The Doctors of Almonte … In the First Half of the Century – John F. Hanly, M. D. 1868-1927 John Dunn

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Article from the Almonte Gazette– Documented by Historian Fran Cooper

Thursday, November 18, 1971

The Doctors of Almonte … In the First Half of the Century – John F. Hanly, M. D. 1868-1927

Although I arrived in Almonte only near the end of Doctor Hanly’s career, we had a very close association nonetheless. My memory of it is but the clouded vision, but I have no doubt of the truth of it, for I have on the very best authority – the word of my mother.

There were three of us present – my mother, Doctor Hanly and myself, the last to arrive.

The doctor’s smart slap on my upturned posterior brought forth the response magnificent, the first human cry. With that he ushered me on the stage in the theatre of life, and kindled for me a small new flame from the embers of humanity. It was a familiar role for Jno. F. Hanly, M. D., in Almonte and district.

He was born in 1868 at Waubaushene, Ontario, where his father, also Dr. John Hanly, was the community doctor.

Waubaushene, of course, is an Ojibway Indian name for the town in a jewel-like setting on the lower end of Georgian Bay. It looks out to the 30,000 islands which form the domain of Manitou, the Indian’s paradise, and to Manitoulin Island, the largest gem in this sea of islands. It is the land of a thousand delights, the last camping ground in a place where summer never ends.

hanlydrjohnfamily.jpg

As well is a photograph taken in the yard of his home, 119 Bridge St., 
 Almonte: Dr. J.F. Hanly with his children, Bruce (on his lap, who was born in 1909), Lois and Arthur.
 Thanks, Linda Hanly Reid

Georgian Bay at this place is highly indented, with innumerable outcrop pings of rock, deep harbours, and sandy foreshore. Pine and spruce girdle the forested islands and outline the mainland. Lumbering was the principal occupation in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and Doctor Hanly had a small wood-burning steam launch for travel to the remote camp sites.

Winter travel, of course, was much more arduous, frequently requiring long hours on snowshoes through the forest and along the shoreline. The younger John would accompany his father on these trips, and it was undoubtedly due to this experience that, with an average stature, he developed a very powerful physique with thick torso and upper limbs. Undoubtedly it was there also that he developed a deep love of nature which remained a characteristic of him throughout his life. For in the country of Manitou a man is neither landsman nor sea man exclusively: he must be at home on either rock or wave, where he can tune in to nature’s rhythms and feel its pulse in the slap-slap of water on keelson and fairing, the rising of the sun, and the slanting moonlight seeping through the snow-burdened spruce.

Doctor Hanly’s father was of Irish descent , but his mother was Pennsylvania Dutch. One wonders. Was this alliance of races a presage of the future direction and growth of the new Canadian nation? Did it suggest the Canadians would not build on the single basis of race common to many nations of the Old World, but that we would become a blend of many racial characteristics? One wonders.

With his father, travelling to the remote settlements around Georgian Bay, the future doctor learned a love of medicine, too. It was only natural, therefore, that he should be inclined to follow in his father’s footsteps after completing high school training at Orillia. He enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and graduated at the age of 23. He returned to work with his father for a short time in that strenuous practice among the islands before moving to Almonte in 1893.

  1. R. Booth, the great lumber baron, had just completed his railway from Ottawa to parry Sound ( the line through Carp) to gain access to the remote white pine country, so that he could ship out the timber to Ottawa where it could be rafted and then floated down river to Montreal and to Wolfe’s Cove at Quebec. Dr. Hanly decided to ship out for the Ottawa Valley, too, and to settle in Almonte, or “Little Manchester” as it was called, because the names Rosamond, Thoburn , Penman, Caldwell, and Campbell made its fame worldwide in the textile trade, and its population of mill operatives, weavers, spinners, millwrights, labourers, moulders, dyers, carters, teamsters, watchmen, stone cutters, blacksmiths, painters, fullers, carders, spinsters and widows made a population where a doctor’s knowledge, skills, and energies could be spent in rewarding service to all the members of such an interesting community.

But, before he left, the doctor found even a third love, his greatest. Almost immediately after graduation he enlisted for life-time service in matrimony in the company of Jean Elizabeth Kean, who attended high school at Orillia at the same time as he did. They moved into residence in Almonte in the house on Bridge Street now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Winston MacIntosh and family. Three children were born to their family; Arthur, Bruce and Lois, Bruce, the only surviving member of the family, now resides in Montreal.

An age passes almost imperceptibly, its passing only noticed some time later by the absence of some familiar thing, or a change in some mark or symbol of the age. Three small things distinguished the age of Doctor Hanly’s 35 years of medical service to the people of Almonte and district. First, there was the matter of signature, and then the matter of the cane, and finally, the matter of animals in town.

“Jno. F. Hanly”. That’s the way he signed his name. It was typical of the age, this fore-shortening of the Christian name. Business and professional men in Almonte and elsewhere used the apostolic abbreviations, Jas., Jno., Matt., Bart., Chris., and their Prophetic counterparts, Sam., Lem., Dan., and even those of saintly kings, Geo., Chas., and Wm. Most of these abbreviations have some element of logic in their use. Except Jno. Why John should be reduced to Jno. has always been a mystery to me. But there it was, a mark of the time.

Another mark of the age was the cane, the gentleman’s walking stick. Doctor Hanly liked to carry a cane when walking and he had quite a collection. He used a gold-headed cane for Sundays, but his favourite was an Irish blackthorn which his great friend and neighbour, Father W. E. Cavanagh of St. Mary’s brought to him following a trip the priest had made to the Holy Land of Ireland.

Howard Sadler vividly recalls another mark of the times: the numbers and locations of horses and cows in Almonte. He and his father were fortunate to be able to gather the manure for their market gardening operations. Doctor Hanly always drove a big horse, for the doctor weighted more than 225 pounds, and only a high, strong, rangy horse could handle the job of pulling cutter and driver of that weight through the heavy snows. But the doctor had a manure box which was higher than the usual also, for it had a close-fitting glass top, and the strength of its contents on a warm day sometimes upset the sparrows in the street.

Externally, the age was many other things than those small familiar items in the woollen town on the Mississippi: – it was the first C.P.R. transcontinental train leaving Place Viger station in Montreal at 8:00 p.m., passing through Almonte at midnight, and arriving splendidly in Winnipeg for the Dominion Day celebration on July 1st; – it was Laurier’s defeat on the reciprocity issue in 1911; – it was the discovery of radium and X-rays by Madame Curie and Professor Roentgen; – it was the shock wave of telegrams in 1914-1918: “It is with deep, regret that we must inform you that your son, Private …. has been killed in action on the western Front”; – it was the discovery of insulin by Toronto doctors Best and Banting; – it was, in the words of Professor A. R. M. Lower of Queen’s University. “that delicious hesitation between the ox-cart and the automobile.”

But, regardless of advances in medical science and technology, to the doctors in the community of Almonte and its surrounding district, the person was the most important thong alive. Shortly, after his arrival, Dr. Hanly was working with Dr. Lynch, Dr. Kelly and Dr. Metcalfe to establish a hospital where they could provide the best of what nursing science and medical skill could bring to their people in need. Their efforts culminated in the founding of the Cottage Hospital in 1903, and the Rosamond Memorial Hospital, which was officially opened by the Governor-General, Earl Grey, on New Year’s Day, 1908.

The doctor’s day was predictable only in the announced hours for office calls. I have one of Dr. Hanly’s notes on his letterhead which gives the office hours as 8-10 a.m., 1-3 p.m., and 7-9 p.m. In between, of course, were house calls, hospital rounds, study and travel time. It made for a fulsome day.

After his death many of Doctor Hanly’s medical books came into my father’s medical library. In one of these Doctor Hanly had made a set of notes under the heading “Hygiene of pregnancy”. He listed a number of items from (a) to (j) , including Diet, Exercise, Rest, and Clothing, etc. One item, however, is listed with unusual emphasis: it’s (f) “Mental Condition”.

In return for his concern, the community rewarded the doctor with its co-operation, both for his own needs and for those of his patients. Dr. Hanly would never hesitate to phone a druggist at any hour f the night if a prescription had to be made up in a hurry. And in the case of calls to the country in bad winter weather (which usually meant at night), he would simply tell the telephone operator where he had to go. She would then wake up all the farmers along the route, and they would get out with heavy teams and sleighs to break a trail on the unplowed roads so that the doctor’s horse and cutter could get through.

When we think of representative Canadian sights and sounds, we often think of the long, lonesome note of the C.P.R. train whistle piercing the frost-filled prairie night, and the clouds of steam coughed out on the night air from the bowels of the locomotive. But equally Canadian was the sight of the doctor in his cutter, with snorts of breath from his horse’s nostrils polishing the frost-etched moonbeams, and the cutter bells jingling to the rhythmic clop-clop of the horse’s hooves.

Doctor Hanly had a deep well of learning which he kept constantly primed with an insatiable curiosity. His office held an unusual glass case filled with many of his father’s medical instruments, which were somewhat crude even for the sophisticated 1920’s. But it also had a microscope, various reagents, alcohol burners, in fact, much the appearance of a small pathological laboratory.

It was quite natural than that he should be asked to provide some direction to the community’s cultural endeavours also. It fitted his temperament admirably, and he devoted many years to the Library Board, the Board of Education, and the Lanark County Educational Association. I have a penny post card dated Dec. 5, 1910 addressed to “Dr. Hanly, Town” which announced a meeting of the Board of Education to be held in the Council Chambers on Tuesday evening, Dec. 6 at 8:00 p.m. “for the transaction of general business.” The notice concludes with a cautionary injunction: “Any trustee who absents himself from the meetings of the Board for three consecutive months, without being authorized by resolution entered upon its minutes, shall, ipso facto, vacate his seat and the remaining trustees shall declare his seat vacant and forthwith order a new election.”

James McLeod, Secretary.

All the civic virtues, and the pride and honour which attend them, are summed up in that injunction.

It’s the small things, and in the simple ways that a community finds its own heroes and awards them its own marks of excellence. The ancient Greeks gave hero-status to those who showed exceptional bravery in protecting the city. But, in the development days of our Ontario communities, the protection of the physical health and well-being of the citizens was a matter of heroic proportions. One of the ways the community recognizes this importance is in the naming of children after its heroes.

Howard Sadler’s eldest son was such a one – well, almost. Two days after he was born, Doctor Hanly, making his rounds, enquired if a name had been chosen for the record of birth.

“Yes, Bruce”, was the answer.

“Well, I am pleased” said the doctor, thinking the baby was to be named after his own son, Bruce Hanly.

Howard and Mrs. Sadler didn’t have the nerve to explain that the night before the baby’s arrival, Mrs. Sadler had been reading a story in a penny dreadful in which the major character was a full-blown top-gallant knave named Bruce, and that that was the source of the chosen name.

After the “flu epidemic of 1919”, Dr. Hanly’s health began to suffer. It was simply overwork, and the heart muscles could no longer stand the strain. He went, in due course, to consult the heart specialists in Toronto who advised him that total rest for six months was the only therapy.

It was during this time of anxiety that he used to walk down to the end of Colborne Street in the summer evenings, taking all the children of the neighbourhood as escorts, and they would sit on the stone wall there, looking out on Spring Bush, and the sunset over Gemmill’s Bay. It was a place where the ancient Greek philosopher’s elements, fire, air, earth and water, seemed to fuse together.

One simple rule prevailed: absolute silence for fifteen or twenty minutes, for it was that solemn time of day which in English is called “the gloaming”, and in French, “le crepuscule”.

It was the moment of juncture between earth, sun and sky, when the softness of the air disturbed only by the silent swish of crows making wing to the distant wood, the swollen fruited hour when the swarming sun homes in to its hive in the horizon, and the very trees moan in the stillness.

It was the time of the afterglow when the sun stops momentarily in its headlong rush, turns back before crossing the threshold into night, and, smiling, flings its colours out on the summer sky, sending out golden tendrils to tie up some herring-bone scarps of summer cloud. It was September’s crepuscular madness, and the doctor and the children would sit on the wall, drinking it in, soaking in the splendid silence.

Torn between concern for himself and concern for others, the doctor’s dilemma, Jno. F. Hanly’s answer came easily to him. Others came first.

Then it happened, even as he knew it would. It was Monday the last day in February, 1927. He had stopped at M. R. MacFarlane’s drug store (now Wilf Snedden’s) about 11:00 a.m. He spoke to a number of people between there and the Post Office (Don Campbell was one of them), and then he drove home with the horse and cutter. He stepped out of the cutter at the door, collapsed and died on the spot.

The word ran like grassfire along the pathways of Almonte.

“Doctor Hanly’s dead.”

“What’s that?”

“Doctor Hanly’s dead.”

“Oh no, I was talking to him only an hour ago.”

When a general dies, an army mourns. The regimental band, dressed in black, with muffled drums and muted clarinets, plays the Dead march from Saul, while comrades in slow march, with arms reversed, accompany the flag-draped coffin of their hero strapped to an artillery caisson. The general’s horse, rider less, fully caparisoned, follows. At the sombre tomb, the firing party’s rifle volley barks out a clamour to admit the soldier-hero.

Almonte too mourned its loss. Its grief was open and deep. The funeral was held on Wednesday of that week. Schools were closed. The Mayor and Council, members of the Board of education, the Library Board, the Lanark County Educational Association, the medical fraternity of Almonte and Carleton Place, the teaching staffs of the schools, all joined as the cortege wound its way from the house on Bridge Street to Bethany United Church for the service conducted by Rev. J. R. MacCrimmon. Pallbearers were T. J. Reid, Henry Brown, D. J. Dick, M. R. McFarlane, W. West and Adam Craig.

Through the town the solemn procession went, down Mill Street, past Gemmill’s Bay Hill, and on to the pine-shrouded resting place in the Auld Kirk Cemetery. As the cortege passed all the blinds on places of business were drawn as a mark of respect. Men stood mute in their grief, silent as statues. Women wept openly. Thirty-five years he had spent among them, a comfort to the afflicted, a restorer of injured health to many, and to all a physician, friend and counsellor.

And so Jno. F. Hanly, M. D. passed over also, and came to the other side, where he found himself in the Enchanted Isles of the Blest, and where he found many old friends dwelling. And they greeted him warmly, welcoming him to their company, because they said, his arrival had been so unexpected.

John Dunn – November, 1971

relatedreading

Dr. Hanly I Presume -“Since I have been in Almonte I have not averaged $1500.00 a year”

The Unabridged Dr. Jno.Hanly — Linda Hanly Reid John Dunn

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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