Dr. William Beattie, MD

According to research by Westfield Heritage Village volunteers, on August 15, 1870, Dr. Beattie officially opened his medical practice and drug store in the village of Kilbride.

He was born in Airdrie, Scotland in 1842. It is not known exactly when he and his family came to Canada. However, at the age of 20 in 1862, he enrolled in the medical school at Queen’s University in Kingston. His entrance records show that he was a Wesleyan Methodist and for his prep school he had attended Mr. Coomb’s School in Kingston. Between 1863 and 1864, he did a practicum at a hospital, most likely in obstetrics. He graduated in 1865 and wrote his thesis on tobacco.

His entrance records further show that his guardian/father was Charles Beattie whose occupation in1862 was bank clerk. Earlier, on the 1861 census, Charles was listed as a bank manager. This dispels earlier accounts that his father was William Sr. and also a physician stationed at the garrison in Kingston. However, on Charles’ death record in 1895 it states that his profession was soldier and that he died at the age of 81 years and 9 months.

Further research has found a Sergeant Charles Beattie’s Royal Chelsea Hospital discharge papers. Sergeant Beattie enlisted at age 18 and was listed as being a barber at that time. He had served almost 11 years in Great Britain and almost 11 years in Canada. He was discharged in 1853 after completing 21 years service and being attached at that time to the Bedford militia staff. This would explain the account that he was stationed at the garrison in Kingston for his Canadian service. If that is the case and William was born in Scotland in 1842 that would mean that the Beatties came to Canada shortly after his birth. Charles’ wife, Caroline, William’s mother, died of cholera in 1872. Charles died in April of 1893 of old age.

William met and married Elizabeth Edmison on September 3, 1868. Elizabeth was from the Peterborough area. This would have been after he completed his medical studies. They moved to Kilbride possibly by way of Hamilton. In the 1869 Halton County Directory & Gazetteer, Dr. Beattie is listed as having his practice in Kilbride, ‘next door to the hotel’. An advertisement in the Canadian Champion indicated that he was a Queen graduate, a physician, surgeon and accoucheur. An accoucheur was one who assisted in births, in effect an obstetrician. He had his residence and office at the Fountain Hotel when he first came to Kilbride. No doubt this was to establish his practice and then search for a permanent location.

Having both a medical practice and drug store would have been a boon to the village. Not only were the residents afflicted with a myriad of illnesses from childhood ailments, womens’ issues, coughs, colds, flu and more but having a physician to treat accidents and provide medication would have saved lives and limbs.

In September of 1869, William Beattie and his wife, purchased a lot in Kilbride on the south side Thomas Street. It was part of Lot 9, Concession 2. This lot was to the west of Jane Street where Thomas Lyon White had purchased a number of lots that he provided to the staff working in his store at the corner of Thomas and Rebecca Streets. A village doctor would have been a welcome purchaser.

On August 15, 1870, Dr. Beattie opened an office and drug store on the north side Thomas Street (now Kilbride Street) in the village. The building itself was a wood structure with a small second storey and was located immediately west of what is still referred to as Dr. McDonald’s home. A search of the land records for Kilbride shows that he did not purchase the lot where the drug store stood. Most likely he rented the building. Past research contended that he and his family lived above the office/drug store but this was very unlikely because of its size and we now know the Beatties had purchased a lot just west of the office/drug store.

The Beatties first child, Caroline Margaret Ida Beattie was born in 1870 in Kilbride. Their second child was born in 1872. William Percival H. Beattie has also been recorded as just Percy H. Beattie. In August of 1874, Cecil Hall Beattie was born. As was common in the 1800s, children often succumbed to fatal illnesses. One year later, in 1875, Cecil contracted cholera infantum and suffered for 5 days before succumbing to the disease. He is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Kilbride.

Dr. Beattie practiced in the village until 1880 at which time he sold his lot and closed his practice. Mrs. Beattie was with child at that time. Their daughter Lillian Isabella was born. On the 1881 Canadian Census William, Elizabeth, Carrie (Caroline), Percival and Lillie Bell (short for Isabella) seem to have made their way to the Village of Melbourne in Quebec. Lillie was 9 months old at that time. The 1891 Census corroborates her birth as Quebec. It is interesting to note however, that on her marriage certificate in her place of birth is recorded as Wiarton. In 1897, Caroline married William McDonald who was listed as a physician. In 1903, Percy married and on his marriage record he was listed as a druggist. It appears that the Beattie children maintained a connection to the medical field.

On April 13, 1904, William Beattie passed away in Parry Sound at the age of 62. His death record indicates that he suffered from paralysis for two days. He was buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Parry Sound. His grave stone inscription reads “Wm Beattie M.D., Died April 13, 1904, 62 yrs., Native of Scotland.

Contributing Author: Helen Callaway