in Langholm, Dumfrieshire, Scotland. When about ten years old he was sent to receive an education at the grammar school in the town of Dumfries, situated about thirty miles from his birth place. An uncle, resident in India, who had, by his own talent and energy, raised himself to an honorable and lucrative post in the civil service, generously supplied the means. That he did not loiter away his time at the Dumfries Academy was have reason to know. Not very long since the writer heard him at site translate a portion of (illegible word)—not the easiest of classical authors—with as much ease and readiness as many students fresh from their collegiate course.
Our impression is that in respecting a Classical attainment he must have stood above average. His natural ability was undoubted as all who have had any intercourse with him can testify. But few professional men who have lead so toilsome a life retain so vivid and correct a recollection of their youthful studies. From Dumfries he went to Edinburgh. Having attended the usual classes and undergone, we doubt not, with credit to himself, the prescribed examination, he received his medical diploma. We are not aware that he ever practiced in any part of Scotland. Soon after having completed his studies he married a woman he had known in youth and to whom he was much attached.
Thereafter he and his wife from whom, by an unexpected and lamentable death, he was separated, came to this town in 1837. The period of his residence here has been upwards of 26 years and great changes have taken place since then both in the town and in the vicinity. But two medical men—the late Dr. Horsey and Dr. Wilson, who much and deservedly respected, still lingers amongst us—was here when he came. By his energy, skill and humbleness of manner and language, which, were sometimes rough but not offensive to his patients, he soon acquired an extensive practice. Down to the day of his death, his practice had rather grown than decreased and we are informed that both father and son who of late has been associated with him, have had calls more than sufficient to occupy their time. His experience as a physician no one ever questioned.
In the department of surgery he was a practised, skillful and successful surgeon. We remember to have heard him remark that he had paid special attention to this branch of medicine at college, having attended lectures on surgery two sessions. As a physician he was much trusted and respected and as a friend he was always ready to give his advice and assistance and he was universally liked. Naturally, the doctor whose outgoings and incomings amongst us we shall miss for many a day was possessed of those qualities that excite and attract personal attachment. With very many he was a great favourite.
His removal at this time, therefore is regarded and felt as a public calamity. It is the general conviction that as a medical practitioner he never had an equal throughout this region of the country. He was of great kindness of disposition and often when ill able to do so, gave his services freely and with a generosity that did credit to his heart but which not infrequently proved to himself and his family a source of embarrassment and privation, remitted many a debt of long standing.
The poor he could not ask or urge for payment and even those well able to pay him he found it difficult to remind of their obligation. Contrary to the opinion of those who were not acquainted with him or his ways our deceased friend, when the case in hand was of such a nature as to demand it, was kind and genial. Under a rather cool and to an ordinary observer, an utterly careless and unfeeling exterior, there throbbed a tender, warm heart. Several instances of this characteristic has gone under the writer’s notice. We happened to be present on one occasion when he was engaged in adjusting the bandages on a broken arm. We remarked “you are awfully rough”. The remark, which casual and jocular as it was said, seemed to pain him and with a kind of expression of regret and sorrow depicted on his face, he answered “do you really think so” He told the writer of this sketch in the course of a conversation during a call made upon him immediately after the accident happened which terminated in his lameness that he had been thinking of his mother all the previous night.
At the time we were struck and touched by the remark as indicating a softness which, judging from the outward appearance, we would hardly have expected. Not long ago an acquaintance informed us that a relative of his own had got one hand engaged in a saw mill. The injuries terminated in the loss of all the fingers on one hand. The doctor told our informant that he knew from the first time he saw the hand that all the fingers would have to be amputated. The fingers were taken off one by one and at intervals. The reason afterwards assigned by the doctor for having pursued this course was to avoid shocking the feelings of the patient—a workman with a family to support and gave him time to accustom his mind to the loss. Free then, from hard heartedness, no one could accuse him of pretense or of insincerity. His disregard of appearances he carried, we feel, to excess, as all men are apt to do, who have an instinctive abhorrence of them. The cause of the doctor’s death was apoplexy.
The day before the sad event occurred, he had returned from a visit to *his son-in-law Dr. Howden of Almonte, complaining of fatigue. Much against his own wishes and contrary to the advice of his family, he went to see a young boy, since deceased, on the afternoon of the day, on the evening of which he died. While there, his son, Dr. James Nichol, whose services were at the same time needed in another quarter, was anxious to have his presence and assistance in connection with a perilous and rather complicated case. Shortly after he arrived and while assisting his son the doctor’s head was seen to decline gently at first and then his steady, lifeless frame fell across the foot of the bed on the edge of which he had been sitting. With the utmost calmness and self possession, we are told by those who witnessed the scene, the young doctor went between his father and the bedside of the sick woman, dividing his attention between both. And it was only when he saw he could do no more for the one and that the other was out of danger that he turned aside and wept.
Few indeed so young as he have acted a part so properly and praiseworthy. It augers well for his future success. We hear but no opinion expressed regarding the youthful doctor and it is entirely favorable. Though young, he has had advantages under the skillful training of his father which few practitioners enjoy in the early stages of their careers. And we have little doubt but the confidence and patronage accorded to his father will be transferred to the son and we hope that while mother and sisters and brothers lament him who has been taken away they are the blessed with the one who is left.
The funeral took place on Tuesday last, the 1st inst., at 2:00 pm. It was the largest funeral that we remember to have seen in Perth. Persons from Lanark, Dalhousie, Sherbrooke, Smith’s Falls, Ramsay, Ottawa and other distant places were present. On all hands, expressions of regret were heard from the old as well as the young, from the serious and the thoughtful alike at the removal in the prime of life (the doctor was 52 at the time of his death) of a physician in whose skill such a large degree of confidence reposed. For some years the doctor held the office of mayor of the town and was one of the first councillors chosen after the municipal law came into force. He was also the first mayor of Perth.
*The Doctor’s House was erected in the 1840s by Dr. James Nichol who arrived in Perth from Scotland in 1837. Dr. Nichol was one of Perth’s first surgeons. He also acted as a gaol surgeon and then as a justice of the peace from 1854 until his sudden death in 1864. Following Dr. Nichol’s death, his son Dr. James Nichol Jr. occupied and practiced in the building and was followed by Dr. Robert Howdon, Dr. Richard Victor Fowler and Dr. Arthur Coulson Fowler. Dr. Arthur Coulson Fowler used the residence as his home and practice until 1972.-Perth Remembered
*Perth Courier, March 3, 1882-Dr. Howden
Mr. James Sharpe left on Tuesday morning for Manitoba. In a short time, Dr. Howden intends leaving for there also and it is probably he will become a permanent resident of the prairie city with a view of practicing his profession there.
Dr. Howden, with his daughter Mary, left for Winnipeg on Wednesday. Some time during the summer when a suitable dwelling home can be got, the remainder of the family will follow. The doctor leaves this place amongst the general regret of his patients and acquaintances generally. His well known and acknowledged skill will be very much missed in this vicinity. Dr. Howden was the third doctor in Almonte.
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