At first there was only one doctor for an area that stretched hundreds of miles and he had to travel by horse in all kinds of weather. There were two famous local doctors, Thomas Charles Spence and Alfred Schmitz Shadd who often risked their lives to save the lives of others. They gave their hearts and souls to their profession and to the people of the Carrot River Valley. In 1907, a dream that had been shared by the community for quite some time became a pleasant reality and a hospital was finally built. The doctors were brought together at a central location, which made medical treatment much more convenient for both the doctors and the patients.
Dr. Alfred Schmitz Shadd"Saskatchewan's great pioneer black doctor,"Dr. Alfred Schmitz Shadd was born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1870. Shadd was probably the only black teacher out of over 400 employed in the territories, when he taught in Kinistino. At first Shadd was only thought of as a kindly teacher. His reputation as a doctor occurred when a man from Birch Hills cut his head and Shadd saved his life. He continued teaching, but gave the students a couple of days off every week so he could practice medicine, which he had studied in school. Eventually Shadd earned enough money to finish medical school in Ontario in 1898. He then returned to Kinistino and set up a two-room office. He jokingly calling his bedroom the "chamber of silence" and the office the "chamber of horrors".Dr. Shadd would take the time to help anyone in need, at times at the expense of his own health. His rheumatism bothered him and the cold winter months would sometimes force him to bed. However, he liked his reputation as a "Doc [who] just never gets sick", often forgetting his own illnesses to provide medical attention.Dr. Shadd and his family moved to Melfort in 1904 where he started the Central Drug Store. Aside from practicing medicine he began farming, raising hogs and cattle, and shipping grain. Once he delivered two babies to the same family at the same time - a baby boy in the farmhouse and a baby calf in the barn. He helped to establish the Melfort Agricultural Society and was one of the main forces behind gaining a local hospital.Shadd also became involved in many clubs and organizations. He served on the town council, the school board, and was a member of the Board of Trade, the Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Foresters, the Loyal Orange Lodge, and was one of the first coroners in the province. In 1908 he became a newspaper man buying out the Prince Albert Advocate, and publishing it as The Carrot River Journal on October 2, 1908.He was also a member of All Saints' Anglican Church where he married Miss Jeannette Simpson in 1906. The couple had two children, Garrison and Lavina.At the age of 46, Dr. Shadd passed away from peritonitis. At his funeral there was not enough room in the church to fit the hundreds of people who attended The procession out to the cemetery was so long it extended an entire mile, when the front of the line reached the cemetery the end of the line was still in town.
Dr. Thomas Charles SpenceThe first "medical man" in the Stoney Creek area was Doctor Thomas Charles Spence. Dr. Spence and his wife, Georgina, first came to the Stoney Creek Settlement May of 1892. Unfortunately, there were no available accommodations in the area, so they were forced to continue their trip to Prince Albert. They returned in twelve days to a hastily built shack. Here, he began his homesteading duties on what is now known as the Melfort Research Station while also practicing medicine.After completing his homesteading duties, he moved to Prince Albert and continued to practice medicine. He provided medical attention to the very large but sparsely populated area, which, at times, even took him as far away as Melfort. In 1906, the lure of the Carrot River Valley grew too strong to resist, and he decided to move there permanently. That same year he joined partnership with Doctor Shadd. They worked together for eight years until Dr. Spence retired in 1914.Aside from practicing medicine, Spence was active in politics and was Mayor of Melfort from 1912 to 1913. After retiring, Spence started practicing medicine again during the epidemic in 1918. On Christmas Day, 1920, he suffered a paralytic stroke and never fully recovered. He passed away in Vancouver on July 26, 1923, at the age of 69.
Lady Minto Hospital and Nurses ResidenceEarly in 1906 the question of building a hospital was introduced at the Board of Trade meeting and was unanimously agreed upon. It was such a popular idea that the Hospital Committee collected $1200 from the Melfort citizens, rural area, and wholesale houses in Winnipeg and the East. Through the Victorian Order of Nurses of Canada, a donation of $2000 was given from the Lady Minto Fund, established by Lady Mary Caroline Minto (wife of the Governor-General of Canada). While in Canada she dedicated her time to providing health care for people living in isolated areas and created a fund for the building of "cottage hospitals" in remote areas.The original hospital was a 30’ x 60’ structure with two stories, a cement basement, nine public and five private and semi-private beds, nurses' quarters, kitchen, and a dining room. The staff was composed of two nurses, a servant, and an orderly. The first Matron, Miss Heales received a wage of $50 a month.In 1907, a nursing school program started. The three-year program offered a variety of studies including; anatomy, physiology, obstetrics, hygiene, diabetics, medical and surgical nursing, care of patients and the preparation of food. Training focused on the daily duties in the wards and operating room. The first graduate was Miss Lottie Gibson. By 1908, The Lady Minto Hospital staff consisted of one graduate and two student nurses.The Lady Minto Hospital was a very important influence in the lives of early settlers in the Carrot River Valley. It was also a critical factor in helping Melfort grow into a city. The hospital is still in use today, but it has expanded and changed its name to Melfort Union Hospital.In the spring of 1907, it was suggested by the directors of the Hospital Board that a Hospital Aid be formed to assist the board in furnishing and maintaining the new hospital, called the Lady Minto Hospital.Ladies AuxiliaryThey travelled as far as The Pas soliciting funds and sold postcard photos of the hospital and nurses' residence. At occasions like teas and visits to work camps, the women wore arm bands with a red cross on them to associate them with hospital work.The women provided necessary items for the hospital such as tea towels, dressing gowns and bed gowns which sometimes involved the ladies' sewing skills.
Medicine in the early 1900’s for settlers was far different than today.Tour Dr. Shadd’s 2 room office. You’ll see instruments and diagnostic paperwork that early Doctors used.
Learn more about “Saskatchewan’s great pioneer black doctor”. Dr. A. S. Shadd.Many times he cared for patients at the risk to his own health.
Aside from practicing medicine, Dr. Thomas Spence was active in politics and was Mayor of Melfort from 1912 to 1913. After retiring, Spence started practicing medicine again during the epidemic in 1918.
THE HOSPITAL THAT STARTED WITH A DOOR TO DOOR CANVASS
Nursing, Medical Staff, and Board of the Lady Minto Hospital, Melfort, 1928.
The first collection was $1200 in 1906 for the Lady Minto Hospital